In an exclusive interview with England Golf’s Head of Handicapping and Course Rating, Gemma Hunter, we take a more detailed look at the new World Handicap System (WHS) due to be implemented in England on 2 November, as well as England Golf’s brand-new education campaign coming soon to golf clubs across the country
The WHS has been a project in the pipeline for a while. What will the main benefits be for golfers in England under the new system?
The new World Handicap System has been developed to unite six handicapping authorities around the globe and create a handicap index that is fair, equitable and portable anywhere in the world.
It will also provide a truer reflection of a player’s current playing ability. In order to do this, golfers will be encouraged to hand in scores from both social and competitive rounds of golf.
Using the new WHS, golfers will receive a Course Handicap for the course and tee set they play off on any given day and this will accurately reflect their ability in relation to the difficulty of the challenge they face which isn’t the case at the moment.
How do you think the new system will be received by golfers in England?
Like with any change in life, some golfers will be wary at first. However, the overwhelming feedback from those clubs who have attended WHS workshops has been favourable and once golfers get to understand the system, I’m sure they will also see that while it not only makes for a fairer handicap system it fundamentally does not change how they play and enjoy the game.
How much work has gone into ensuring a smooth adoption in England so far?
There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes for a number of years now, involving England Golf, The R&A, CONGU and the other home nations as we prepared the ground ahead of the November 2 launch date in GB&I.
Since last October, the pace has picked up and England Golf has staged 86 WHS workshops in 35 counties to help kick off our education programme. These were attended by 4,588 individuals representing 1,384 golf clubs and proved to be invaluable. It is vital that key staff and volunteers at golf clubs understand WHS as they will be the first point of reference for golfers whenever a question needs answering.
We’ve started to roll out education programmes directly to golfers and this will grow ahead of the November start date and continue into 2021.
We have also been working with our digital partners at DotGolf – who set up the WHS system which has been running in New Zealand since earlier in the year – to make sure the technology is in place ahead of November.
Given the on-going global pandemic, is England Golf still on track to launch the WHS on November 2 as initially planned?
Yes – the November 2 launch date remains in place and we’re working towards that start date as planned.
What impact has the pandemic had on your education process and the seminars you were giving to golf clubs?
Fortunately, we started the process of educating clubs and counties on WHS with a series of workshops in 2019, and the vast majority were completed before March 2020. We had to cancel a few workshops near the end of our planned run, but the impact has not been too disruptive and we made sure everyone enrolled in a cancelled workshop was sent the presentation, so that they could look over the details for themselves and come back to us with any questions.
Golf clubs will also have the opportunity to use the toolkit to run their own sessions with their members, which will act as another source of education for everyone associated with the club before the 2 November launch date.
Tell us more about this latest initiative, which comes in form of a toolkit for golf clubs, and the further education plan for golfers in the run up to launch.
The toolkit is designed to allow clubs to continue to educate their members on the new WHS system. Many club officials attended WHS workshops prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and this toolkit builds on the knowledge gained at these events. It will allow clubs to help educate members on the changes that are coming.
How can golf clubs use this toolkit effectively when looking to educate their members?
The toolkit takes a step-by-step journey through the new WHS and comes with downloadable resources for clubs to put out to members via their own channels of communication. Clubs can also adhere to a timeline for the education of members which will coincide with national media campaigns on the key elements of the WHS.
In the toolkit England Golf has introduced a new education campaign. How will this campaign work and why has it been created?
The ‘Know the Score’ campaign aims to do exactly that – educate golfers on how their handicap index is calculated and how to apply this when playing the game.
‘Know the Score’ is a simple way for golfers as yet unfamiliar with the basics of the new WHS to understand how the two key elements – Handicap Index and Slope Rating – combine to produce their Course Handicap on any given day on any given course.
The campaign has also been created within the toolkit to educate golfers throughout the country on the new WHS and minimise the burden on Handicap Committees fielding queries on basic aspects of WHS from their members.
What are some of the most important aspects of the WHS that golfers need to know about?
The most important aspect of WHS for golfers to understand is the stages they need to follow in order to turn their Handicap Index into a Course Handicap for the venue they are playing at. This will soon become second nature.
The use of Slope Rating on courses around the world means a player’s Handicap Index can be converted in an easy manner into a Course Handicap, and this will determine how many strokes they will receive for any set of tees, on a course anywhere in the world.