The World Handicap System
The USGA and The R&A are working with golf’s handicapping authorities to develop a single World Handicap System for the sport.
More than 15 million golfers in over 80 countries presently have a handicap; a numerical index long used as a reference to gauge a golfer’s potential skill level. Handicaps are currently delivered through six different systems around the world, of which the South African (SAGA) handicap system is one.
The aim of the proposed handicap system is to adopt a universal set of principles and procedures that will apply all over the world.
An extensive review of existing handicap systems administered by 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 United States Golf Association (USGA) has been undertaken.
Golf organisations from different parts of the world have also been engaged with the current handicap authorities for the past two years to help shape the proposed system, which takes into account the many different golf cultures and most common formats of play. Research conducted to date has also reviewed systems and best practices inherent to handicapping, such as course rating and administration.
A joint committee led by the USGA and The R&A has been formed, including representatives from each handicap authority as well as the Japan Golf Association and Golf Canada. The joint committee plans to announce its proposals later this year.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We have been concerned for some time that many golfers find the handicapping landscape to be complicated and can be frustrated when it is not always applied in the same way in different parts of the world.
“We are working closely with the existing handicapping bodies to benefit from their insights as we try to formulate a system that will be easy to understand and can be applied consistently on a global basis. We very much appreciate their support for this initiative.”
SAGA president Geoff Taylor commented, “The SAGA welcomes this initiative to standardise the handicap system methodology globally and which will in turn improve our local handicapping system. In anticipation of this implementation, a programme to re-rate all the golf courses in South Africa was embarked upon in 2016. While this programme presents a number of significant challenges, we believe that the benefits to golf globally and locally will be beyond measure in years to come. We shall continue to work closely with the R&A and USGA governing bodies to ensure a smooth and rapid transition.”
1.What are the key objectives of this initiative?
To unify six different handicap systems into a single World Handicap System that will:
• enable golfers to play and compete anywhere around the world on equal terms;
• be easy to understand and implement, without sacrificing accuracy; and
• meet the needs and expectations of golfers, clubs and golf authorities around the world.
2.Why would this be a good change?
Each of the existing handicap systems is well received in the areas where it operates. However, because they all calculate handicaps differently, the result can be players of the same ability having different handicaps. A World Handicap System would mean that a handicap of 6.0 in Johannesburg should be the same as a handicap of 6.0 in both London and Los Angeles.
3. What are the other benefits of a World Handicap System?
As the world becomes a smaller place with a much greater frequency of international play, we believe that the game of golf will benefit from a unified handicap system, where handicaps are portable from country to country. It would result in less confusion, easier administration of international events and, potentially, it could allow national associations more opportunity to focus attention on golf development and strategic planning to support the game. A single world handicap system would also provide the opportunity to aggregate data to help ensure the game remains healthy.
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