NEWS: World Handicap System To Become Effective In 2020

The World Handicap System will make it easier for all golfers to have a handicap. (Photo Credit: USGA)

It shouldn’t but it will catch a lot of people by surprise. On January 1, 2020, the entire golf world will convert to a single handicap system, the USGA and R&A announced Tuesday morning. Both ruling bodies will administer this worldwide system, which will allow for uniform amateur competitions.

There are many technical aspects of this but people will be caught off guard because they might see their handicaps change on New Year’s Day 2020. Those with lower handicaps will likely see their indexes go down. Mid-range and higher handicaps will probably remain unchanged.

“When you think about our system today it’s 10 (of the lowest scores) of (the last) 20 (scores posted) with a 96 percent multiplier,” Steve Edmondson, the managing director of handicapping, course rating and GHIN for the USGA, told The Post. “The World Handicap System (or WHS, as it will be referred to upon implementation) will take eight (best scores of the last 20), so 96 percent of that is likely to be a few tenths of a percentage point lower (for low-handicap players). Now, the high-handicap players might have a different effect.”  

Taking your best eight of your most recent scores will certainly provide a more current representation of your skill level. Today’s 10-of-the-last-20 system might use scores that are four or five years old if you don’t play (and post) rounds very often.

The other noticeable changes on Day 1 will come in those parts of the world that don’t use an indexing system. In America, golfers are accustomed to being asked about their handicap index, a number calculated to one decimal point. So, “What’s your index?” is followed by something like, “10.4,” or “18.2.” In the UK, the question is: “What do you play off?” and the answer is a round number. On New Year’s Day of 2020, that will change. The rest of the world outside the U.S. will get an index carried to one decimal.

And all indexes will be available on a worldwide system. When a golfer from Topeka, Kan., plays North Berwick in Scotland, not only will the professional staff be able to confirm his handicap index, the player will be able to post his scores while abroad. The inverse will also be true. A player from New South Wales who is in Las Vegas for a few weeks will be able to post scores while stateside.

There is also a change in the number of scores needed to establish a handicap. Rather than needing 10 rounds to get something legitimized, any combination of nine or 18-hole rounds equivalent to 54 holes will get you started in the WHS.

Your maximum handicap, regardless of gender, will be 54, and, for posting purposes, your maximum score on any hole will be net double bogey.

In a news release, Mike Davis, CEO and executive director of the USGA, said, “For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap.’ We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game. We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernizing golf’s rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play.”

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, agreed, saying in the release, “We are working with our partners and national associations to make golf more modern, more accessible and more enjoyable as a sport and the new World Handicap System represents a huge opportunity in this regard.

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“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers. Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”

“The point is to bring the entire world under a single, unifying system,” Edmondson said. “We’ve done a lot of research and spent a lot of time on this and we think golfers around the world are going to appreciate the parity this new system represents.”


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