World Handicap System to Roll Out in 2020


The World Handicap System (WHS) is ready for its 2020 launch, providing golfers with a unified and more
inclusive handicapping system for the first time.

Though many countries are planning to adopt the new system in January, the system will go live
gradually from country to country throughout the year, taking account of different implementation
plans and seasonality.

Developed by the USGA and The R&A in close coordination with existing handicapping authorities,
the WHS will provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability, with handicaps calculated
in the same way wherever they are in the world.

A key objective of the initiative was to develop a modern system, enabling as many golfers as
possible to obtain and maintain a Handicap Index. Golfers will be able to transport their Handicap
Index globally and compete or play a casual round with players from other regions on a fair basis. It
will also indicate the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving the next time they go out to

The table lists the estimated implementation timeframes for a selection of countries:
Indicative Time Frame* 

January: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Panama, South Africa, South Korea, United States,
Uruguay and Venezuela

February – March – April:  Hong Kong, New Zealand and Sweden

May – June – July – August:  Portugal

September – October – November – December: Italy, Great Britain and Ireland
*Subject to change

The WHS has two main components – the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System.
The Rules of Handicapping are encompassed within seven Rules to inform administrators and golfers
on how an official Handicap Index is calculated and administered, with some flexibility given to
national associations based on how the sport is played and enjoyed in their region. The Course
Rating System, based on the USGA Course Rating System first adopted nearly 50 years ago and
already adopted on nearly every continent, sets out a consistent method of determining a course’s
difficulty. Together, these components become the foundational elements in determining a golfer’s
Handicap Index.

Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA said, “When the golf community works together, everyone benefits.”

“We have seen the benefit that handicapping has provided for decades, providing greater enjoyment
for all who play. To have a single set of Rules of Handicapping for the game will connect golfers from
country to country, and we are excited to bring the best of all worlds together through this initiative.

“It is one of the many ways we are investing in golf’s future, to strengthen and foster growth of the
entire game for years to come.”

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A said, “The game of golf is transforming to meet the
needs of the modern-day golfer; modernising the Rules this year was an important step forward in
that regard and the World Handicap System will be another.

“Our hope is that the launch of the WHS will be a catalyst for change; signalling the start of a new era
of golfer engagement, being inclusive by embracing all golfers, whatever their level of ability, and
broadening its appeal to a much wider audience.”

“Change also means opportunity and, managed appropriately, this can only be good for the game. It
does mean there will be a period of adjustment, as we saw with the new Rules, but once it beds in
golfers and golf clubs will benefit in many ways from the new system.”

In preparation for the launch of the WHS, more than 3,000 golf courses have been rated for the first
time and an extensive education program has been delivered. By the end of 2019, more than 90
National Associations will have attended an educational seminar and a robust library of resources is
hosted on to support regional education.

Rules of Handicapping books are being produced and will be translated and delivered through
national associations.

In addition, the USGA and The R&A have developed a series of golfer-focused materials, including
videos, infographics and posters, which can be used by national associations and shared with golf
clubs for the benefit of golfers.

This includes a promotional video which can be seen here [LINK] featuring Annika Sorenstam, Gary
Player and voices from recreational golfers from around the world to encourage as many golfers as
possible to obtain and maintain a handicap.

The materials explain the system’s key features, including:
 Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count
for handicap purposes and ensuring that a Handicap Index reflects demonstrated ability
 A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; with the number of scores
needed to obtain a new handicap being 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-
hole rounds (with some discretion available for national or regional associations)
 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/control
 A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions
might have on a player’s performance each day
 Timely handicap revisions
 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

The formation of a World Handicap System was first conceived in 2011 between the USGA and The
R&A in an effort to engage more golfers in the game and promote equity, no matter where golf is
played. The effort unites six existing handicapping systems into one, while embracing the many ways
the game is played across cultures.

Beginning in 2020, the new WHS will be governed by the USGA and The R&A and administered by
national and regional golf associations around the world.

The existing six handicapping authorities, Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions
(CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf
Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA, represent approximately
15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a golf handicap.

To learn more about the World Handicap System please visit For WHS information
specific to a country, use the Association Finder for further information.

About the USGA

The USGA conducts the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Senior
Women’s Open, as well as 10 amateur championships, two state team championships and
international matches, attracting players and fans around the world. Together with The R&A, the
USGA governs the game worldwide, jointly administering the Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status,
equipment standards and World Amateur Golf Rankings, with a working jurisdiction in the United
States, its territories and Mexico.

The USGA is one of the world’s foremost authorities on research, development and support of
sustainable golf course management practices. It serves as a primary steward for the game’s history
and invests in the development of the game through the delivery of its services and the work of the
USGA Foundation. Additionally, the USGA’s Course Rating and Handicap systems are used on six
continents. For more information, visit

About The R&A

Based in St Andrews, The R&A runs The Open, elite amateur events, international matches and
rankings. Together The R&A and the USGA govern the sport of golf worldwide, operating in separate
jurisdictions but sharing a commitment to a single code for the Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status
and Equipment Standards. The R&A, through R&A Rules Ltd, governs the sport worldwide, outside of
the United States and Mexico, on behalf of over 36 million golfers in 143 countries and with the
consent of 158 organisations from amateur and professional golf.

The R&A is committed to working for golf and supports the growth of the sport internationally and the
development and management of sustainable golf facilities. For more information, visit