The development of a World Handicap System is a positive and significant step forward for the game of golf, bringing a series of innovations designed to enhance the handicapping system and make it more appealing to novice and aspiring golfers. The roll-out of the new system across the globe will also see The R&A take a much greater involvement in the governance of handicapping.
It was in 1924 that The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews delegated responsibility for handicapping in Great Britain and Ireland to the four men’s Golf Unions, who duly formed an organisation called The British Golf Unions Joint Advisory Committee. They were tasked with formulating a uniform system of handicapping based on Scratch Scores, and The Standard Scratch Score and Handicapping Scheme became operational in Great Britain and Ireland from 1 March 1926 for male golfers. The Ladies’ Golf Union (LGU) implemented their own handicapping system for ladies back in 1893, which operated until 2004.
In March 1960, the Committee’s name was changed to the Council of National Golf Unions (“CONGU”) comprising representatives of The English Golf Union, The Golfing Union of Ireland, The Scottish Golf Union, The Welsh Golfing Union and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
The R&A has retained a seat on the CONGU Board ever since and in 2004 the Constitution was amended to include the LGU and the four Ladies’ Home Associations. This came after an agreement in 2001 to work together to develop a Unified Handicap System designed to accommodate all golfers in GB&I.
History shows that it is possible to bring multiple systems together and since 2011 The R&A has been committed to helping to achieve that goal for golf worldwide.