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Understanding the World Handicap System

Articles written by John Myers, Head Professional at the Ross Golf Center

how your handicap is established and how competition scores and exceptional scores effect your handicap

In our fifth WHS article we are going to discuss how your handicap is established and how competition scores and exceptional scores effect your handicap.

We will not bore you with all of the formulas and algorithms that go into establishing your Handicap Index, but we are going to touch on some of the changes of how it will affect your Handicap Index.

As we discussed in an earlier article, you only need three scores to establish an actual Handicap Index and that only 8 of your 20 scores are used for your handicap. Now, we'll discuss the principle of the rule of Handicap Index Calculation and what it does. This will cover the process of calculating a Handicap index and incorporate the safeguards needed to help ensure that a player's Handicap Index remains reflective of their ability and that equity is retained for all golfers. It includes mechanisms that:

  • Takes into consideration the conditions in which a round was played (PCC)
  • Remember previously demonstrated ability within a defined period of time
  • Cap the upward movement of a player's Handicap Index within a defined period of time
  • Apply additional adjustments to a player's Handicap Index when an exceptional score is submitted

Last week we discussed the PCC, so now let's dive into the other three bullet points. As many of you have 20 scores submitted, we are going to use that as we discuss how these changes are now made.

A Handicap Index is calculated from the lowest Score Differentials in the scoring record. If a scoring record contains at least 20 Score Differentials, the procedure for calculating a Handicap Index is:

  • Average the lowest 8 of the most recent 20 Score Differentials (which include any adjustments for exceptional scores and/or a Committee review) and round to the nearest tenth.
  • Compute the difference between the average of the lowest 8 Score Differentials and the Low Handicap index.
    • If the difference is less than or equal to 3, no additional adjustments apply.
    • If the difference is greater than 3, the soft cap calculation is applied.
    • If the difference is greater than 5 after application of the soft cap, then the hard cap is applied.

Ok, so what is the Low Handicap Index, soft cap and hard cap? Here are the definitions:

Low Handicap Index
Represents the demonstrated ability of a player over the 365-day period preceding the day on which the most recent score in their scoring record was played and provides a reference point against which the Handicap Index can be compared.

  • A Low Handicap Index once a player has at least 20 acceptable scores in their scoring record
  • Once a player has established a Low Handicap Index, it is re-evaluated every time a new a new acceptable score is submitted and must be displayed in the player's scoring record
  • A newly-determined Low Handicap Index is considered in the processing of the player's next acceptable score whenever the next round is submitted. A player's Low Handicap Index may become more than 365 days old in the period between two rounds being played.
  • Where a Handicap Committee applied adjustment:
    • Reduces a player's Handicap Index, the adjusted Handicap Index resets the Low Handicap Index to the adjusted Handicap Index, unless a lower Handicap Index is still eligible.
    • Increases a player's Handicap Index, the Committee should consider resetting the player's Low Handicap Index to the same value as the adjusted Handicap Index.

The Soft Cap
The Soft Cap is triggered when the difference between a player's newly calculated Handicap Index and their Low Handicap Index is greater than 3.0 strokes. When a calculated Handicap Index increase is greater than 3.0 strokes, the value above 3.0 strokes is restricted to 50% of the increase.

The Hard Cap
The Hard Cap triggers to restrict the amount by which a player's Handicap index can increase, after application of the soft cap, to no more than 5.0 strokes above their Low Handicap Index.

There is no limit on the amount by which a player's Handicap Index can decrease.

Exceptional Scores
Now what happens when you have an exceptional score? Keep in mind that any type of score you post (home, away, or competition) can be considered an exceptional score, whereas under the old system an adjustment only applied to tournament scores (now called competition scores).

When an exceptional score is posted to a player's scoring record, the Handicap Index will be reduced in accordance with the following adjustment table:

Number of strokes the Score Differential is lower than a player's Handicap Index in effect when the round was played Exceptional score reduction
7.0 - 9.9 -1.0
10.0 or more -2.0

A reduction can be applied based on a single exceptional score.

