KOTTSICK: New and improved World Handicap System

The United States Golf Association (USGA) has resisted change until the last few years. The rules of golf have seen significant changes in 2019, and now in 2020, the USGA Handicap System has become the World Handicap System (WHS).

The WHS went live at 5 a.m. on Jan. 5. The WHS combines six existing handicapping authorities: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association, the South African Golf Association, the Argentine Golf Association and the USGA.

The new system will feature flexibility in the competitive and recreational round to count for handicap purposes, and to ensure that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability.

Not to bore you with all of the items touched in the 100-page Rules Of Handicapping manual, I will touch on some of the major changes that will affect your handicap.

Your new handicap index will be based on the low eight of your last 20 scores and will be updated daily — the old system updated on revisions every two weeks.

Golfers will now have a playing handicap and slope rating. Your playing handicap will determine par, which allows players to compete from different tees more easily.

The maximum hole score for handicap purposes will be limited to net double bogey (par plus two strokes plus any handicap strokes you receive).

There now are safeguards to allow for abnormal playing conditions, such as wind and rain. The Playing Condition Calculation will kick in if there are eight or more scores posted that day that are abnormally high or low from the normal scores posting history for scores posted on that day.

One of my favorite changes addresses the maximum handicap. The cap now for golfers is 54. Under the old limits, many golfers’ scores didn’t factor in the handicap as the limit was much lower.

The WHS is focusing on three main objectives. No. 1 is to encourage as many golfers as possible to obtain and maintain a handicap. No. 2 is to enable golfers of differing abilities, genders and nationalities to transport their handicap to any course globally and compete on a fair basis. No. 3 is to indicate with sufficient accuracy the score a player will record under normal playing conditions.

Acquiring a USGA/WHS Handicap is a good thing, and money generated with handicap income helps the North Dakota Golf Association give all member golf clubs a course rating of how hard or easy a course plays.

Also, the NDGA gives grants to clubs across the state to assist in their junior golf programs. For junior golfers under 18 years old, there is no charge to maintain a handicap.

So, I would encourage all golfers to establish a handicap at your local club. Doing so supports all of golf. Plus, you get to see how your scores vary throughout a season and how many rounds you actually play in a season.

This is the opinion of Steve Kottsick. He is the director of golf for the Souris Valley Golf Course in Minot.