The R&A - Working for Golf

WHS Timeline

Pathway to a World Handicap System

 The World Handicap System has been launched after over 9 years of work to bring six different handicap systems together into a single, unified set of handicapping Rules to enhance the enjoyment of all golfers, all over the world.

This announcement, revealing some of the key features of the proposed World Handicap System, comes after nearly 7 years of work.
This announcement, revealing some of the key features of the proposed World Handicap System, comes after nearly 9 years of work.

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Looking Back

Since the very beginning of this project, The R&A and the USGA have been committed to involving each of the existing handicap authorities and other National Associations, to ensure that the system accommodates the different golfing cultures currently in place around the world. The Committee structure that has been developed to support the work has representation from as many as 15 different nationalities, making this truly an international effort.

Knowing that the principle of a WHS and the  key features have the support of these bodies was vital to its success come launch.

It was very important for us to test out our ideas with golfers and golf administrators, to ensure that they supported the proposed direction. During the Summer of 2017, quantitative research was conducted in 15 countries around the world where 76 percent of the 52,000 respondents voiced their support for a World Handicap System. This was followed by a series of focus groups, in which more than 300 golf administrators and golfers from different regions around the world offered extensive feedback on the key features of the proposed new system.

Over the course of 2018, we were  busy preparing all the various WHS materials and resources needed to launch the new Rules.

We  also continued to reveal more details of some of the features included in the new system, as well as carried out some additional testing and validation work – to ensure that everything operated as we expected. Some finetuning took place as a result of this work.

By the beginning of 2019, we had rolled out the WHS materials and had started an extensive programme of education. The system  continued to be tested right up until it is launched in 2020.

The next 12 months

At the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 we worked to produce the Rules of Handicapping book for each National Association. This process allowed them to make discretionary choices where possible within the rules, ensuring the new system doesn’t change the way golf is played in their region.

Though many countries have adopted the new system in January, the system will go live in other parts of the world throughout the year to accommodate different implementation plans and variations in the golfing calendar.

Looking Forward

Through the end of 2020 we aim to have every country fully transitioned into the World Handicap System. Testing of the system will be an ongoing process to ensure it is providing the results we expect. Incorporating the results found from of our staff, committees and affiliates, bi-annual revisions of the rules will be carried out, guaranteeing the system remains modern and up to date with golfing cultures.