World Handicap System Changes

In 2018, the World Handicap System (WHS) was unveiled as a joint venture with the R&A and the USGA. As of January 2020, it started to take effect in various countries around the world. The United States is in the process of adopting the World Handicap System. The United States rolled the program out in mid-January, and Ireland and Great Britain are rolling it out in the early autumn.

But what is this new system, and how does it impact your current golf handicap? We’ll outline everything you need to know about this system and how you calculate your new handicap to improve your score. 

Seven Handicap Components the WHS Alters

Under this new system, there are seven main components that will change to impact your handicap calculations. We’ll go over each one for you below. 

Course and Slope Ratings

Course ratings were a large component of prior handicap systems, and the WHS will expand on them. They’ll create a foundation that you use for your new handicap index calculation. The course’s rating breaks down into two parts. The first is the expected score that a scratch player would get using a given set of tees. The second calculation is the slope rating. This rating outlines the difficulty difference between a bogey golfer and a scratch player when they play a round on the course. 


One of the main goals of this new program is to create an inclusive system that allows every player to get a level playing field. They do this by offering more flexibility when it comes to posting scores. You can get a new handicap after you submit your scores for 54 holes and above. You can also submit your scores earlier as a 9-hole round of golf or an 18-hole round. Scores now count from recreational and tournament play, as well as Stableford or stroke format. However, playing just one round will not count for this new handicap. 

Optimistic Evaluation

As it stands, many handicap systems do count your 10 best scores out of the most recent 20 rounds of golf you played. The new system will only count the eight best scores out of the previous 20 rounds you played. This could shift your handicap by a few decimals without having to put in more scores. Any good round you play will hold more weight, and your handicap will now reflect your golf ability when you have a good day instead of an average round. 


The maximum handicap for both female and male golfers will go up to 54.0. This is a large increase from any previous ceiling, and the highest score you can get on any hole is now a net double bogey. This replaces the equitable stroke control that the previous handicap systems set. 

Streamlined Calculations

Around the world, you can find six unique handicapping systems for golf. This new system will replace all of them into one unifying system. In turn, players from all over the world will be able to see how their skills stack up against one another. They can also bring a very accurate handicap with them when they travel from course to course. 

System Safeguards

There are several safeguards in this new system that will prevent your handicap from going up too quickly. The system looks at past performance history before it calculates a new handicap. This means that your low handicap score over the past 12 months will help form a ceiling that stops your handicap from going up fast. The system will adjust one low score if it is more than seven shots lower than your current handicap to help it reflect your actual ability. 

Weather Impact

Anyone who spends time on a golf course will tell you that getting a good score in unfavorable weather conditions can trump a lower score in good weather. The WHS will include a playing conditions calculation with the slope rating and standard course rating. The range starts at -1.0 for favorable weather and goes up to +3.0 for unfavorable weather.