  • Reductions for multiple exceptional scores are applied cumulatively.
  • A reduction is automatically applied within the calculation of a player's updated Handicap Index following the submission of an exceptional score.
  • A reduction for an exceptional score is applied by adjusting each of the most recent 20 Score Differentials recorded in the player's scoring record, which includes the exceptional score. As a result, the impact of the reduction will remain after the next score is submitted but will dilute over time as new scores are submitted.
  • Where there are fewer than 20 Score Differentials in a player's scoring record at the time an exceptional score is submitted, the reduction is applied by adjusting all of the Score Differentials recorded in the player's scoring record, which includes the exceptional score.
  • Additional handicap review notifications will be generated for the Handicap Committee's consideration, when:
    • Multiple exceptional score reductions are applied to a player's Handicap Index.
    • Score Differential is 10.0 strokes or more below a player's Handicap Index in effect when that round was played and an exceptional score reduction of -2.0 is triggered.

The Handicap Committee is permitted to override any adjustment for an exceptional score if it considers that the adjustment would result in a player's Handicap Index not being a fair reflection of their demonstrated ability.

Wow! We know that was a lot of information, but during quarantine we hope this will be a good read to pass some time.

Next week we will discuss what the roles of the Handicap Committee are and the importance of them.

How Your Handicap is Determined

Now that we have touched on what the World Handicap System (WHS) is and how to properly post your scores, in the next two weeks we will discuss some of the nuances of the WHS and how your handicap is determined.

This week's discussion point: Playing Course Conditions (PCC). The Principle of the Rule is as follows:
Course Ratings are based on normal playing conditions, but the difficulty of a golf course can vary substantially from day to day, due to:

  • Course conditions,
  • Weather conditions, and/or
  • Course set-up

The PCC determines whether playing conditions on the day differed from "normal conditions" to the extent that an adjustment is needed to compensate. It is a daily statistical procedure that compares the scores submitted by players on the day against expected scoring patterns.

The purpose of this feature within the handicap calculation is to recognize that an average score submitted in harder playing conditions, may be better than a good score submitted in easier playing conditions. Unadjusted, such a score may be omitted from the Handicap Index calculation.

If the PCC determines that acceptable scores submitted are in line with the expected scoring patterns, then no adjustment is made.
The calculated adjustment is dependent upon:

  • Whether significantly fewer players than anticipated attained their expected score and, consequently, conditions are determined to be harder than normal.
  • Whether significantly more players than anticipated attained their expected score and, consequently, conditions are determined to be easier than normal.

The Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC):

  • Is generally performed only once for a day.
  • Considers acceptable scores submitted on a golf course each day and requires at least eight acceptable scores to determine if an adjustment is required.
  • Includes only acceptable scores submitted by players with a Handicap Index of 36.0 or below.
  • Equals zero if fewer than eight acceptable scores are submitted.
  • Where applicable, does not include scores that are scaled up to 9-hole or 18-hole scores.
  • Can determine an adjustment of -1.0, 0.0, +1.0, +2.0 or +3.0 and is applied in the calculation of Score Differentials for all players.

We hope this clarifies some of those rumors that you may have heard about this as well as another reason to post your scores ASAP.

We hope that you all are staying safe and healthy.

Maximum Scores - Properly Posting Scores - When to Pick Up

We are continuing this week with our World Handicap System (WHS) third newsletter and will be discussing maximum scores, how to properly post scores, and what to do if you pick up on a hole.

You will notice as we go through this article we refer to the term "Stroke Index". What you know now as "Handicap" per hole or what holes you get strokes, has now been changed to "Stroke Index".

We have made this verbiage change to all BOYNE Golf scorecards as shown here:

Many of you have posted scores in the past with what was once called ESC (Equitable Stroke Control) or maximum score, but that has now changed. Going forward you will now post using net double bogey + any handicap stroke(s) that the player receives on that hole.

For example: Josh is a 10 handicap so he receives strokes on the 10 Stroke Index holes. Josh is playing the #1 Stroke Index hole on the course and proceeds to make a score of 10 on a par 5. Josh's handicap would not allow him to use that score, so when he enters his score into GHIN he would only post an 8 for that hole, (net double bogey + 1 stroke he gets on hardest hole).

