World Handicapping System


The way that handicaps for golfers around the world are calculated has been transformed by a new system developed by The R&A and the USGA. A number of countries round the world started using the new system on 1st January 2020 and it will come into force in Great Britain and Ireland on 2nd November 2020.

Features of the World Handicap System (WHS) include:

  • A consistent handicap that is portable from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of a modified version of the Course and Slope Rating System that has been used in the USA and much of Europe for many years.
  • An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores but with a safety mechanism to ensure that a player's handicap cannot increase by more than 5 shots during a 12 month period.
  • A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day. 
  • Handicap revisions processed on the day of playing, even if the competition results have not been processed.
  • A limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum score for a hole (for handicapping purposes only)  
  • A maximum handicap limit of 54, regardless of gender

Click for further information on the R&A website and these FAQ's from the England Golf Website


A course assessment was done at The Leicestershire in April 2018 to establish the Course Rating and Slope Rating from each set of tees.

Course Rating replaces Standard Scratch (SSS) in the new system and represents the score that a scratch golfer is expected to achieve on the course.  When the WHS comes into effect the Course Ratings will be to the nearest 0.1.

Slope Rating represents the relative difficulty of a course from a specific set of tees for a 'bogey golfer' compared to a 'scratch' golfer.  A course with many hazards, long carries and thick rough will have a higher slope rating because these features are more of a challenge to bogey golfers. A golfer's handicap for a specific course is determined by multiplying the player's Handicap Index by the ratio of the course Slope Rating divided by the 'neutral' slope of 113.

There will be conversion tables available at each golf club, so the good news is that you won't need to do the calculation yourself !!!


What does the handicap transition look like? 

The transition from a CONGU handicap to a WHS handicap index will be calculated using the new WHS process described below. 

 We will be using the scores within a player`s record dating back to January 2018. 

 We will have three groups of players: 

  • Group A - More than 20 scores
  • Group B - Between three and 19 scores
  • Group C - Less than three scores. 

Group A and B will have all the scores in their CONGU record transferred and reformatted for WHS. 

  • For each score within the record, the transition will identify the course/tee used based on the SSS and the Course Data entered by clubs. Then it will check for a Course and Slope Rating.
              o Should the tee not be clearly identifiable then the Course Rating will be equal to SSS and the slope will be allocated at 125.
  • The CONGU Adjusted Gross Score or Stableford/Par equivalent will be used.
              o The Playing Conditions Calculation will use SSS minus CSS to give the equivalent value.
              o Course and Slope rating used will be that identified as above.
  • Score Differential Calculation

    (113/Slope Rating) x (Adj Gross Score – Course Rating + (SSS-CSS))
  • This will happen for all scores within the record
  • The handicap index will then be calculated either using:
              o The best eight from last 20 scores (Group A)
              o The initial allocation table (5.2a in the Rules of Handicapping) 

 For players with less than three scores since January 2018 (Group C), 

  • A handicap index will be allocated based on the Current CONGU Handicap.
              o Handicap Committees should then review the allocated index to see if this reflects the player’s ability.
              o After they have returned three scores the usual WHS process will apply.  


Examples: Group A - with more than 20 scores:





Group B - with less than 20 scores:


How to obtain a Handicap index?

When we adopt the WHS in England, most golfers will have a Handicap Index generated based on their existing records. However, for new golfers to gain their Handicap Index they will have to submit a minimum of 54 holes (using any combination of 9 and 18 holes). 

 Initially, their Handicap Index will be the lowest of their three rounds minus two strokes, and this will continue to be built until the 20 scores are achieved. The maximum Handicap Index for any player is 54, and in order for players to obtain a recognised Handicap Index a player must be an affiliated member of a golf club. 

 Hopefully, this provides you with a good understanding as to what a Handicap Index is, how golfers will obtain one, and why it is so important to the new system.


How to safeguard a Handicap Index?

With Handicap Index being calculated by working out an average of the best eight rounds from a player’s last 20, golfers might be apprehensive that the change in their Handicap Index may be volatile. However, through the implementation of a Soft Cap and Hard Cap, the WHS will limit any extreme upward movement of a player’s Handicap Index within a 365-day period, therefore, protecting against handicap manipulation.

 The Soft Cap will suppress movement by 50% after a three-stroke increase over a player’s Low Handicap Index. For clarity in this instance, a Low Handicap Index is the lowest Handicap Index a player has had during the previous 12-month period.

 The Hard Cap will restrict upward movement of five-strokes over the Low Handicap Index. Restricting the extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index will ensure that a player’s temporary loss of form does not cause the Handicap Index to move too far away from their actual ability. It is important to note that caps will only start to take effect once a player has at least 20 acceptable scores in their record.


What is a Course Handicap?

A Course Handicap will determine the number of strokes a player will receive when playing from any set of tees on a given course. Before any player starts their round they must convert their Handicap Index into a Course Handicap.

How to work out a Course Handicap?

The Course Handicap calculation is:


Handicap Index x (Slope Rating / 113) = Course Handicap.


But don’t let this calculation concern you because working out a Course Handicap has been made simple.

England Golf will provide Course & Slope Rating tables to all clubs ahead of the new System launching in November. These Tables should be positioned in conspicuous locations around the club to make them easy to find prior to beginning a round of golf.

Golfers will simply have to choose the tees they are playing off that day, and cross reference their Handicap Index on the Course & Slope Rating table to ascertain their Course Handicap. It really is as simple as that - they’re then ready to get out on the course and play!


Introducing ‘Easy as H.C.P’!

 As we mentioned last week, before any player starts their round they must convert their Handicap Index into a Course Handicap. This will determine how many shots they will receive when playing a golf course from any set of tees.

 An easy way for a player to remember this is to think 'HCP'. This stands for:

 H - Handicap Index

 C - Course Handicap

 P Play Golf


This should act as a prompt for golfers trying to remember the key elements of the WHS when they arrive at the golf club. It's helpful that many golfers will already recognise HCP as an abbreviation for handicap. 

Firstly, they will need to know their Handicap Index.

Secondly they will calculate their Course Handicap using the Slope & Course Rating table.

Finally, head out onto the golf course and play. 


It’s as easy as HCP!