The vision to unify the six different handicap systems in use around the world into a single World Handicap System requires commitment and collaboration between many organizations. By providing their support, these organizations played their part in establishing the key principles, which shaped the proposals and drove the initiative to the point where a World Handicap System was introduced to the golfing world in 2020. Collaboration ensures that the system remains modern and relevant to how the game is played worldwide today. This page will serve as a resource for the key changes and information you need to know about the World Handicap System. For the full 2024 Rules of Handicapping, click HERE.


5 Things You Need to Know

For a 9-hole score to be acceptable for handicap purposes, a player must play all 9 holes from tees with a published 9-hole Course Rating™ and Slope Rating™. When a player posts a 9-hole score, the WHS™ will automatically calculate an 18-hole Score Differential for the round, based on the player’s 9-hole Score Differential and expected Score Differential based on their current Handicap Index®, allowing the 9-hole round to be considered in the player’s Handicap Index calculation right away. The player’s Handicap Index determines their expected Score Differential for the number of holes not played. Expected score is defined as: The score a player is expected to achieve over a specified number of holes on a course of standard difficulty. It is calculated using the player’s Handicap Index and attributes a numerical value against any hole or holes not played during a round.

When 10-17 holes are played, a Score Differential will be created based on the holes played, and the player’s expected Score Differential for the number of remaining holes will be added to that value to produce an 18-hole Score Differential. To facilitate this change, players who play between 10-17 holes will be required to post their scores using the hole-by-hole option, leaving the holes they did not play blank. This allows a Score Differential to be calculated based on the specific holes played and the player’s expected score for the number of holes not played.

Net Double Bogey is the maximum allowable hole score for handicap purposes for a golfer with an established Handicap Index. The procedure is typically applied after the round and before a score is posted. However, when the format of play allows, or when playing a recreational round, you can pick up once you’ve reached your Net Double Bogey limit. Net double bogey prevents the occasional bad hole from impacting your Handicap Index® too severely. The calculation for Net Double Bogey is as follows: Double Bogey +/ – any handicap strokes received on a hole (minus applies to plus handicap players)

Note: Par plus 5 strokes should be used as the maximum allowable hole score for handicap purposes for a golfer who does not have an established Handicap Index.

The soft cap and hard cap are part of the Handicap Index® calculation. They ensure that a temporary loss of form does not cause a player’s handicap to increase to a level inconsistent with their recently demonstrated ability. The caps also ensure equity – as players who have experienced significant upward movement would, without the caps, be more likely to score at or below their Handicap Index compared to more consistent players.

Each time a new Handicap Index is calculated, the player’s newly calculated 8 of 20 average is compared to their Low Handicap Index™. If their 8 of 20 average is more than 3.0 strokes higher than their Low Handicap Index, the soft cap slows upward movement beyond 3.0 strokes by 50%. The hard cap prevents any additional upward movement from taking place beyond 5.0 strokes after the soft cap has been applied.

To receive a Course Handicap or a Playing Handicap, you must have first established a Handicap Index by posting at least 54 holes comprised of 9- and/or 18-hole rounds.

A Course Handicap represents the number of strokes needed to play to par of the tees being played. This is the number used to adjust hole scores for net double bogey.

A Playing Handicap is the actual number of strokes you receive or give during a round and is the number used for the purposes of the game or competition. This number is often the same as a Course Handicap, however, if a handicap allowance is applied, if the format is match play, or if players are competing from tees with different pars, it may be different.

  1. Your Handicap Index may change.

    But that’s ok! Finally, players around the world will have an apples-to-apples handicap. Your new Handicap Index will be more responsive to good scores by averaging your eight best scores out of your most recent 20 (currently, it’s 10 out of 20 with a .96 multiplier). In short, your Handicap Index will be determined by your demonstrated ability and consistency of scores. In most cases for golfers in the U.S., it will change less than one stroke.

  2. You need to know your Course Handicap.

    In the new system, your Course Handicap will be the number of strokes needed to play to par. This will result in greater variance in that number and presents a change, as historically it has represented the number of strokes needed to play to the Course Rating. This is a good thing, as par is an easy number to remember. Target score for the day? Par plus Course Handicap. The Course Rating will now be inherent within the calculation to be more intuitive and account for competing from different tees.

  3. Net Double Bogey.

    The maximum hole score for each player will be limited to a Net Double Bogey. This adjustment is more consistent from hole to hole than the Equitable Stroke Control procedure. Net Double Bogey is already used in many other parts of the world and the calculation is simple: Par + 2 + any handicap strokes you receive.

  4. Your Handicap Index will be revised daily.

    One way that handicapping is being modernized is a player’s Handicap Index will update daily (which will provide a fairer indication of a player’s ability in the moment), if the player submitted a score the day before. On days where the player does not submit a score, no update will take place.

  5. Safeguards in the new system. 

    The new system will limit extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index, automatically and immediately reduce a Handicap Index when an exceptional score of at least 7 strokes better is posted, and account for abnormal course or weather conditions to ensure that scores reflect when a course plays significantly different than its established Course Rating and Slope Rating. These safe guards help maintain accuracy of a Handicap Index, greater integrity within the system and promote fun and fair play for golfers of all abilities.