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World Handicap System

Starting on January 1st, all golf federations (USGA, RCGA, R&A, etc) will change to the new World Handicap System (WHS).  The following is a summary of the major changes.

  • The one change you need to make: The maximum score you can take on any hole will be net double bogey. So that’s a double bogey on a non-stroke hole, triple bogey on a hole where you get one stroke, quadruple bogey on a hole where you get two strokes, etc.
  • A major change that won’t require any action on your part, but a change you will definitely see—is the way in which your course handicaps are calculated. The new system will adjust your course handicap by the difference between par and course rating on each tee. Since our blue tees have a course rating of 71.7 (only 0.3 less than par), you won’t see much if any change. But the other tees have course ratings significantly above or below par, so they will change accordingly. Black tee handicaps will go up by 2-3 strokes, while white tee handicaps will go down by about 2 strokes, and gold by about 4 strokes. These WHS handicaps will allow you to play against players on different tees without further adjustment. On our website, you will no longer see two sets of handicaps (course and league)—just the new already-adjusted course handicaps.
  • Another change, which will tend to make your handicap index slightly lower, is that your index will be based on the best 8 of your last 20 scores, rather than the 10 best we used in the past.
  • Your WHS handicap index will be updated immediately whenever a new score is posted. Our system was already doing that, but Americans with GHIN handicaps will see this change back home.
  • Maximum handicap index for all players, men and women, is now 54.0.
  • WHS will institute a couple new measures, called “soft caps” and “hard caps,” intended to keep your handicap index from climbing too rapidly. This will only affect you if your index climbs more than 3 strokes in a 365-day period, so you’re unlikely to see any effect from this one.
  • There will no longer be “tournament scores.” They are being replaced by “exceptional score reduction.” Every time you post a score, the system will compare that score with your handicap index, and, if the score is deemed exceptionally low for your index, it will lower your index slightly.
  • Penalty scores for failure to post your score after a round. The Handicap Committee will consider procedures for implementing this at El Tigre. 

For further details, you can read the actual new WHS rules in this document. If you have any questions on these changes, post a comment here.

6 thoughts on “World Handicap System

  1. webducks says:

    No need for me to take a breath Duane.  I was commenting as an industry professional who has seen nothing about this despite subscribing to several professional newsletters/magazines.  My comments have nothing to do with concern over my handicap, or how it compares to others, but rather the fairness of the intent.  Too, my comments have nothing to do with the equations, accuracy thereof, or how I (or anyone else) would compare with any particular golfer.   Since your original comments I have read more about the process.  It is clear that the intent is to diminish the opportunity for handicap adjustment, which strikes particularly at the higher handicapper and the older player who often begins to suffer from chronic inconsistency.  The reduction in scores to 8 as well as the “cap” arrangement makes that obvious.  But since none of us can have any impact on the thinking of the USGA (one wonders who can?) then the real question at El Tigre becomes the absence of professionally calculated course & slope ratings.  This is an area which we can and should impact.  Several of us who served on the informal advisory committee in the past did advocate for establishing accurate ratings but it came to naught.  Perhaps now, with our new General Manager, we can have that critical aspect completed.  

    • webducks says:

      One other thing–although it is perhaps obvious, I want to make clear that my comments have nothing to do with nor are they directed at the Messenger here.  Duane should be commended for bringing this to our attention as should any state associations that have attempted to publicize it.   The fact that it has come so late is imo a reflection more on the general incompetence of the USGA and that many of us no longer belong to another club in the states or Canada.  

  2. Duane Bender says:

    I think there may be some confusion on the new maximum hole score. The maximum score you can post on a hole is net double bogey, as I said in yesterday’s post. But you don’t post that net score–you post the gross score that gives you a net double bogey. Maybe I should have given you the formula directly from the new rules:

    “For a player with an established Handicap Index, the maximum score for each hole played is limited to a net double bogey, calculated as follows:

    Par of the hole + 2 strokes + Any handicap stroke(s) that the player receives on that hole.”

