It’s just six weeks until the World Handicap System takes over and your CONGU handicap is consolidated into a single portable index!  To sort the facts from fiction, the folks at Today’s Golfer teamed up with Scottish Golf and England Golf to help us make sense of everything from playing and course handicaps to slope ratings and handicap allowances.  I’ve picked some of the questions and answers that they published recently…

When does the new World Handicap System come into place? 

Any golfer with a current CONGU handicap will be given a World Handicap System index on Monday, November 2, 2020.

How will my new handicap be calculated?

Start with your handicap index. This will form the basis for your course and playing handicap. Every score in a player’s handicap record will be converted to a score differential. This is calculated by multiplying the difference between your gross score and the course rating by 113, and dividing by the slope rating of the tees that were played.

That figure then goes forward into a pool of the player’s 20 most recent scores. The best eight are then selected and a simple average is taken to calculate every golfer’s handicap index.

Easy, eh? Luckily, you won’t have to worry about this, as the World Handicap System will do all the hard work for you.

What’s the difference between ‘course handicap’ and ‘playing handicap’?

Slope rating and course rating are used to determine your course handicap, which represents the number of strokes a player receives from any given set of tees prior to the terms of the competition. If a handicap allowance is applied, the adjusted course handicap is defined as a playing handicap, which represents the number of strokes a player gives or receives for the competition.

How will my course handicap be calculated?

Clubs will either provide you with a ‘handicap calculation conversion table’ or you will be directed to your golf union’s website, where all slope ratings will be listed and a calculator is provided. You will also be able to do it manually by multiplying your handicap index by the course’s slope rating, divided by the “neutral” slope of 113.

Why is the neutral slope 113?

The USGA considers this to be a course of “standard playing difficulty”, though England Golf claim the average GB&I slope rating is 125.

Hang on… what is a golf course slope rating?

It indicates the standard difficulty of a golf course for the “bogey golfer” relative to the scratch player. Every set of tees will have a slope rating and those numbers will vary between 55 and 155. The higher the slope rating, the greater the difference expected between the scores of those scratch and bogey golfers.

What is a ‘bogey golfer’?

This is the term used when carrying out a course rating. It represents the ability of a golfer (20 handicap for men, 24 for women) on a course of average difficulty.

Does a higher slope rating mean a golf course is more difficult?

No. A course rating, which indicates the number of strokes the scratch golfer is expected to take under normal playing conditions, is the core evaluation of a course’s difficulty. It’s important to remember that the course rating affects a player’s index far more than the slope number.

Do I need to play a certain number of rounds per year?

Scores will not expire, but your handicap index will only be valid if you’re a member of an affiliated golf club. To maintain an accurate handicap, it is recommended that players return at least 20 scores over a two-year period.

Will I use my handicap index or course handicap for competitions?

Competition entry (eligibility) will be based on your handicap index. The committee in charge of a competition may set eligibility conditions within their terms of the competition. For example:

– A maximum handicap index limit for entry.
– A maximum course handicap limit.
– A maximum playing handicap.