What is a Handicap Index?

Golfers will consider the Handicap Index to be the most important element of the WHS.


The Handicap Index will:

  • Measure the ability of a player

  • Be portable from course to course

  • Allow players to complete fairly and therefore promote inclusivity within the game


A Handicap Index is calculated from the best eight scores from a player’s last 20 rounds. As a new score is submitted, a player’s Handicap Index will automatically update to the most recent 20 scores.


A player’s Handicap Index will update promptly overnight after the submission of an acceptable score and be ready before the next time they play.


How to obtain a Handicap Index?


When the new system comes into play most golfers can have a Handicap Index generated, based on their existing records.


For new golfers to gain their Handicap Index they will have to submit a minimum of 54 holes (using any combination of 9 and 18 holes). Their Handicap Index will be the lowest of their three rounds minus two strokes and continue to be built until the 20 scores are achieved.


With Handicap Index being calculated by working out an average of the best eight rounds from a player’s last 20, golfers might be apprehensive that the change in their Handicap Index may be volatile.


The maximum Handicap Index for any player is 54.


To obtain a recognised Handicap Index a player must be an affiliated member of a golf club.


How to safeguard a Handicap Index?


However, through the implementation of a Soft Cap and Hard Cap, the WHS will limit any extreme upward movement of a player’s Handicap Index within a 365-day period, therefore, protecting against handicap manipulation.


The Soft Cap will suppress the movement by 50% after a three-stroke increase over a player’s Low Handicap Index. For clarity in this instance, a Low Handicap Index is the lowest Handicap Index a player has had during the previous 12-month period.


The Hard Cap will restrict upward movement of five-strokes over the Low Handicap Index. Restricting the extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index will ensure that a player’s temporary loss of form does not cause the Handicap Index to move too far away from their actual ability.


It is important to note that caps will only start to take effect once a player has at least 20 acceptable scores in their record.


Please watch the below video, Handicap Index: Key Features Video from the R&A and USGA




The Competitions Committee

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