The R&A - Working for Golf
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The Rules of Handicapping

The Rules of Handicapping provide a consistent measure of a golfer's ability worldwide and help to enhance the enjoyment of the game for all who play, wherever they play.

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About the Rules of Handicapping
The Rules of Handicapping content is intended for those who administer the game and who need to answer the variety of questions that can arise in relation to handicapping. Some of the Rules contain discretionary items that will have been selected by your Authorised (National) Association. For details of the selections that apply in your country, contact your National Association.


Purpose and Authorization; Obtaining a Handicap Index

Rule 1 covers the fundamentals of handicapping, including: The purpose of the World Handicap System Authorisation Responsibilities of key stakeholders, and How to obtain a Handicap Index.

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Scores Acceptable for Handicap Purposes

Principle of the Rule:  The scores a player submits for handicap purposes are at the core of the calculation of their Handicap Index. Rule 2 covers the conditions a score must satisfy for it to be acceptable for handicap purposes, providing confidence that it will produce reasonable evidence of the player’s ability and, ultimately, a Handicap Index that is reflective of demonstrated ability.

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Adjustment of Hole Scores

Principle of the Rule:  A score for handicap purposes should not be overly influenced by one or two bad hole scores that are not reflective of a player’s demonstrated ability. In addition, incomplete scores and/or scores where a player did not hole out on every hole can provide reasonable evidence of the player’s ability and can be used for handicap purposes. Rule 3 covers the circumstances where scores may be acceptable and how these hole scores should be adjusted.

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Submitting a Score

Principle of the Rule:  Rule 4 covers the process for the submission of acceptable scores for handicap purposes, both to obtain an initial Handicap Index and to maintain an established Handicap Index. Timely submission of scores by a player, or anyone else responsible or authorized to submit scores on their behalf, allows for responsive updates and provides a real-time measure of the player’s golfing ability. This Rule also outlines the information that players are required to submit for acceptable scores and how these scores can be verified.

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Handicap Index Calculation

Principle of the Rule: A player’s Handicap Index should represent their demonstrated ability and, where appropriate, be responsive to scores that are inconsistent with their demonstrated ability. Rule 5 covers the process of calculating a Handicap Index and incorporates the safeguards needed to help ensure that a player’s Handicap Index remains reflective of their ability and that equity is retained for all golfers. It includes mechanisms that: Take into consideration the conditions in which a round was played. Remember previously demonstrated ability within a defined period of time. Cap the upward movement of a player’s Handicap Index within a defined period of time. Apply additional adjustments to a player’s Handicap Index when an exceptional score is submitted.

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Course Handicap and Playing Handicap Calculation

Principle of the Rule: The Course Handicap calculation converts a Handicap Index to the number of strokes a player requires to play any golf course with a Course Rating and Slope Rating. This allows portability of a player’s Handicap Index wherever they play. The Playing Handicap calculation enables equity amongst players of all handicap levels within different formats of the game. A Playing Handicap is calculated by applying the appropriate handicap allowance to a player’s Course Handicap. For formats of play where a handicap allowance of 100% is adopted, the Playing Handicap will be the same as the Course Handicap. Course Handicap - For handicap purposes, a Course Handicap is used to determine the number of strokes that a player receives (or gives) on any golf course and for the correct application of net par and net double bogey adjustments. Playing Handicap - For equity purposes, the Playing Handicap calculation determines the number of strokes each player gives or receives, to ensure that all players can enjoy a fair and equal game when playing with or competing against one another.  

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Committee Actions

Principle of the Rule: The Handicap Committee plays a vital role in the successful administration of a player’s Handicap Index and is equipped with tools to intervene when the calculated Handicap Index is no longer reflective of the player’s demonstrated ability. Used appropriately, these tools are designed to ensure that players are treated fairly and consistently from golf club to golf club. The Committee in charge of the competition also plays an important role in setting appropriate Terms of the Competition for all participating players.

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