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April 2018

World Handicapping System Set for Debut in 2020

By Steve Eubanks 
Operators — be aware, because you’re going to be facing all the questions.
On Jan. 1, 2020, the entire golf world will convert to a single handicap system. Both the USGA and R&A will administer this worldwide system, which will allow for uniform amateur competitions around the globe.
There are many technical aspects of this, most on the administrative side, but the thing golf course owners need to know is that, at the beginning of 2020, people might see their handicaps change. Those with lower handicaps will likely see their indexes go down. Mid-range and higher handicaps will probably remain unchanged or perhaps see a slight increase.
“When you think about our system today it’s 10 (of the lowest scores) of (the last) 20 (scores posted) with a 96 percent multiplier,” said Steve Edmondson, the managing director handicapping, course rating and GHIN for the USGA. “The World Handicap System (WHS as it will be referred to upon implementation) will take eight (best scores), so 96 percent of that is likely to be a few tenths of a percentage point lower (for low-handicap players). Now, the high handicap players might have a different effect.” 
The other noticeable changes on Day 1 will come in those parts of the world that don’t use an indexing system. In America, golfers are accustomed to being asked about their handicap index, a number calculated to one decimal point. So, “What’s your index?” is followed by something like, “10.4,” or “18.2.” In the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, the question is: “What do you play off?” and the answer is a round number. On New Year’s Day of 2020, the rest of the world outside the U.S. will get an index carried to one decimal.
And all indexes will be available on a worldwide system. When a golfer from Northern California plays a round in Northern Ireland, not only will the professional staff be able to confirm his handicap index, the player will be able to post his scores while abroad. The inverse will also be true. A player from Melbourne, Australia, who is in Melbourne, Florida, will be able to post scores while stateside.
There also is a change in the number of scores needed to establish a handicap. Rather than needing 10 rounds to get an official handicap, any combination of nine or 18-hole rounds equivalent to 54 holes will get you started in the WHS.
Your maximum handicap, regardless of gender, will be 54, and, for posting purposes, your maximum score on any hole will be net double bogey.
Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA said, “For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap.’ We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game. We’re excited to be taking another important step — along with modernizing golf’s Rules — to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play.”
Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, agreed, saying, “We are working with our partners and national associations to make golf more modern, more accessible and more enjoyable as a sport and the new World Handicap System represents a huge opportunity in this regard.
“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers. Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”
“The point is to bring the entire world under a single, unifying system,” Edmondson said. “We’ve done a lot of research and spent a lot of time on this and we think golfers around the world are going to appreciate the parity this new system represents.”

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April 2018 Issue

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