The purpose of the World Handicap System (WHS) is to enable golfers of different abilities to play and compete on a fair and equal basis, in any format, on any course, anywhere around the world.
Limitations of this Explanation
This is a simplified explanation of how the World Handicap System operates, to give golfers an understanding of how Handicaps are arrived at and maintained. More detailed infomation of how the system works can be found at the World Handicap System website and the R & A website.
The WHS will use your own personal scores to give you a Handicap Index. Calculating this together with the difficulty of the course you are playing will give you your Course Handcap. Slight adjustments to your Course Handicap, to allow for the format of golf you are playing, will give you your Playing Handcap. Your Playing Handicap will be the allowance of strokes you receive to play. When you then submit your card onto the system, allowance will be made for variables like the weather and condition of the course on the day and your Handicap Index will then be adjusted should the card sumbitted make it neccessary.
Much like the previous system The WHS will allocate you a Handicap Index once you have submitted scores for 54 holes of golf. These 54 holes can be from any combination of 9 or 18 hole rounds. As you submit more cards your Handicap Index will adjust until you reach the point you have submitted 20 cards. Along with more established golfers you will then receive a Handicap Index calculated and continuously adjusted using the average of the best 8 scores from your last 20 rounds.
Courses have each been allocated a Course Rating and Slope Rating. From these figures and the charts displayed at each course you can find your Course Handicap. The charts show the conversion for each set of tees and provide a table of these conversions. By selecting the tees from which you will be playing and then finding your Handicap Index in one column of the table you will be able to find your Course Handicap in an adjacent column.
Your course handicap is calculated as: Handicap Index x Slope rating / 113
The Course Rating is the measure of how difficullt a course is to play, for a scratch golfer. A Course Rating is given to each set of tees at a course based upon the playing length of the course and the number and type of obstacles that will be encountered, along the way.
The Slope Rating is a number that indicates how difficult a course is to play for a golfer with a handicap of approximately 20 for men and 24 for women, compared to a scratch golfer. Slope Ratings vary from 55 to 155 with a course of 'standard difficulty' coming an at a rating of 113.
Should you be playing in a competition and dependent upon the format being played, you will need to make a further adjustment to your Course Handicap to calculate the stroke allowance you will receive for play.
Your Playing Handicap is calculated as: Course Handicap x Handicap Allowance = Playing Handicap
For example, the Handicap Allowance for an individual stroke play competition is 95%.
Safeguards, Caps and Exceptional Score Reductions.
To allow for an exceptional improvement in the ability of a player, a one off reduction of up to 2 strokes may be applied upon the return of a card. This would only apply should a player show a sudden improvement of 7 strokes or better. To prevent a wild increase in your Handicap Index, following an one-off terrible round, a safeguard is in place that takes in to account your scores over the previous calendar year and applies what are colled Soft & Hard Caps to any upward adjustment.