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New World Handicap System Coming January 1, 2020

new handicap system 2020

The USGA, and the rest of the world golf associations, have agreed on a new system for handicaps that applies to all golfers worldwide. Although there are quite a few changes, for a full list and explanation of why, read the summary provided by the USGA The World Handicap System. Those we’ve listed here are the ones we think will be of most interest to you. They fall into 5 categories:

1. Calculation of the handicap index
2. Frequency of the calculations
3. Calculation of the course handicap
4. Adjustment for Playing from different tees
5. ESC Calculation
Calculation Of The Handicap Index

The handicap index is the basis for all the other handicap calculations. In the 2020 system the handicap index will be calculated using the best 8 out of 20 scores, instead of 10. Here’s where it gets tricky. A “Playing Conditions Calculation” will be included to account for abnormal course or weather conditions – no clue as to how this will work in practice.

Frequency Of Calculations

The handicap index is currently updated twice a month. It will now be updated daily, which means that every time you play your handicap index may change. Which in turns means your course handicap may also change daily. I’ve not heard much on how golf courses will manage daily updating.

Calculation Of The Course Handicap

How course handicaps are calculated will change to include an adjustment to the old formula. This adjustment is: (Course Rating (from the tees you play) minus The Par of your course (e.g. 72). The new formula is:
Course Handicap = (Handicap Index x (Slope Rating/113)) + (Course Rating – Course Par).

To get an idea of what this means to your own handicap, just calculate the (Course Rating (from the tees you play) minus The Par of your course) this will usually be a negative number, so subtract that from your current handicap, and that will be close to your new handicap. The larger the negative number, the bigger the impact will be on your handicap.

Adjustment For Playing From Different Tees

The USGA feels that by changing the course handicap calculation to include the Course Rating and Course Par, there will no longer be a need to make adjustments when playing from different tees. In fact, the new adjustment to handicap closely resembles how you adjust for playing from different tees.

ESC Calculation: Is Now Defined As Net Double Bogey

The ESC (Equity Stroke Control) limits the number of strokes you may take on a given hole, to eliminate skewing of your handicap. The limit is currently based on a chart, and varies depending on your handicap. The 2020 system for all handicaps, and holes, is called Net Double Bogey – which is Double Bogey + Any Strokes you get on the hole. For example  on a par 5, if you are out of the hole, and get 2 strokes then you would enter a score of 9 (Double Bogey = 7) + (2 strokes) = 9.

What Are The Clubs Doing?

I’ve heard various comments on when the USGA will be ready to roll out these new regulations. However, since these changes seem to be happening rather quickly, it would appear each club is going to be under a lot of pressure to decide how they plan to implement these changes. My club plans to meet this November to discuss the issue.

Then there is the software that these clubs use to interface with programs like GHIN, e.g. Chelsea and ForeTees, who, if needed, must update their software to be in sync. So all in all, I would be surprised if this goes off painlessly. This is a bias given my IT background, but I could be wrong
Share Your Experience?
Once you find out how your club plans to address these changes, please leave a comment below and share what you know. I will consolidate your comments and send out a summary of what we hear is going on. In this way we could learn from our shared experiences.


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