• World Handicap System 2020


The way that handicaps for golfers around the world are calculated has been transformed by a new system developed by The R&A and the USGA. A number of countries round the world started using the new system on 1st January 2020 and it will come into force in Great Britain and Ireland on 2nd November 2020.

Features of the World Handicap System (WHS) include:

A consistent handicap that is portable from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of a modified version of the Course and Slope Rating System that has bee used in the USA and much of Europe for many years.

An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores as shown in the 1st picture on the right, but with a safety mechanism to ensure that a player's handicap cannot increase by more than 5 shots during a 12 month period.

A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day.

Handicap revisions processed on the day of playing, even if the competition results have not been processed.

A limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum score for a hole (for handicapping purposes only)

A maximum handicap limit of 54, regardless of gender

Click for further information on the R&A website and these FAQ's from the England Golf Website


A course assessment is to be done to establish the Course Rating and Slope Rating from each set of tees.

Course Rating replaces Standard Scratch (SSS) in the new system and represents the score that a scratch golfer is expected to achieve on the course. When the WHS comes into effect the Course Ratings will be to the nearest 0.1.

Slope Rating represents the relative difficulty of a course from a specific set of tees for a 'bogey golfer' compared to a 'scratch' golfer.  A course with many hazards, long carries and thick rough will have a higher slope rating because these features are more of a challenge to bogey golfers.

A golfer's handicap for a specific course is determined by multiplying the player's Handicap Index by the ratio of the course Slope Rating divided by the 'neutral' slope of 113. An example of how the slope rating works is shown here at the Mapperly Golf Club website.

There will be conversion tables available at each golf club, so the good news is that you won't need to do the calculation yourself.


Course Rating - see above. Calculated to the nearest 0.1.

Slope Rating - see above. Can be anywhere between 55 and 155 rounded to the nearest whole number. 113 is 'neutral'. The GB&I average is 125.

Bogey golfer - A male bogey golfer is a typical 20 handicapper who hits the ball about 200 yards with a driver and 170 yards with a fairway wood. A female bogey golfer is a typical 24 handicapper.

Handicap Index - A player's personal handicap on a course of neutral slope 113. Calculated to the nearest 0.1.

Course Handicap - A player's handicap index adjusted to reflect the difficulty of a specific course. Calculated to the nearest 0.1.

Playing Handicap - The handicap to be used in a specific competition on a specific course. For example, for 4 ball better-ball competitions it is anticipated that it will be calculated as 85% of Course Handicap and rounded to the nearest whole number.

Acceptable Score. Includes any singles competitions, Social Scores (the new name for Supplementary Scores) and can include scores submitted in Society events (if conforming with the Rules of Golf) and informal roll-ups/swindles organised by members if there are at least 12 who have paid to play and prizes are awarded.

The CONGU Unions will not be making it mandatory to submit scores from casual golf, as is currently the case in the USA. Players must register on the computer prior to the round for a score to count. it is anticipated that scores from better-balls competitions may be included at some point in the future.

Stableford Adjustment - For handicap purposes only, any big scores on a hole are rounded down to Net Double Bogey (as in the current system).

Course Condition Adjustment (CCA) - Similar to the current CSS adjustment but more conservative. Can be between -1 and 3, but more often than not it will be 0. Calculated using all scores submitted on the course that day (even if in different competitions using different tees and number of holes) as long as 8 or more golfers with a handicap Index of less than 36 and a fully developed Handicap Record (20 rounds) have played.

Gross Differential = Gross Score - Stableford Adjustment - Course Rating, adjusted by the CCA of the day.

Handicap Differential = Gross Differential x (113 / Slope Rating)

Anchor Point - A player's lowest Handicap Index during the last 12 months

CAP - A suppression mechanism that limits increases in Handicap Index relative to the Anchor Point when a player is going through a spell of poor form.

Soft CAP - Potential Handicap Index increases to a figure greater than (Anchor Point + 3) are limited by half the amount over 3, e.g. 5 limited to 4, 7 limited to 5, etc.

Hard CAP - the maximum a Handicap Index can increase to is Anchor Point + 5

Extraordinary Scoring Reduction (ESR) - an adjustment to the Handicap Index after a very low score has been posted (-1 for between 7 and 9 under, -2 for 10 or more under). This reduction sits behind the Handicap Index average calculation and 'drops off' after 20 rounds.

New Player Handicaps are initially allocated at 2 less than the best of 3 x 18 hole cards submitted. Cards can be submitted as 6 x 9 hole or some other combination. Subsequent Handicap Index calculations change as more scores are entered. e.g.
4 to 5 scores: lowest -1
7 to 8 scores: average of best 2
13 to 14 scores: average of best 4, etc.

Transition Handicap - The initial Handicap Index that will be calculated when the new system comes into effect as described on the Transition Handicaps page.

The average of the best 8 scores from the last 20 in the player's current Handicap Record, but with an adjustment to reflect the Slope Rating in each round played (and probably some form of CAP too).

Players will be able to see their expected Transition Handicap on screen when the handicapping software is updated prior to introduction of the WHS. Players are encouraged to submit plenty of scores between now and November 2020 so that their Handicap Index is a good reflection of current playing ability. 9 hole scores are acceptable and clubs are encouraged to run 9 hole competitions to help with this. 


Handicaps will be re-calculated at midnight (local time) even if a competition on that day has not been closed. The players get immediate notification (as long as the player has input their score into the computer)

Handicaps won't lapse if a player has a break from the game or is not a current member of a golf club

The Annual Revisions process will be similar to present and must be done by a committee of 3 (not including the club professional)