The United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient, governing bodies of golf around the globe, announced the implementation of the World Handicap System in 2020.
The system follows six years of review by the existing handicapping authorities: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association, the South African Golf Association, the Argentine Golf Association and the USGA.
“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,’” said Mike Davis, chief executive officer of the USGA, “
“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.”
Features of the new system include:
• Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability
• A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with some discretion available for national or regional associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction
• A consistent handicap that is portable from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA Course and Slope Rating System, already successfully used in more than 80 countries
• An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control
• A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day
• Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation
• A limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only)
• A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game
“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,” said Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A.
“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.”
Research was conducted in 15 countries around the world, through which 76 percent of the 52,000 respondents voiced their support for a World Handicap System, 22 percent were willing to consider its benefits, and only 2 percent were opposed.
This was followed by a series of focus groups, in which more than 300 golf administrators and golfers from regions around the world offered extensive feedback on the features of the proposed new system.
This feedback helped shape the World Handicap System, which was developed by the USGA and The R&A, with support from each existing handicapping authority as well as the Japan Golf Association and Golf Canada.
The six handicapping authorities represent approximately 15 million golfers in 80 countries.