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World Handicap System

All about handicaps, course ratings and more.

WHS — What’s Under the Hood?

A golf handicap is a number — for example, 14.4 — but what’s behind the number?

The World Handicap System (WHS) enables golfers of different abilities to play and compete on an equitable basis, no matter how or where they play. It all starts with a Handicap Index, which is a numerical calculation of a golfer’s demonstrated ability.

All of the data and calculations for handicaps in the U.S. are managed via the GHIN technology platform. There’s a lot under the hood, but all you need to know to get started is your number.

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Get an Official USGA Handicap

To get a handicap and other exclusive golf-related member benefits, join the NCGA. We have several membership options.

Things to Know

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Handicap 101

Wondering why you should have a handicap? Want to know how to get one? New to golf or have some basic handicap questions? Check out our Handicap 101 resource.

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Course Rating and Slope

To make the handicap index portable to courses all over the world and varying sets of tee locations, the WHS includes a best practice for “Course Rating and Slope” calculations. The NCGA manages this for nearly all of the Northern California golf courses.

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Rules of Handicapping

The USGA offers an in-depth and thorough reference for the rules of handicapping (as of 2020). You can view it online or order it in book form.

Popular WHS Topics

Max Score Per Hole

For score posting purposes, the Maximum Hole Score will be a net double bogey. If you post hole-by-hole scores using the USGA GHIN mobile app, the system will automatically calculate and adjust this for you.

Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC)

Handicaps are updated nightly. Sometimes course playing conditions dictate automatic adjustments, so it is essential to post the same day to receive the corrections if made.

Soft and Hard Caps

The USGA has implemented safeguards in the handicap system to prevent wild upward movements to a player’s handicap. The soft cap will slow the rate at which a handicap increases. A hard cap prevents a handicap from increasing more than 5 strokes within a year.

USGA Handicap Resources

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USGA Website

The USGA website has an extensive portfolio of handicap-related resources, from beginner to advanced. Browse videos, articles, seminars, publications, quizzes, and FAQs.

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USGA Admin Portal

Are you a club handicap official? Log into the USGA Admin Portal to manage your club handicaps.

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Still have questions about handicap or course rating?

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Join the NCGA

Providing benefits and services to:

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