Changes Coming to the Handicap System in 2020

By | February 20, 2018

New World Handicap System Designed to Welcome More Golfers | via USGA.org

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The new system will feature the following:

• 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 9-hole rounds, but with some discretion available for national or regional 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

As we first discussed here back in June of 2017, the world governing bodies have proposed some significant changes to the current ways golf handicaps are calculated. Due to be implemented in January 2020, they are efforting to create a single unified system that will be used worldwide. Many are often surprised to find how inconsistent the system can be depending on which governing body is running things. The flipside of that is that few golfers run into this inconsistency as being any sort of issue for the way they enjoy the game. But, one system seems like a logical thing to do in an ever-increasing global game.

At first glance, many of the changes are designed to encourage more people to actually get a handicap. Liberalizing not only the formats of play allowed but lowering the number of rounds necessary to establish a handicap is refreshing.

Also at the core of developing a united system is requiring the adoption of the USGA slope system worldwide. It should be interesting to see how courses not currently using the system react to this stipulation. Just how many courses will need to be evaluated for slope by January 2020?

The daily handicap revisions based on course and weather conditions also feels like a bit of a wildcard right now. It makes sense as a general concept. A course will certainly play differently given the weather and seasonal condition. How all of this will be calculated, who will determine what the current conditions are for handicap purposes, what happens if conditions change in the middle of a round, sound like challenges without answers just yet.

I encourage you to read through the materials posted by the USGA. They indicate they’ll be looking for feedback. It’s only our game if we participate.