The World Handicap System

The World Handicap System (WHS), implemented worldwide as of January 1, 2020,  enables golfers of different abilities to play and compete on a fair and equitable basis no matter how or where they play.

The WHS encourages as many golfers as possible to obtain and maintain a Handicap Index. The WHS indicates, with sufficient accuracy, the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving on any course around the world. This enables golfers of differing abilities, genders and nationalities to transport their Handicap Index to any course globally and compete on a fair basis.

World Handicap System background video

WHS Background Video (1:49)

Course Handicap

You should always know your course handicap before starting your round. Your course handicap is the number of strokes needed to play to par and will change depending on the course and tees you play. It is essential to know your course handicap and your playing partner’s course handicaps, especially if you’re playing in a little friendly competition. The easiest way to determine your course handicap and that of your playing partners is by using the GHIN app available, free of charge, at the Apple App or Google Play Store.

Duration: 2:59
Duration: 2:59

Handicaps Update Nightly

Everytime a score is posted prior to midnight, an updated handicap will be available the following morning. These daily updates will help provide a fairer indication of a player’s ability at the present moment. On days where the player doesn’t submit a score, no update will take place. The NCGA will still send revision updates on the 1st and 15th of each month, along with some top-line news and  announcements.

Daily Golf Revisions
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Max Score Per Hole

For score posting purposes, the Maximum Hole Score will be a net double bogey. The calculation for maximum score is Par + 2 strokes + any handicap strokes you receive. This is also known as your adjusted gross score. In practice, if a player has a course handicap of 18 they receive one handicap stroke on every hole. If the player makes a quadruple bogey 8 on a par four, they must adjust that score back down to a net double bogey, in this case their score for that hole would be a 7 for posting purposes. (Par 4 + 2 strokes + 1 Handicap Stroke = 7). If you post hole by hole scores using the myNCGA or GHIN apps the system will automatically calculate and adjust this for you.

Duration: 1.00

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 once a player climbs 3.0 strokes above the low handicap index from the past 12 months. A hard cap prevents a handicap from increasing more than 5.0 strokes within a year. At one point or another every golfer will have a cap placed on their handicap.

Video of Soft and Hard Caps in golf
Duration: 1:05

Additional resources if you would like to learn more:

Finally! If you’ve gotten this far down the page, remember to ask two questions when you get to the golf course:

Where’s the first hole and what’s the course record?!  😊