In January 2020, every golfer in the world will be part of the new World Handicap System (WHS). It marks a significant milestone in the growth of the game and promises to create a more accurate handicap for every golfer and fine-tune competitive play for amateur golfers.
I’ve been surprised by how few golfers know this major change to your golf handicap is coming in just a couple of months. It will affect every golfer with a handicap. In no particular order, here are the biggest changes you need to know about.
Your handicap will likely go down a little.
The current system uses the best ten scores from your last 20 rounds to calculate your handicap. The new system will use the top eight. That means your two worst scores currently inside your handicap group will get dropped.
Most average golfers (10+ handicap) have a bad round or two that keeps their handicaps from dipping too low. The new system will impact your index in this regard and you’ll likely see a small correction downward.
In effect, counting fewer rounds among your last 20 will dial in players who score consistently within a tight range. Those of us whose scores are a little less … predictable, shall we say, could see our handicaps fluctuate more often than under the current system.
Your handicap will update after every round
There is no excuse to delay posting your round after you play. Your club or course can do it, there is a GHIN app, or you can do it from your home computer.
The current handicap system updates every two weeks. That was enough wiggle room to let some folks manipulate their handicap around club tournaments and other events. Some crafty golfers currently post scores just once a month. That means their handicap updates every 4-6 weeks. Naughty, naughty. This is a sure sign of someone trying to manipulate their handicap.
The new system won’t let you do that. The WHS will adjust every golfer’s handicap after every round, every day of the week. This change is made possible by embracing modern technology, something the USGA and R&A haven’t always been keen to do.
And there is another reason you need to post the score immediately after your round – the WHS will account for playing conditions on the day you played.
Playing conditions will impact your adjusted handicap score.
If you shoot an 84 in perfect, calm conditions on Saturday, then shoot another 84 the next day (on the same course and tee box) in wet, blustery conditions, the WHS will adjust those scores differently. Simply put, not all scores are equal in the eyes of the WHS. You get credit for playing well in bad conditions and penalized less for playing poorly in bad conditions.
That’s why it’s critical to post scores on the day you play. Otherwise, you will be unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) manipulating your handicap.
The good news is that it’s all done in the cloud. You don’t have to record the playing conditions when you input a score. The WHS will use weather data from global weather services to determine how your score is adjusted.
Goodbye, Equitable Stroke Control
You’ve been there. “Is my max a 7 or a triple bogey? So, can I take an 8 on a par-5?”
Equitable Stroke Control is a simple system that no single human has ever committed to memory. With the WHS, there will be a simple new rule for every golfer: two strokes over net par is your max. That’s it.
Par + handicap strokes received on that hole + 2 = your max score. Simple.
That goes for scratch golfers all the way to 54 handicappers. “54?” you say. “I thought the max for men was 36.4 and 40.4 for women.” Nope, that’s changing, too.
For years, the handicap system has treated women and men differently. Today, we call that sexism. The WHS aims to eliminate any differences in handicapping between the sexes and create a universal system applicable to every golfer.
You can carry a 54 handicap (but I wouldn’t brag about it).
I pray to sweet Buddha I never get paired with a 54 handicapper. I feel like 54-handicapper shouldn’t be allowed on a course. My dog could respectably carry a 54. And, apparently, the new WHS will account for him.
I see this as a ploy to get more part-time golfers in the WHS system. It’s essentially marketing data capture through golf. They have also moved the number of rounds needed to establish a handicap from five down to three. That should help weed out some sandbaggers, too.
And please don’t bring a 54-handicapper to a Member-Guest tournament. I don’t care if it’s your boss, best friend, or Rihanna. You will be ostracized from that moment on.
Here’s the best news
You don’t have to do anything differently if you are an honest, timely poster of scores. When the WHS takes effect, there may be a new look and feel to the GHIN app or website, but you’ll do the same thing you’ve been doing for years – Log in, confirm the date, select the tees you played, and enter your score. All the other fancy calculations will be completed in the cloud.
I’m sure there will be bumps along the way. However, with the new rules around the speed of play this year and the WHS next year, it indicates that those overseeing the game understand a need to modernize rules and regulations to make it more inclusive and enjoyable.
We will check back in early next year to gauge how the WHS is implemented and how it might further impact you and the game we all love.