Now this might sound confusing when trying to figure out what you should enter for your score. The GHIN system has made it very easy when posting hole-by-hole scores online and will automatically make the changes for you if your score needs to be adjusted.

This will ensure that the proper score has been posted as well as keep stats for you on what might be your most difficult holes as well. Additionally, it's a great tool for the golf team to determine what the scoring averages are on the individual holes.

This would be the same way to post your score for either 9 or 18 holes if you have met the criteria (7 holes for 9 hole score and 14 holes for 18 hole score) but could not complete the last holes due to darkness, weather, match ending, etc.

Now you may ask the question, "What if I started the hole but I pick up prior to making my maximum score?" Many of you have possibly had this occur when playing in a Four Ball event where your partner is close in 2 shots and you are hitting 4. For pace of play purposes you pick up. What should you then post for your score?
Click button to see a new way to determine exactly what you should enter as a score.

Now that we understand how to post a score, we will now talk about the importance of posting in a timely manner.

With your Handicap Index now being updated on a daily basis it is important to get any scores you have, entered as soon as possible (before midnight of that day), only to help you.

Come back next week for another breakdown on the WHS!

Acceptable Scores

We hope that our last article helped you get a better understanding of the new World Handicap System (WHS). This week we are going to discuss what an acceptable score is for Handicap Purposes.

Acceptable Scores

  • Rounds played in an authorized format over at least the minimum number of holes required for either a 9-hole or an 18 Hole score
    • Minimum Holes:
      7 to 13 holes played = 9-hole score
      14-18 holes played = 18-hole score
    • Authorized formats:
      • Four-ball match play
      • Individual match play
      • Four-ball stroke play
      • Individual stroke play
  • In the company of at least one other person, who may also act as a marker
  • By the Rules of Golf
  • On a course with a current Course Rating and Slope Rating
  • On a golf course during its active season (Michigan's active season is April 1 - October 31)

Non-Acceptable Scores

  • While being coached on the course
  • When using a non-conforming club
  • When the number or type of golf clubs to be used is restricted
  • When score cannot be verified by another person
  • Not playing the required number of holes
  • When a player does not play their own ball (scrambles and foursomes)

As you may notice the biggest changes are the number of holes that are required for 9 and 18 hole scores to be accepted as well as not being able to post unless someone is with you.

Next week we will discuss how to properly post scores and why you need to post your score in a timely fashion.

Why the WHS has come about and what its purpose is.

As we are approaching our 2020 golf season, we wanted to get you up to speed on the new World Handicap System (WHS). In the the following articles, we will address different aspects of the new Handicap System as well as cover new points that have changed from the previous. These articles will hopefully give you a better understanding of the WHS prior to you posting scores in the state of Michigan and how it will affect you on a daily basis.

In this week's article we are going to explain why the WHS has come about and what its purpose is.

The WHS came about to allow all golfers from around the world to compete on a consistent level playing field. Prior to the WHS there were six associations across the world. Now with this new change we will have one set of rules and one Handicap Index for everyone.

The purpose of the WHS is to enhance the enjoyment and to give as many golfers as possible the opportunity to obtain a Handicap Index, use their Handicap Index on any course around the world and compete, or play a casual round with anyone else on a fair and equal basis.

This is achieved by the following ways:

  • Establishing Course Ratings and Slope Ratings for each set of tees, based upon length and playing difficulty.
  • Applying adjustments to a Handicap Index to reflect the golf course being played and the format of play.
  • Assessing the impact of playing conditions, using players' score on a specific day and applying adjustments when necessary
  • Limiting the maximum hole score for handicap purposes to ensure a Handicap Index continues to reflect a player's demonstrated ability.
  • Applying a uniform calculation for updating a Handicap Index for all acceptable scores submitted.
  • Updating a Handicap Index on a daily basis.
  • Reviewing a player's Handicap Index on a regular basis to ensure it continues to reflect the player's demonstrated ability.

We hope that this will begin to help you understand the new WHS!