The World Handicap System is here and this is how it works

  • 15 April 2020
  • Peter Watson

Dear Member

On Tuesday 14 April New Zealand joins over 40 countries that have already introduced the World Handicap System (WHS). This is to inform and prepare you for some of the changes.

Together, the R&A (our governing body) and the USGA govern the game worldwide, including writing and interpreting the Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status and Rules of Handicapping. The two bodies have now collaborated to issue the Rules of Handicapping which introduces a new WHS which they will oversee jointly throughout the world.
New Zealand Golf has used the USGA Handicap and Course Rating system for the last 20 years and we are fortunate that the changes introduced under WHS are minimal however some of the changes need explanation.


You may have seen that for some weeks now we have been running a parallel WHS calculation on your My Golf section of This is to give you an indication of your expected handicap index on 14 April. Points to note include:

  • All historic scores will be recalculated using the new formulas.
  • Your new WHS handicap index on 14 April is more likely to reduce slightly but if you are a higher handicapper it may increase.
  • An exceptional score component will be in effect which is referenced in the formula section below.
  • Your low handicap index will show and this will determine the upward movement of your handicap index based on this figure, as explained in the formula section below.


Under the current handicap system your handicap index is renewed every two weeks.

Under WHS we move to daily updates of handicaps which means each time you submit a score; your handicap index will be updated the following day.
Daily handicap updating, points to note include:

  • It is unlikely your club will be printing out a daily handicap listing, therefore, particularly if your club does not have a scorecard printing system, it is important you know your current handicap index before competing in any competition, especially if competing at another club.
  • If your club uses a scorecard printing system, updated handicaps will be printed on the day of play.
  • We are planning to add a ‘playing handicap’ calculator to the New Zealand Golf app, which will assist members to easily calculate their playing handicaps when playing at courses which do not have a score card printing system.
  • You will still be able to text your membership number to 3673 to get your latest handicap index.


What you now know as your ‘course handicap’ will change to be known as your ‘playing handicap’.

A new formula will be used to determine your playing handicap -
handicap index x slope number of the tee marker being played ÷ 113 (which is the average slope number) + course rating - par of the relevant tee marker.

The advantages of this change are:

  • 36 Stableford points will become the true measure of playing to your handicap.
  • You can compete against other club members playing from different tee sets and the result is equitable – no more having to give/receive shots in a Stableford competition.

Joe Handicap Index 18.0 Par 71, course rating 69, slope number 120
Joanne Handicap Index 23.0 Par 73, course rating 74, slope number 124
Joe’s playing handicap becomes: Joanne’s playing handicap becomes:
18.0 x 120/113 = 19.12 23.0 x 124/113 = 25.24
+ (69-71) + (74-73)
19.12 – 2 = Playing handicap of 17 25.24 + 1 = Playing handicap of 26

IMPORTANTLY: If the course rating is higher than par, your playing handicap will go UP
If the course rating is lower than par, your playing handicap will go DOWN


Whether you’re a 9-hole member or 18-hole member, you have the opportunity to play nine holes and submit a score card for handicap purposes. (Note: All nine holes must be played for a 9-hole score to be acceptable for handicapping purposes).

The process has been to combine two 9’s previously, but under WHS a 9-hole score will be scaled up to an 18-hole score eligible for handicapping. The advantage is that an exceptional score over 9 holes, will have an immediate effect on a handicap index. The un-played holes are treated as:

  • 1-8 holes played Not eligible for handicap purposes
  • 9 holes played Un-played holes are entered as nett par, plus one
  • 10-13 holes played Un-played holes are entered as nett par, plus one
  • 14-17 holes played Un-played holes are entered as nett par
  • New Zealand Golf still expect all 9-hole scores, whether twilight or casual golf, be entered for handicap purposes.


When a player starts a hole but does not hole out for a valid reason, the player must record their most likely score or net double bogey, whichever is lower.
The most likely score is:

  • The number of strokes already taken to reach a position on a hole, plus;
  • The number of strokes the player would most likely require to complete the hole from that position, plus;
  • Any penalty strokes incurred during play of the hole.


The WHS introduces a daily analysis of scores known as the playing conditions calculation (PCC).

PCC is a statistical calculation that determines if conditions on a day of play differed from normal playing conditions to the extent that they significantly impacted players’ performance. Examples of conditions that could impact include course conditions, weather conditions and course set-up.

A PCC adjustment could be –

  • -1 indicating the playing conditions are easier than normal relative to the course rating.
  • 0 indicating the playing conditions are normal relative to the course rating.
  • +1, +2, +3 indicating the playing conditions are more difficult relative to the course rating.

Your handicap record will show a column ‘PCC Adjustment’. If a PCC adjustment is applied, the adjustment will show in this column and your handicap index calculated accordingly.

The PCC will be an automatic calculation in the DotGolf system and be calculated based on scores returned for the day’s play.

If you don’t hand your score in on the day of play, it will not be used in the calculation of PCC but if there is a PCC adjustment applied for the day of play, your score will be adjusted accordingly when the score card is submitted.

The PCC adjustment applies to all players who submitted scores on the day.

A player new to golf can gain an official handicap after playing 54-holes of golf.

  • The lowest 8 of the most recent 20 handicap differentials are used to calculate your handicap index.
  • A reduction of -1 is automatic if you have an exceptional score 7.0-9.9 better than your handicap index.
  • A reduction of -2 is automatic if you have an exceptional score 10 or more better than your handicap index.
  • The system looks back 365 days preceding your last score and identifies your low handicap index. There are then controls on upward movement. If a handicap index is calculated to be over 3.0 higher than the low index, then outward movement slows. A handicap index can only move up by 5.0 in comparison to the low index.

For more detailed information visit:

We are confident that the overall result of WHS is a system more equitable and inclusive providing more enjoyment for all.

Good golfing.
Kind regards, Phil Aickin, Handicapping and Golf Services Manager, NZ Golf

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