    Let’s use hole #4 as an example, since we all get a stroke there. If you’re having a typical day at El Tigre, knocking a dozen Pro V1s in the water, you might take a 9 on #4. According to the formula above:

    Max score to post = 5 (par for the hole) + 2 (to make it a double bogey) + 1 (the stroke you get) = 8. You post the gross 8, which is a net double bogey. Remember, you never post net scores. If you make a 5 on #4, you post the gross 5, not the net 4. Similarly, if you reduce a high score on #4 to net double bogey, you post the gross score of 8 that gives you that net double bogey of 7.

    Note that the above example applies to a player with a handicap between 1 and 18, and therefore gets 1 stroke on #4. For a player with a handicap between 19 and 35, the equation becomes 5+2+2=9. For a 36-53 handicapper, it would be 5+2+3=10.

    As another example, let’s look at hole #6. For a low handicapper who does not stroke there, the maximum score to post would be 3+2+0=5. For a player who gets 1 stroke, it would be 3+2+1=6. For a player who gets 2 strokes, it would be 3+2+2=7.

  3. Duane Bender says:

    Take a breath, Jack. Let’s see how all these changes affect you.

    The maximum score allowed on a hole: Today if you took a 9 on #4, you could post it as a 7. Next month you could post it as an 8.  Today if you took a 7 on #6 you could post it as a 7. Next month you could post it as a 6. It never made sense that the maximum on a par 3 was the same as the maximum on a par 5. The new rule makes more sense.

    Course handicap calculations: Your current index on our site is 14.9, and mine is 6.6. You’re a 16 from the golds and I’m a 7 from the whites. If you and I played tomorrow from those tees, we would adjust by 2 strokes for the difference in course ratings of the two tees, and I would give you 7 strokes.

    Under the new system, your course handicap from the golds would be 14.9 * 116/113 + (67.5-72) = 11.5. This would round to a gold tee course rating of 12. Mine from the whites would be 6.6 * 121/113 +(69.7 -72) = 4.8, which rounds to a white tee course handicap of 5. Since course rating is now included in the calculation of your course handicap from each tee, there is no further adjustment made when we play from different tees. So again, I would give you 7 strokes. Same result, just a different way of arriving there.

    Best 8 instead of best 10 scores: Affects everyone equally.

    Index updated daily: Just brings the USGA in line with Golf Canada and the R&A, who already do this.

    Max handicap of 54.0: Yeah, this is aimed at the HIGH handicappers, I guess. No effect on you or anyone I know.

    Soft and hard caps: Whose index goes up by more than 3 strokes in a year? Maybe if you were injured, but the rules have a provision for the Handicap Committee to adjust your index upwards in that case. For most players, their handicap climbs slowly as they age, and this won’t affect them. And if your handicap does climb by 3 strokes in a year, it’s still allowed to climb, just more slowly. It’s only when you reach the hard cap of +5 strokes that it is actually capped.

    Exceptional score reductions and penalty scores: I guess you could say this is aimed at sandbaggers, but not at high handicappers. But actually, the USGA defines the intent of handicaps this way: “The USGA Handicap System is based upon the potential ability of a player rather than the average of all his scores.” A score 7 strokes better than your index is evidence of the potential to score better.

    So I really don’t see how any of these changes are “aimed at high handicappers.” As far as this being news to you, I would blame your state golf association. The Colorado Golf Association did a good job of promoting this over the past year. Also, I just looked and found articles about it from Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, and Golf Week, going back almost two years.

    As far as a Handicap Committee at El Tigre, I’m not sure whether we have one. If we don’t, I suspect Steve Johnson fills that role.

  4. webducks says:

    I am surprised since there has been no mention of this change in any golf publication or professional association newsletter to which I am privy.  But given the nature of the changes, especially the new handicap rules, which imo are clearly aimed at higher handicap players, I guess I should not be surprised.  Given the immediacy of the change and its impact on higher handicap player, and their ability to compete, the need for professionally Rating our Golf Course has never been more apparent.  I have been told by several persons associated with the course that it has never been rated, but be that as it may, the rating assigned is wildly at variance with any courses of similar difficulty with which I am familiar.  I know that concern is widely shared but until now, it has just served as an aberration and an annoyance.  I hope it will be addressed.  By the way, who constitutes the Handicap Committee at El Tigre? 

    • webducks says:

      PS, this is Jack Kirkpatrick commenting.  The webucks is simply my username.

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