This time next week every member of every golf club in GB & Ireland should have a Handicap Index, rather than an Exact Handicap, as we’re moving from CONGU’s Unified System of Handicapping  (CONGU is the Council of National Golf Unions in England, Wales, Scotland & Ireland) to the World Handicap System (WHS).  Having scanned several documents and websites it all seems very complicated, however, the good news is that the computer will work everything out.

I am NOT an expert on handicaps by any stretch of the imagination but I’ve tried to pick out some of the salient points.

 You won’t have an “exact handicap” anymore – instead you’ll have a “handicap index” which is measured to one decimal point.

The WHS will use your best 8 scores selected from your last 20 qualifying rounds since 1st January 2018 to calculate your handicap index.

Your handicap index will be used to calculate your “course handicap” which will vary from course to course.

Your course handicap will then be used to calculate your “playing handicap” which you will use in the same way that you currently use your playing handicap.

Over the past 18 months every course in Ireland has been visited by a team of experts who determined the “slope rating” for each set of tees on every course. The WHS defines “slope rating” as the relative difficulty of a course for bogey golfers (men – 20, women – 24) compared to scratch golfers.  The higher the slope rating, the more difficult the course.  The average slope rating is 113.

Clubs must display the slope ratings for every set of tees and should also display a conversion chart so players can easily calculate their course handicap, however the computer will do this automatically if you are entering a competition.

If you’re interested in numbers, here’s the formula:

handicap index     x     (slope rating  /   113)     =     course handicap

Depending on the format of play, a handicap allowance may be applied to your course index.  The handicap allowance for singles stableford or stroke play is 95%; there are different allowances for singles match play, four ball better ball etc.

An example

A female golfer with a handicap index of 22.1 decides to play in an open stroke competition at Dungannon Golf Club which will be played off the red tees.  The slope rating for the red tees at this club is 126.  What will her playing handicap be?

Her course handicap will be:                22.1       x       (126 / 113)     =   24.6  This is rounded to the nearest integer

Her playing handicap will be                25          x      (95   /  100)     =   23.8   rounded up to 24

She will receive 23 shots.

The WHS requires you to record which tees you used and your course handicap on your score card, as well as the usual information – name, date etc.  You and your marker must sign the card (although currently the marker’s name rather than signature is acceptable under Covid-19 restrictions) and add your CDH numbers for verification purposes.

After your round

You must enter your score into the computer and then the competitions secretary will carry out the usual procedure to produce the list of prize winners.  Up until now the handicap secretary would have printed a list of handicap increases and decreases immediately after every competition, however this will not happen under the WHS.  Instead the computer software will analyse all scores played off the relevant tees that day and perform a “playing conditions calculation” (PCC) to decide if the scores were significantly higher or lower than expected and then a PCC will be applied to your score to reflect the playing conditions on that day. The PCC will be between -1 and +3.  A negative (-) adjustment indicates that the course played more easily than normal and a positive (+) adjustment means that it was more difficult than usual.  It is expected than the PCC will be 0 in most cases.

Your handicap index will be recalculated every day you submit a score, however, since your HI will depend on your best 8 cards of your last 20, it will not necessarily change every time you play.  Handicap lists will not be printed and displayed in golf clubs, since they can change daily, but you will be able to log into the Golf Ireland website to see your HI.  It is hoped that an App will be developed soon so you will be able to access this information easily via your smart phone.

As I said at the start, the good news is that the computer will do all of the calculations.  All you have to do is enter the competition, try to play your best golf, and then enter your score into the computer as soon as you complete your round.

I’ve only covered the basics.  There is lots of information on the Internet however some is very technical.

Click here to see an easy-to-understand “Player Reference Guide”.