World Handicap System: What You Need To Know

Established in January 2020, the World Handicap System aimed to create a single handicap system that could be used worldwide, replacing the multiple different handicap systems previously in use. But what is this new system, and how does it work? For more information on this new, unified handicap system and the impact it has on the world of golf, continue reading.

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World Handicap System (WHS) Explained

Before the World Handicap System (WHS) was created, there were six different handicap systems used worldwide. The goal in creating the WHS was to finally have a single, unified handicap system that could be used worldwide.

Handicap systems in golf were created to allow golfers of all backgrounds and skill levels to play or compete in a way that would be fair for everyone. A unified system means that golfers’ scores will be calculated using the same method and metrics no matter where they are competing. 

Previously, if a golfer travelled abroad for a tournament, they could be faced with the possibility that their score would be calculated using a system that they were unfamiliar with. The WHS ensures that all games use the same criteria to calculate the players’ scores, so there is no need to learn several different systems to compete on an international level.

The World Handicap System was created in coordination with every handicap authority in the golf world to ensure a consistent system in which players’ abilities are measured and ensuring that all players can obtain their Handicap Index.

The Handicap Index is used to track and measure a player’s golfing abilities, as well as provide a score that is considered reasonable for the golfer to achieve based on their handicap level.

World Handicap System Resources & Principles

The World Handicap System and its principles were created with a wealth of resources available for golfers and associations alike. Here’s a breakdown of the program’s principles and resources:


The WHS has tailored their resources to the three primary levels in the golf world: National Associations, Golf Clubs, and Players.

National Associations
The WHS Online Resource Portal was created to give National Associations some agency in submitting their discretions, and creating individual Rule Books catered towards the new system, and gave the associations access to Player Guides to help aid with the transition to the updated design.

Golf Clubs
National Associations were encouraged to communicate with their golf clubs to ensure a smooth transition to the new system and provide the resources necessary for learning aids.

Educational materials for golfers include videos and infographics to understand the changes implemented and how the new system will work.


The World Handicap System operates on the following vital principles:

Inclusive and Accessible
WHS was created to encourage people of all skill levels to play golf at a recreational or competitive level.

Consistent and Portable
The WHS unified the multiple systems in place worldwide to be graded under the same system no matter where they are in the world.

Modern and Adaptable
The WHS was created as a much-needed update to the existing systems that were in place. The system can be adapted across cultures, making it easy to use for everyone.

The Handicap Index Calculation

Your Handicap Index is the number that is used to estimate the sound score that you can be expected to achieve in a game. Your Handicap Index score is calculated based on your adjusted gross score, the course rating, and the slope rating. We’ve explained the calculation of the handicap index in one of our other guides.

world handicap system calculations

Adjusted Gross Score

The Adjusted gross score is a player’s gross score that is adjusted under the WHS procedures. These procedures take into account the player’s number of unfinished or skipped holes, strokes that have been conceded, etc.

Course Rating

The United States Golf Association (USGA) creates a course rating based on the difficulty of a course under normal conditions (weather or otherwise). The score is calculated as the number of strokes concerning the yardage and obstacles that could affect the scoring outcome of a “scratch” or good golfer.

Slope Rating

The Slope Rating is the relative difficulty of a course for players who are not at scratch level, in comparison to the difficulty of the course for “scratch” golfers. The Slope Ranking ranges between 55-155, with 155 being the most difficult rating. A course with a standard difficulty level has an average rating of 113.

Your Handicap Index score is the potential number of strokes that you would be expected to score above par. Essentially, your Handicap Index score is the number of points that would need to be subtracted from your final score to put you on an even playing field with above-average players.

For a more in-depth look at how you can calculate your Handicap Index, you can read this article.


Created to bring golfers of all skill levels and backgrounds together, the WHS is a new, unified system designed by the USGA in partnership with all handicap authorities worldwide. The new program will ensure all players are graded on the same criteria, no matter where they are in the world.


Are you looking for more information on the new Handicap system? We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions that players have regarding the new handicapping system. 

Before the WHS was implemented, six different systems were being used worldwide. If a player wanted to participate in an international tournament, there was a possibility that their handicap score would be judged on a different system, and their overall score would be graded on a system that they were not used to.

Creating a single system to grade all players worldwide ensures that every player can play regardless of their skill level. Golfers can also post their handicap scores online for reference, so the information will be readily available when they compete.

If you want a round to be included in your handicap score, you will have to pre-register before the game begins so that your score can be submitted for calculation. This system will allow you to pick and choose what games you would like to count towards your handicap score and gives you the freedom to play rounds solely for recreational purposes.

There is a maximum Handicap Index score of 54.0 for all players. However, in competitions, the competition committee may implement a lower maximum handicap limit for the competition. Changing the handicapping limits in a particular competition allows the tournament to remain competitive and is done at the committee members’ discretion. 

For more detailed information on Handicapping rules and regulations, you can visit the USGA website.

To post a 9-hole score, you need to play at least seven holes. To have an 18-hole score posted, you need to play at least fourteen holes.

If you play more than nine holes but less than fourteen holes, you will have to post a 9-hole score. However, that 9-hole score can be combined with a second 9-hole score to give you a score for an 18-hole game.

This scoring system gives you some freedom to skip holes or choose shorter games if you prefer a smaller course.

The PCC is calculated automatically to check if the scores posted at a course were significantly lower or higher than the estimated scores of the players who posted them. The main playing conditions that would impact score are weather or some other issue at the golf course.

If the score varied an abnormal amount across multiple players, the Playing Conditions Calculation will make an adjustment to the scores of every player on the course that day. Score adjustments will range between -1 and +3, depending on how you played that day. 

Negative adjustments will indicate that you played better than anticipated, while a positive adjustment means that the course played more difficult than expected on that day.

If the course is played and expected, there would be no adjustment or a PCC adjustment of 0.

A Playing Condition Calculation will only occur if eight or more scores are posted on a given day by players with a Handicap Index score of 36.0 or lower.

A Playing Handicap is the number of strokes you make in a round. This is the number used towards your score in a competition.

A Course Handicap is the number of strokes that need to be made to play to par for the tees being played. This number is used to adjust scores for net par.

Other Questions About the World Handicap System

Still, have questions? For more information on the World Handicap System, the changes implemented, and what those changes mean for you, you can visit the USGA’s official website. Whether you’re looking for clarification on the new system’s rules or want to learn more about how to post or change your scores, the USGA will have all the information you need.

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