The World Handicap System (WHS), set to take effect on January 1, 2020, will unify the six handicap systems used around the world into a single system that enables golfers of different ability to play and compete on a fair and equitable basis, in any format, on any course, anywhere around the world.

See below for an outline of the major changes along with short videos on the World Handicap System.

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Introduction to the World Handicap System

Course Rating and Slope Rating

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The Course Rating System is the basis for the World Handicap System and is an indication of the difficulty of a golf course for the scratch player and the bogey player under normal playing conditions.

Number of Scores Required to Obtain a Handicap Index

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Players will now have their handicap index calculated after they have posted a minimum of three 18-hole scores (including 9-hole scores that have been combined). The table below will be used to determine the number of score differentials used in the Handicap Index Calculation, as well as any additional adjustment:

Basis of Handicap Index Calculation

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A Handicap Index will be calculated by averaging a player’s 8 best Score Differentials out of their most recent 20.

Limit on Upward Movement of a Handicap Index

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In order to limit the extreme upward movement of a player’s Handicap Index, a “Soft Cap” and “Hard Cap” will be included within the Handicap Index calculation. These caps will be in relation to the player’s “Low Handicap Index.”

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Exceptional Score Reduction

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When a player submits a score that produces a Score Differential of 7.0 strokes or more below their Handicap Index, they will be subject to an Exceptional Score Reduction. This reduction will be either -1.0 or -2.0, depending on how far below the player’s Handicap Index the submitted Score Differential is and will be applied to the player’s most recent 20 scores. Scores submitted after the exceptional score will not contain the -1.0 or -2.0 adjustment (unless they are also exceptional), which will allow reduction to gradually work itself out of a scoring record.

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Playing Conditions Calculation

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When abnormal course or weather conditions cause scored to be unusually high or low on a given day, a “Playing Conditions Calculation” will adjust Score Differentials to better reflect a player’s actual performance.

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Frequency of Handicap Index Updates

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A player’s Handicap Index will update daily, provided that the player submitted a score the day before. On days where the player does not submit a score, no update will take place.

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Maximum Handicap Index

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The maximum Handicap Index will be 54.0 for all players, regardless of gender.

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Importance and Determination of Par

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Par will have an important role within the World Handicap System, requiring par values to be more precise. Golf courses fall within the jurisdiction of the Authorized Golf Association, who has the final determinations of par based on the following guidelines:

Course Handicap Calculation and Application

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A Course Handicap will represent the number of strokes a player receives in relation to the Par of the tees being played. The formula will include a Course Rating minus Par adjustment:

Course Handicap = Handicap Index x (Slope Rating ÷ 113) + (Course Rating – Par)

Playing Handicap Calculation and Application

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The term “Playing Handicap” will be introduced within the Rules of Handicapping and will represent the number of strokes a player receives in a competition. The following formula will be used to determine a Playing Handicap:

Playing Handicap = Course Handicap x Handicap Allowances

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Maximum Hole Score for Handicap Purposes (Net Double Bogey)

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The maximum score for a hole that a player can take for handicap purposes will be limited to Net Double Bogey. This maximum will be double bogey plus any handicap strokes a player receives based on the Course Handicap.

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Treatment of Nine-Hole Scores

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Nine-hole scores will be combined in the order that they are submitted and then used to produce an 18-hole Score Differential.

For more information on the World Handicap System, please visit usga.org/whs or contact the WA Golf Handicapping Department at (206) 526-8605 ext. 1.