9 things you need to know about the new World Handicap System

February 20, 2018
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The USGA and R&A have announced plans for a unified World Handicap System slated to be rolled out in 2020. Here are nine ways the proposed system differs from — and improves upon — ​the current system.

1. Your handicap will travel better

Current system: There are six different handicapping systems globally

New system: Every country will use a uniform system governed by the USGA and R&A

2. It’ll be easier to establish a handicap

Current system: 90 holes (or five 18-hole rounds)

New system: 54 holes (any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds)

3. Your handicap may go down a tick or two

Current system: Your handicap is an average-based calculation that takes the 10 best of your last 20 scores

New system: Will compute the best eight of your last 20 scores. (The system will also be slightly more responsive to downward movement and slightly less responsive to upward movement.  This is to safeguard against a bad run of scores that is not representative of your proven ability.) 

4. Novices will feel more emboldened to keep a handicap

Current system: Max handicap is 40.4 for women and 36.4 for men

New system: Max handicap is 54.0, regardless of gender

5. You can expect less volatility in your handicap

Current system: No limits on sudden surges in your handicap

New system: A mechanism will prevent extreme upward movement in your handicap

6. Course and weather conditions will be taken into account

Current system: A score in foul conditions is weighed the same as a score in fine conditions

New system: An algorithm will account for adverse weather and course conditions


7. Your handicap will update more frequently

Current system: Refreshed on the 1st and 15th of every month

New system: Updated daily!

8. No fretting over the max score you can take on a hole

Current system: The higher your handicap, the higher the scores permitted

New system: You can take no more than a net double-bogey, no matter your ability

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9. ALL scores will be counted in all countries

Current system: This change only impacts golfers in the U.K. and Ireland, where the system only recognizes scores posted during competitions

New system: For our friends across the pond, all rounds — casual and competitive — will be counted