It may be seen as one of the more traditional sports but the way in which golf is played at amateur level is about to get a radical makeover.
The governing bodies of amateur golf in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales have announced that they have signed the licence for the new World Handicap System (WHS) which will come into operation on November 2, 2020.
As members of the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU), the Golfing Union of Ireland, the Irish Ladies Golf Union, England Golf, Scottish Golf and Wales Golf have supported The R&A and USGA in planning for the new system.
The current Golf Handicapping System maintained by CONGU will be replaced by WHS which will unify the six different handicapping structures currently in operation throughout the world of golf.
For the first time, handicap systems worldwide will be substituted by a global system where golfers will obtain and maintain a handicap and use this on any course around the world. In addition, they will be able to compete or simply play a casual round with fellow golfers anywhere on a fair and equal basis.
Trying to explain how a golf handicap is obtained and maintained has tested both the understanding of players and the patience of those new to the game over decades but now it is about to become much simpler.
Under the new system a player’s handicap will be based on the average of eight best scores from their last 20 rounds. WHS will also take into account factors currently not fully represented in the existing handicapping procedure through a course and slope rating system.
As well as encouraging players new to the sport to obtain a handicap with ease, the WHS will also modernise the game for those already well versed in the game of golf.
“The transition from an incremental system to an averaging one will be period of great change, however once a planned education process is complete, the new system will make handicapping much more consistent globally,” said Sinéad Heraty, CEO of the Irish Ladies Golfing Union.
“We look forward to meeting with our member clubs over the coming months to outline the World Handicap System,” added Pat Finn, CEO of ther Golfing Union of Ireland.
“With CONGU adopting the system for Ireland and Great Britain from late next year we need to ensure golfers across Ireland are prepared for the change.”
CONGU, the USGA, Golf Australia, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA) and the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) represent around 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a handicap.
The aligning of all six handicapping authorities behind WHS is a hugely significant step in the modernisation of golf across the globe.
WHS has been introduced under the auspices of the USGA and The R&A.
“The R&A’s purpose is to ensure golf is thriving in 50 years’ time and WHS is one of the key ways in which we can ensure the long-term health of the sport,” said Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A.
“We all want to encourage more people to take up golf and having a handicap which provides an accurate measure of playing ability is one of the best ways of achieving that.”