New World Handicap System Starts in 2020

Jake MillerJacob Miller,
Executive Director of the
Utah Golf Association
If you have been plugged into the golf world over the past 12 months, you have likely heard that there will be a new handicap system taking effect in January 2020. As the weather begins to cool off, it is time to get educated on the coming changes.

First, it’s important to have a little background on the World Handicap System (WHS). Golf already has a single set of playing Rules, a single set of equipment Rules and a single set of Rules of Amateur Status overseen by the USGA and the R&A. Over the course of the past few years, the six major handicap systems around the world have been collaborating to create a single set of Rules for handicapping. Beginning in January, their work will be on full display with the rollout of a unified handicap system where everyone around the globe will be working within the same parameters when posting scores.

It all sounds nice, but what does it mean for you and your handicap? Let’s dive into what you need to know and what you can expect moving forward.
Will my index change?
It is likely that your handicap will change slightly given the changes within the calculation. In WHS, only your best eight of 20 scores will count towards your handicap versus your best 10 in the current USGA system. However, the old 96% multiplier will no longer exist, so determining your handicap just got a bit easier.
You need to know your Course Handicap!
In the new system, your Course Handicap will represent the number of strokes a player receives in relation to par of the tees being played versus in relation to course rating. Beginning in 2020, Course handicap values will change more from tee to tee, as they will represent the number of strokes to play to par. This new calculation will allow players to compete from different sets of tees without an additional adjustment. Players will also use their course handicap to determine Net Par and Net Double Bogey for score posting purposes. Don’t like math? Just download the GHIN app to calculate everything for you!
Net Double Bogey
The days of equitable stroke control (ESC) are over, but you will still have a maximum score per hole that you are allowed to post for handicap purposes. Regardless of handicap, everyone will calculate their maximum hole score the same way. The calculation is as follows: Par (of the hole) + 2 strokes + any handicap strokes received. Or simply double bogey plus any strokes received. This is why it is so important to know your playing handicap!
How soon should I post after playing?
Scores should be posted in the same day for multiple reasons. The first and most important reason is the Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC). What is that? Not every day is ‘normal’; factors such as weather and course setup can change the way a golf course plays. The PCC compares scores against expected scores for each course, if scores submitted that day match expectations, no adjustment is made. However, if scores are significantly better or worse, the calculation will automatically adjust differentials accordingly. In addition to the mathematical change, your handicap will no longer be revised on the 1st and 15th of each month, they will be revised daily.
Safeguards in the system…
There are multiple safeguards in the new system that will help to ensure a player has an accurate handicap. The WHS will limit extreme upward movement with a soft and a hard cap on a player’s handicap. A soft cap applies and reduces the value of any increase over three strokes by 50%. A hard cap applies when a player has reached a maximum of five strokes above their low handicap index and no further upward movement will take place. Another safeguard is the exceptional score reduction. If a player shoots an exceptional score, their handicap will be adjusted one or two strokes depending on their score.
Am I good enough to have a handicap? How do I get one?
Everyone is good enough to have a handicap! In the new WHS, the maximum handicap for both genders will be 54.0 instead of 40.4 for women and 36.4 for men. Establishing a handicap is faster and easier than ever — head to to join and get a GHIN number. Once you have your GHIN number you only need a total of 54 holes to generate a handicap index. Do you only play 9-hole rounds? That isn’t a problem, 9-hole scores will be combined in the system to produce an 18-hole score.
The new World Handicap System is making the game more inclusive and enjoyable for all. If you are interested in learning more, visit or the USGA website. Learn more about Jacob Miller and the UGA at



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