World Handicap system officially up and running in Ireland

The World Handicap System (WHS) comes into effect today for golfers in Great Britain and Ireland. Developed by The R&A and USGA, in close collaboration with existing handicapping authorities, the WHS provides all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability, with handicaps calculated in the same way wherever they are in the world.

Launched in January 2020 and now live in more than 65 countries, the WHS provides golfers with a unified and more inclusive handicapping system for the first time. The WHS is implemented and administered at the local level by national and regional golf associations around the world with England Golf, Scottish Golf, Wales Golf and Golf Ireland taking on this significant responsibility within GB&I. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, restrictions on golf are currently in place in Wales and Ireland and are expected later this week in England. WHS will be in operation from today onwards and as play resumes when restrictions are lifted.

The introduction of the WHS marks a considerable change for golfers in GB&I and will replace the previous Unified Handicapping System developed over many decades by the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU). While it may take golfers some time to get used to the new system, and for transition handicaps to settle down, the feedback received from elsewhere in the world strongly suggests that the WHS will help them to enjoy their golf all the more. For the for the first time, it will provide them with a Handicap Index which is a more responsive measure of their ability, and a Course Handicap which reflects the difficulty of the golf course being played.

The new system is designed to modernise handicapping by adapting to the way golfers now like to play and makes it easier for new golfers to participate. It will also enable golfers who play all of their golf in GB&I to compete equitably against golfers from other clubs, as well as golfers from other countries, which is an important step forward for the sport.

The key features of the WHS were inspired by the best features of the six main handicap systems that previously existed around the world, including the CONGU System – so some will already be familiar to GB&I players. The key features of the system include:

  • A Course Rating System which sets out a consistent method of evaluating the difficulty of a golf course from each set of tees, with a player’s Handicap Index being adjusted to take account of the difficulty of the course being played
  • Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a Handicap Index reflects demonstrated ability
  • A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; with the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap being 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds (with some discretion available for national or regional associations)
  • An average-based calculation of a Handicap Index, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of demonstrated ability for better responsiveness/control
  • A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on golfers’ performance each day
  • Timely handicap revisions
  • A limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only)
  • A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance, and so increase their enjoyment of the game

To learn more about the World Handicap System please visit For WHS information specific to a country, use the Association Finder for further information. A Course Handicap calculator is available at and materials specific to the GB&I golfer can be found there also.

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9 responses to “World Handicap system officially up and running in Ireland”

  1. Paul+O'Neill avatar

    I’m certain it will take time for the process to settle down. One particular aspect of the change I’m happy with is that it will give Pro Shops the opportunity to add to their customer service. All staff should be able to explain the basics especially to those members who are finding the whole episode a bit overwhelming. The new system certainly doesn’t need to be complicated to explain. Golfers are not interested in the slope system for courses or the criteria that was involved in getting their new index, they will just want to be certain when they stand on the first tee they are 100% that they are going to register a legitimate score.

    If there is a huge distortion in your old handicap in comparison to the number you are invited to play off at your home club, your first port of call will be to your handicap secretary. As there is no scheduled golf to be played for the month of November and taking into account that the handicap secretary is a volunteer, might I suggest an email or a text message rather than a phone call be your first action in having your query dealt with. Along with not worrying about the formula which gave you your new index, there is also no need to concern yourself about the descriptions for each course.

    These calculations were done by volunteers using very strict criteria in compliance with USGA standards of course rating. There will be errors and mistakes as the new system is rolled out over the coming months but if you are very concerned signing up as a volunteer for your club committee would be an excellent first step.

    1. Pat Dunne avatar
      Pat Dunne

      Fair play Paul a little patience is what is needed right now.

  2. Denis Power avatar
    Denis Power

    I have heard a few screams this morning about ‘lost shots’ when some of our members learned of their Handicap Index but certainly in my case, I have no complaints.

    My closing UHS Handicap was 20.4 and my new Handicap Index is 18.2 but when I take the Stroke Index for the Senior Tees in Ceann Sibéal(132), divide by 113, multiply by 18.2 and take 95% of it, I have a Playing Handicap of 20.19 which seems reasonable as I have had a few good scores recently without breaking Standard Scratch.

  3. Robert Hill avatar
    Robert Hill

    Its a load of nonsense . How many of us are lucky to play ” around the world “?.
    Obviously a large amount of people have put in huge work in putting this system in place ,for what ?.
    I would love to go to my club with my handicap play and enjoy my golf and be done with it ;
    Now ,with what has to be done before you play ,and again after you play ,it is far less attractive .

  4. Peter Whelan avatar
    Peter Whelan

    It is probably too early to make criticism of the new system until we see how it works when play resumes. However some of the transition handicaps beggar belief and really favour golfers who don’t play regularly. As a Handicap Secretary I would find it hard to justify a handicap based on one or two rounds only and would in the past err on the side of caution. I accept that there is leeway for us to adjust transition handicaps but if challenged on the basis of any such adjustment it will be difficult to justify. At the moment I am not a fan.

  5. Paul Green avatar
    Paul Green

    Leaving aside the issue of contentious changes to individual handicaps, 3 things disappoint me about the transition: Why aren’t the Unions accepting responsibility for the rollout (too much reliance on volunteers to make the calculations and then address anomalies)? Why make the transition at the start of Winter when there is very limited if any opportunity to submit qualifying scores and early corrections through actual play? Why were hard-pressed clubs not properly equipped to deliver a proper transition on 3 Nov? Many cannot administer any kind of competition until local software has been integrated with WHS.

  6. Kieran Hoban avatar
    Kieran Hoban

    All a load of balls!!! Omg what a load of confusion just to play a sport. While I had a grievance with the previous system using the alternative day scoring which gave higher position to one player over another when all the relevant conditions were equal except for the fact that the scores on day one or day two was because of computers competitors abilities on either day. It also effected the h/ cap when player A had an H/cap adjustment whilst player B did not, both having the same net score. I’m hoping that this is not the USA taking over and calling it a world h/c system. They still have not got the simple job of electing their President in order, so why accept this other cock up.

  7. Arthur Kavanagh avatar
    Arthur Kavanagh

    The real value of this system is that a member from Clontarf G.C. ( a relatively easy course) with a playing handicap of, say, 15 can play in an open in Portmarnock Links ( a very difficult course) with a playing handicap that is adjusted to 18. A level playing field and all that!!!

  8. Karl avatar

    Can someone help here. Does the WHS apply 12 months of the year? Previously, our handicaps were in effect frozen towards the end of October and clubs ran ‘non-qualifying’ formats that were not used for handicap purposes over the Winter Months. The terms qualifier and non-qualifier appear to be gone but I am unclear as to whether all competitions are to be registered against your handicap record or not. The only reference I can find is to an ‘Active Season’ although this is not defined and appears to rest with the GUI.

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