World Handicap System


The handicap system was update on 2nd November 2020 and the new World Handicap System (WHS) was launched. Your previous handicap was replaced by the ‘handicap index’ which allows you to compare easily with players from other clubs.

Your handicap index is based on a rolling average of your 8 best from the last 20 scores you’ve submitted. Singles competitions scores count towards your rolling list and you can declare in advance of a social round if you want that score to count too. Once declared, you must submit your score.

Before starting a round, use your handicap index to determine what your playing handicap on the day is – it will vary from course to course and on which tees you play from. There will be a board by the first tee showing you what your handicap index equates to at Birstall from the white, yellow and red tees.

Birstall currently has measured courses for men off the yellow and white tees and for ladies off the red tees. We are going to ask for the yellow and white tees to be rated for ladies and for the red tees to be rated for men so people have a wider variety of places to play from.

During the winter we’re likely to make use of temporary tees – we’re in discussion with the Leicestershire & Rutland Golf Union and County Association respectively about getting temporary course ratings for our winter tees.

What Is It?

The World Handicap System is designed to attract more players to the game, make handicapping easier to understand, and give golfers a handicap index that can transfer from club to club.

Course Rating

Golf Course Rating will be used to measure the 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 the playing length of the course and the obstacles that a player will encounter (such as the size of green and hazards). These combined result in a common base from which to compare players abilities

The course ratings for Birstall are:
White tee (men) – par 70, Course Rating 70.6, Slope Rating 129
Yellow tee (men) – par 70, Course Rating 69.8, Slope Rating 128
Red tee (ladies) – par 72, Course Rating 72.3, Slope Rating 138

Slope Rating

Slope Rating is the number that indicates the relative playing difficulty of a course for Bogey Golfers compared to Scratch Golfers. The use of Slope allows a player’s handicap index to be portable from course to course and country to country. The Slope Rating is a key component in calculating the number of strokes each player receives to play a particular course.

Handicap Index

Golfers will find handicap index to be the most important element of the World Handicap System. The Handicap Index will

* Measure the ability of a player
* Be portable from course to course
* Allow players to compete fairly and equitably

A handicap index is calculated from the best 8 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 so it is ready for the next time they play.

When the WHS comes into play most golfers will have a handicap index generated based on their existing records. New golfers will continue to be issued with handicaps based on a minimum of 54 holes (using any combination of 9 and 18 holes).

Course Handicap

Prior to their round, golfers will choose the tees they’re playing off that day and cross-reference their handicap index to the Course & Slope Rating tables to ascertain their Course Handicap. The Course & Slope Rating tables will be available near the first tee and via apps.

Handicap allowances will still apply – these will continue to be the percentage of course handicap specified for the format of play.

Playing Handicap

Playing Handicap is the stroke allowance implemented to maintain the integrity of the WHS when used in competition. It allows golfers to compete on a level playing field. The Course Handicap converts to a Playing Handicap for competition purposes and changes depending on the format of play.

General Play and Competition Rounds

Acceptable Scores for the WHS can be submitted under the following forms of play

* All individual competition rounds, played home or away, as medal / stableford / par & bogey / maximum score
* Pre-registered general play ‘social’ rounds

In order for an Acceptable Score to be submitted and for part of the WHS, the round must be played

* In accordance with the Rules of Golf
* In an approved form of play
* With at least one other person (to mark and verify the score)
* On a course with a measured Course Rating and Slope Rating

Scores should be posted at the venue being played and on the same day as being played.


A player’s handicap index is completely refreshed every 20 scores and is very responsive to changes in a player’s form. A golfer submitting 2 scores a week will completely refresh their scoring record in 10 weeks. As a result, the system needs a memory ability over a reasonable time frame to anchor any large increases in a handicap index.

A ‘soft cap’ is triggered when the difference between a player’s newly calculated handicap index and their low handicap index is greater than 3 strokes. When the calculated increase is greater than 3 strokes the rate of upward change is slowed to 50%.

A ‘hard cap’ triggers to restrict the amount by which a player’s handicap index can increase to no more than 5 strokes above their 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.

Transition of Handicaps

All current CONGU handicaps are being reprocessed under the World Handicap System principles. The calculation will identify the best 8 of the last 20 scores posted in qualifying competitions or as supplementary scores to form the basis of the new handicap index.

If a player has submitted less than 20 scores since January 2018 there are alternative ways to allocate a handicap index -

* 3 scores submitted – handicap index is the lowest score minus 2
* 4 scores – lowest score minus 1
* 5 scores – lowest score
* 6 scores – average of lowest 2 scores minus 2
* 7 to 8 scores – average of lowest 2 scores
* 9 to 11 scores – average of lowest 3 scores
* 12 to 14 scores – average of lowest 4 scores
* 15 to 16 scores – average of lowest 5 scores
* 17 to 18 scores – average of lowest 6 scores
* 19 scores – average of lowest 7 scores
* 20 scores – average of lowest 8 scores

Course Handicap Tables

Please download the PDF files below, which contain the Course Handicap Tables.

When using the Course Handicap Tables, find the range containing your Handicap Index® in the left column. Play with the Course Handicap™ which corresponds with it in the right column.

Please make sure that the tees from which you are playing correspond with the tees for which this table applies.

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