Finally, we are one.
When the new World Handicap System, scheduled to go into effect in two years, was announced last week, it was just another example that golf’s ruling bodies across the world understand the importance of encouraging people to play our great game more often.
I didn’t realize this before the announcement, but the way handicaps are currently computed varies dramatically from continent to continent.
In fact, I didn’t even know that there are five other handicapping authorities besides the U.S. Golf Association: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association, the South African Golf Association and the Argentine Golf Association.
So I learned something. But here’s what we all learned when the new rules were revealed:
- Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability
- A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and nine-hole rounds, but with some discretion available for handicapping authorities or national associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction
- A consistent handicap that is portable from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA Course and Slope Rating System, already successfully used in more than 80 countries
- An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control
- A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day
- Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation
- A limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only)
- A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game
Now, here’s what all that means and why it’s important:
First, I was interested to learn that in Great Britain and Ireland, recreational rounds don’t count toward a handicap.
Do you realize how crazy that is? Chances are, you’re going to shoot a higher score in a tournament than you are when you’re just playing with friends. Talk about an invitation to sandbag.
The new rules also make it easier to establish a handicap. Under the old system, it took five full rounds, and now it will be just three.
But the biggest news of all is that your handicap probably is going to go down slightly because of the new 8-of-20 rule. Currently, your handicap is based on the lowest 10 scores out of your most recent 20 rounds.
This means that your handicap won’t go up as much with a run of bad rounds because, chances are, those high scores won’t count. It’s another excellent way to stop sandbagging.
Not being to count more than a net double bogey is something that has been practiced by lower handicaps for years, but now it will extend to everyone.
What I like most of all, though, is that the new system will make handicaps more portable and will make the game more inviting.
Your handicap will be calculated daily, not on the first and 15th days of the month. It will take weather conditions into account more. And the USGA Course and Slope Rating System, currently a standard in 80 countries, will be adopted worldwide.
This is big stuff. And if you’re like me and want your handicap to be as low as possible – which we all should want, just to be fair – then you should be excited about this.
I’m so excited about it, I want to play even more. As if that’s possible.