GAM Director of Handicapping Looks Back on World Handicap System Roll Out

  Smooth is the word Kyle Wolfe of the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) used in describing the first year of the World Handicap System™.

  While smooth hardly describes 2020 in many other things, Wolfe , director of handicap, course rating and junior golf, said the GAM is happy with the system and how it is working.

  “Golfers have adjusted to some of the new concepts like net double bogey, the daily revisions and they have stayed in line with the rules of handicapping,” he said. “Some of the most positive feedback from golfers and clubs has been with the scores updating daily as opposed to having to wait 15 days in the past.

  “I think handicaps are much more reflective of playing ability now. Golfers can’t take advantage of a bad handicap that might we two weeks old.”

  The World Handicap System™ (WHS) brought together six different handicap systems being used around the world a year ago to form one under the USGA and R&A. It enabled golfers of different abilities to play and compete on a fair and equal basis, in any format, on any course, anywhere around the world.

  Wolfe said there have been few problems in the first year and the GAM has received less complaints regarding the fairness of the handicap system.

  “From a staffing perspective it took a bit of work to help clubs make sure things were set-up and accurate, but we had less calls about handicaps not being accurate than in the past. We had to do some things virtually, and we had to work harder to communicate things, but it all worked out.

  Wolfe noticed golfers were willing to adjust to the new system and seemed to embrace the temporary expanded use of the “most likely score” and a temporary measure for modified flagsticks.

  “I think golfers saw that is was a modern approach and it was fair,” he said. “Of course with COVID-19 we were not always comparing apples to apples in data, for instance golf in the spring with raised cups, but as we get more time in the system, the USGA can tweak things and react to the data for the best system possible.”

  At the USGA, the view of year one is much the same.

  Lee Rainwater, assistant director of handicapping education and outreach in New Jersey, said the first year of the World Handicap System™ was an overwhelming success, with more than 2.6 million golfers maintaining an official Handicap Index® in America in 2020, and more than 80 million scores posted.

  “Our plan worked and included delivery of detailed educational materials in 2019, training Allied Golf Associations (such as the Golf Association of Michigan) on the new system, and deploying education resources at the club level, to help give everyone in the handicapping ecosystem time to learn and use the new system effectively,” he said.  

  Rainwater noted that allied associations like the GAM had to cancel in-person WHS seminars because of COVID-19 early in 2020, but he said they did a great job with transitioning to webinars and other online offerings.

  “In addition, and this has been well-documented, but the game of golf allows people to distance themselves from one another as well as enjoy health and social benefits,” he said. “The result has been an increase in scores posted and an uptick in online searches and inquiries about the WHS. Interestingly, the pandemic has organically helped with the rollout of the WHS.”

  Rainwater, like Wolfe, said feedback from golfers was great as they began to use the new system.

  “Golfers appreciate seeing their Handicap Index update the day after they post a score rather than waiting up to two weeks as with the previous USGA Handicap System,” he said. “The automated safeguards designed to protect the integrity of a player’s Handicap Index have also been well-received; specifically, the exceptional score reduction and cap procedures.”