It was a bit like Christmas Eve on Wednesday, as I set out my golf shoes, marked some balls, checked I had enough tees and so on.  On Thursday it was lovely to chat to friends I hadn’t seen since last year and great to be out on the course again.  How was my golf?  Well, I duffed my drive off the first tee and my second shot was pretty poor, but things improved after that… I actually managed a few pars!  As for the social distancing aspect, my playing partner and I didn’t meet up until the first green!  After that we were always at least two metres apart – often more!

We didn’t bother keeping the score – it was a very enjoyable casual round.  Anyway, I’m not sure that we would have remembered how to calculate our playing handicaps.  As the new World Handicap System was introduced in November and we haven’t played competitive golf for months, I’m sure lots of people have forgotten about it completely.

Here’s a reminder of some of the main points:

  • You don’t have an “exact handicap” anymore – instead you have a “Handicap Index” which is measured to one decimal point.  
  • Your Handicap Index is valid worldwide.
  • Your Handicap Index is used to calculate your “Course Handicap” which will vary from course to course. 
  • Your Course Handicap is used to calculate your “Playing Handicap” which you use in the same way that you previously used your playing handicap. 

Over the past two years very course in Ireland was visited by a team of experts who determined the “Slope Rating” for each set of tees on every course. The WHS defines Slope Rating as the relative difficulty of a course for bogey golfers (men – 20, women – 24) compared to scratch golfers.  The standard Slope Rating is 113.

Clubs must display the Slope Ratings for every set of tees and should also display a conversion chart so players can easily calculate their Course Handicap, however the computer software will do this automatically if you are entering a competition.

If you’re interested in numbers, here’s the formula:

Handicap Index     x     (Slope Rating  /   113)     =     Course Handicap

Depending on the format of play, a Handicap Allowance may be applied to your course handicap.  The Handicap Allowance for singles stableford or stroke play is 95%; there are different allowances for singles match play, four ball better ball etc.

An example

A female golfer with a handicap index of 22.1 decides to play in an open stroke competition at Dungannon Golf Club which will be played off the red tees.  What will her playing handicap be?

From the table above we can see that the slope rating for the red tees at this club is 126.

Her Course Handicap will be:           22.1       x       (126 / 113)     =   24.6

Her Course Handicap is then rounded to the nearest integer (whole number) for the next calculation.

Her Playing Handicap will be            25       x       (95  /  100)     =   23.75   rounded up to 24

She will receive 24 shots.


You are required to record  

  • your Handicap Index,
  • which tees you used
  • your Course Handicap &
  • your Playing Handicap

on your score card, as well as the usual information – name, date etc.  You and your marker must sign the card (although current Covid-19 restrictions have caused this to be changed temporarily) and add your CDH numbers for verification purposes.


As I mentioned earlier, if you’re playing in a club stroke or stableford competition the computer will calculate your course and playing handicaps automatically, so you won’t need to worry about the calculations involved, however, if you’re playing a friendly match with your fourball, or later in the season you get involved in a club match play event, you’ll need to be able to work out your playing handicap and check that your opponent has done his/her sums correctly too!  You don’t want to be giving him//her extra shots!!!