World Handicap System

Welcome to our World Handicapping pages which we have put together to try and explain to our members about the significant changes that are being implemented on how handicaps will be maintained.

The World Handicap System (WHS) is being introduced on the 2nd November 2020. It is designed to welcome more players, to make golf easier to understand and to give all golfers a handicap which is portable all around the globe. It will replace the 6 different systems currently used by over 15 million golfers in more than 80 countries.

It has been developed by The R&A and The United States Golf Association (USGA), supported by the world’s handicapping authorities, including CONGU, which represents the four home countries of Great Britain and Ireland.


The introduction of the WHS is a major change for all golfers which is very dependent on technology. We hope the transition will run smoothly but we have to implement it on the 2nd November 2020 to allow members to play in competitions at Ellesborough and elsewhere. 

WHS Committe

The Rules of Handicapping Player Reference Guide

The Rules of Handicapping Player Reference Guide is now available to download for golf club members, please CLICK HERE to access this resource.

Why has WHS been created?


To allow as many golfers as possible the opportunity to:

  • Obtain and maintain a Handicap Index and reduce barriers of entry
  • Use their Handicap Index on any golf course around the world
  • Compete, or play recreationally and fairly regardless of where they play
With golf being centred around one standard set of rules governed by The R&A and USGA, it makes sense to unify the previous six different Handicapping systems, making for a more inclusive and equitable sport. The WHS was therefore developed with consideration given to club golfers who play both sporadically and more regularly. With all golfers only initially required to submit scorecards for 54 holes to acquire a Handicap Index, the new WHS is less formidable for new players.

WHS can be broken into six main areas:

  1. Course Rating & Bogey Rating
  2. Slope Rating
  3. Handicap Index
  4. Course Handicap
  5. Playing Handicap
  6. General Play & Competition Rounds
Please click on the links above for a brief description or keep scrolling for more information.

Course Rating & Bogey Rating

What is Course Rating?

Golf Course Rating will be used to measure the playing difficulty of a golf course. It measures how many strokes a Scratch Golfer (a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on all rated golf courses) should take on any given course. The rating does this by assessing two main types of challenges which, when combined, result in a common base from which to compare players’ abilities:

  • The playing length of the course
  • The obstacles that a player will encounter (e.g. size of green and hazards)
A Bogey Rating is the measure of playing difficulty from a set of tees when played by a Bogey Golfer (a player who has a Course Handicap of approximately 20 for a male and 24 for a female). Knowing the Course Rating and Bogey Rating allows the WHS to assess and rationalise the relationship between the two. From this, the difficulty of the course for all other levels of ability can be deduced.

Slope Rating

What is Slope Rating?

Slope Rating is the number which indicates the relative playing difficulty of a course for Bogey Golfers, compared to Scratch Golfers. It is the difficulty comparison between a Bogey Golfer and a Scratch Golfer from the same set of tees.

The use of Slope allows a player’s Handicap Index to be portable from course to course and country to country. It also enables acceptable scores from any rated golf course in the world to be submitted for a player’s handicap purposes. The Slope Rating is a key component in calculating the number of strokes each player receives to play a particular golf course. Each set of tees will have a Slope Rating value between 55 and 155. 

The higher the Slope Rating, the more additional strokes a Bogey Golfer will need to be able to play it. The lower the Slope Rating, the less strokes a Bogey Golfer will require.

(The above video is the same at the above slope rating video)

Handicap Index

What is a Handicap Index?

Golfers will consider the Handicap Index to be the most important element of the WHS.The Handicap Index will:

  • Measure the ability of a player
  • Be portable from course to course
  • Allow players to complete fairly and therefore promote inclusivity within the game
A Handicap Index is calculated from the best eight scores from the last 20 rounds.

As a new score is submitted, a player’s Handicap Index will automatically update to the most recent 20 scores. A player’s Handicap Index will update promptly overnight after the submission of an acceptable score and be ready before the next time they play.

How to obtain a Handicap Index?

When the new system comes into play most golfers can have a Handicap Index generated, based on their existing records. 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). Their Handicap Index will be the lowest of their three rounds minus two strokes and continue to be built until the 20 scores are achieved. If a player does not have 20 scores in the last two years their index will be calculated in accordance with the table below.


How to safeguard a Handicap Index?

A Soft Cap and Hard Cap will be implemented to limit any extreme upward movement of a player’s Handicap Index within a 365-day period. This has been introduced to act as a safeguard to prevent any handicap manipulation.

The Soft Cap will suppress movement by 50% after a 3.0 stroke increase over a player’s Low Handicap Index (see glossary of terms). 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 on 5.0 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.

Course Handicap

What is Course Handicap?

Before any player starts their round they must convert their Handicap Index into a Course Handicap.The Course Handicap will determine the number of strokes a player will receive for any set of tees on a course. An easy way for a player to remember the WHS, is to think HCP!


H = Handicap Index
C = Course Handicap
P = PlayHow to work out a Course Handicap?

England Golf will provide Course & Slope Rating tables to all golf clubs prior to 2nd November 2020.

Golfers 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.

In time, Course Handicap Tables will be available via an App and club handicap software so golfers can view their Course Handicap remotely prior to a round. Should any golfer wish to calculate their Course Handicap manually the formula is as follows:

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

Please watch this short video to help understand Course Handicap

Playing Handicap

What is Playing Handicap?

Playing Handicap is a stroke allowance that is implemented in order to maintain the integrity of the WHS when used in competition. It allows golfers to compete on a level playing field, regardless of their Handicap Index.The Course Handicap converts to a Playing Handicap for competition purposes and changes depending on the format of play.The four most important aspects of Playing Handicap to remember are:

  • It is only used for competition purposes
  • It ensures equity to calculate competition results (via Handicap Allowances)
  • Golfers do not need to calculate it (it is generated before their round)
  • Golfers should continue to play in the mindset of their Course Handicap in competition rounds


The WHS has been designed with the enjoyment of recreational golf at the forefront. The WHS will allow golfers to play with freedom, therefore changing the nature in which they play the game. The focus for golfers should not be on their Playing Handicap.

General Play & Competition Rounds

How to submit a score?After the completion of a competition round, a player has to submit their scorecard as soon as possible in order for their Handicap Index to be updated. Preferably, scores should be posted at the venue being played and on the same day, as this will be when a player’s Handicap Index will be updated. Posting of scores is possible by players utilising the technology available at their golf club.

How to verify a score?

In order to verify a score and for it to count towards a players WHS, it must be played:

  • In accordance with The Rules of Golf
  • In an authorised format of play
  • With at least one other person
  • On a course with a current Course Rating and Slope Rating

How your score counts towards the WHS?

Acceptable formats of play for submitting a score towards a player’s Handicap Index include:

  • Pre-registered general play ‘social’ scores
  • All individual competition rounds, both 9 and 18 holes, whether played at home or away
Non-Acceptable formats of play for submitting a score towards a player’s Handicap Index include:
  • Scores from fourball better ball
  • Other matchplay events

For golfers playing in recreational rounds with friends, either in teams or pairs, even when there is no intention of submitting a score for handicap purposes, they will need to calculate their Course Handicap prior to their round.

Frequently Asked Questions

England Golf have provided a frequently asked question document following feedback they have recieved from the County Unions.

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