As we look forward to 2020 in the very moist world of UK golf, the World Handicap System developed by R&A and USGA is the biggest change since the flag in or out rule change.

As clubs around the country look to change how they officiate competitions, I’m thinking is this a change that will help or hinder. I’m all for inclusive rules, but changing a handicapping system that is already heavily ingrained in today’s game, will it be a disrupter or just disrupt.

Let’s look at the current handicap system first. Your scores below the CSS (Difficulty of the course on the day) determine how many shots you lose.

Let me Explain the Current System:

  • Category 1 Golfer, handicap + to 5.4, will lose 0.1 for every shot under CSS.
  • Category 2 Golfer, handicap 5.5 to 12.4, will lose 0.2 for every shot under CSS.
  • Category 3 Golfer, handicap 12.5 to 20.4, will lose 0.3 for every shot under CSS.
  • Category 4 Golfer, handicap 20.5 to 28, will lose 0.4 for every shot under CSS.

So a 7.1 handicap, shooting a net 65 with the CSS of 72, is 7 shots under their handicap for the day. That’s 7*0.2, so a 1.4 handicap reduction to 5.7. Simple!

A 24 handicap shooting the same net 65 with a CSS of 72, again 7 shots under their handicap will see a 7*0.4 shot reduction of 2.8 making them 21.2.

This system makes it easier to get your handicap down in big chunks but then a lot harder to become an elite golfer. As there’s a buffer zone where you can also go up 0.1 for shots over your handicap.

So what is the new system?

In short, it’s the average of your best 8 games out of your last 20.

Let’s say your 8 average scores are 75, so 3 over par average (I wish!), you then shoot a 69 (3 under), your scores will be 7*3 and 1*-3. so 18 / 8. 2.25.

I’m not sure about you but I did a statistical Maths A-Level and I’m finding this a little bit baffling.

Why Change It?

The new handicapping rules are there to making the game more: Inclusive and Accessible, Consistent and Portable, Modern and Adaptable.

I don’t know about you but I struggle to remember what I had for breakfast let alone my last 20 scores.

I agree that there is a huge population of the golfing world that just goes for a knock or various handicapping used on society days, corporate events or away opens. It would be amazing to include those games in the handicapping process. To truly have a handicap that is reflective of your ability. It’s not making it more accessible as it is taking that power from the player to calculate their own handicap and into an app. With an introduction of a 54 handicap limit, regardless of gender, age etc, this is going to open up competitions to all. However. When I started you had to be of a certain standard before playing on the course both in skill and etiquette. Should you really be on a golf course when your average scores around 130 or spending the time practicing? I thought they were looking to speed up golf!

I also agree that handicaps are wrong when you look at it on a course by course basis. While CSS can give you a reflective handicap against the conditions on the day, we all know the holes that aren’t really Par 5s or the course that’s ridiculously tight. When you play their team you get hiding because they’re used to it. I remember the term slope index used years ago on the continent but never really came into the UK. Let’s hope!

Being Modern and Adaptable is a system that can change based on the need of player, does that mean they’re looking at a system they can constantly change using technology? Rules that constantly adapt akin of the Formula 1 rule changes?

I’m not sure about you but one year Formula 1 is about advancing the cars and the next year about making it pure driver ability based.

But here’s the kicker.

Who’s going to police it. Those that game the system now will find loopholes. Bringing non-competitive knocks into the handicapping system can open it up to misuse. 

I seriously hope that this gives golf a new lease of life without punishing those that live and breath it on a daily basis. It needs to give the lower handicapper a chance to get lower and the higher handicapper a platform to come down gradually. We’ve all had massive shot reductions and then not been able to play to it for months.

Whatever your thoughts, it’s here, get ready and we’ll see you in the bar to complain about it after. VAR style 🙂