The way golfers around the world will calculate their handicaps is set to be transformed by a new system developed by The R&A and the USGA, with key features designed to provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability.
The new World Handicap System, to be implemented in 2020, follows an extensive review of systems administered by six existing handicapping authorities: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA.
The new system will feature the following:
Quantitative research was conducted in 15 countries around the world, through which 76 percent of the 52,000 respondents voiced their support for a World Handicap System, 22 percent were willing to consider its benefits, and only 2 percent were opposed. This was followed by a series of focus groups, in which more than 300 golf administrators and golfers from regions around the world offered extensive feedback on the features of the proposed new system.
This feedback has helped shape the WHS, which has been developed by The R&A and the USGA with support from each existing handicapping authority as well as the Japan Golf Association and Golf Canada.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We are working with our partners and national associations to make golf more modern, more accessible and more enjoyable as a sport and the new World Handicap System represents a huge opportunity in this regard.
“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers. Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”
Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA, commented, “For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap.’ We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game. We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernising golf’s Rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play.”
The tenets of the new system focus on three main objectives: to encourage as many golfers as possible to obtain and maintain a handicap; to enable golfers of differing abilities, genders and nationalities to transport their handicap to any course globally and compete on a fair basis; and to indicate with sufficient accuracy the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving on any course around the world, playing under normal conditions.
Given worldwide alignment towards a single system, all parties will now embark on a two-year transition period targeting implementation in 2020. When adopted, the World Handicap System will be governed by The R&A and the USGA and administered by national and regional associations around the world, with safeguards included to ensure consistency as well as adaptability to differing golf cultures.
The existing six handicapping authorities represent approximately 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a golf handicap.
The announcement is the latest step in a multi-year collaboration between The R&A and the USGA, as well as national and regional golf associations around the world to introduce one set of Rules of Handicapping, aimed to support modernising, growing and improving accessibility of the sport.
As an extension of their support of the Rules of Golf worldwide, Rolex has made a commitment to support The R&A’s and the USGA’s efforts to implement a World Handicap System. The Swiss watchmaker’s contribution to excellence in golf is based on a rich heritage stretching back more than 50 years, forged through pivotal partnerships at every level of the game, from the sport’s leading professional and amateur competitions and organisations, to players at the pinnacle of their sport worldwide.
To provide feedback on the new World Handicap System or for more information, visit www.randa.org Golfers are encouraged to follow and join in the conversation on social media by using #golfwhs2020