Australian golf officially adopts new World Golf Handicap system

AUSTRALIAN golf authorities have officially adopted the new World Golf Handicap system in a move that will mean some imminent changes for Australian golfers and clubs.

The good news is that the new world system corresponds mostly with the current Australian handicapping system, with the two major technical changes (explained below) seen as “strong improvements” to the current system.

However, there is some controversy with the new World Handicap System (WHS) providing for a maximum GA Handicap of 54 for both men and women.

This move has been touted as a means of attracting new players to golf and also of allowing for some older golfers maybe to keep playing – but isn’t welcomed by golfers worried about the pace of play and associated issues.

But there is further good news here in that the WHS specifically provides Australia the flexibility to build default handicap limits into its software of 36 for men and 45 for women (which is what they currently are).

That means that the majority of golf clubs who told Golf Australia in its 2016 handicap survey that they wished to stick to the current handicap limits will be able to do so – the software will enable clubs to decide to run their competitions at the current limits of 36 and 45.

Golf Australia says they did also receive feedback from some clubs indicating they would like to be able to increase handicap limits – and again the software solution will enable them to do so.

Golf is played globally with just one set of playing Rules; it makes no sense at all for there to be different handicap systems in different countries

Overall, we personally have to welcome the new WHS as a great improvement for golf internationally. Golf is played globally with just one set of playing Rules; it makes no sense at all for there to be different handicap systems in different countries and regions.

It means golfers will have a consistent handicap that is portable not only from course to course but from country to country.

Australia to adopt new World Handicap System before January 20

Last year golf’s main governing bodies, the R&A and USGA, issued formal invitations to Golf Australia and all other world golf organisations to adopt the new system and all major countries have now agreed.

The official world start date is January 2020 but GA – again acting on industry feedback urging the changes be implemented as soon as possible – is now working on an earlier roll-out. They’ll announce the timing when determined.

What will the WHS changes of substance be for Australia’s clubs and golfers?

1. There will be a Hard Cap of 5 strokes as per GA’s current regulation.  There will also be a Soft Cap currently set at 3 strokes which will be a new regulation for Australia. The Soft Cap will allow a player normal increases in their GA Handicap unless it increases to 3 strokes above their best GA Handicap from the previous 12-month period.  Above this point the GA Handicap will only be permitted to increase by 50% of the calculated amount.  [Example: A player’s ‘8 of 20’ calculation is 17.2.  Their best GA Handicap within the trailing 12-month period is 11.2.  Their GA Handicap is 15.7 (ie 11.2 + 3 + (50% of 3)).]  Modelling indicates that the Soft Cap will impact up to 20% of the total number of handicap calculations performed by GOLF Link each year.  The introduction of the Soft Cap will reduce the percentage of players impacted by the Hard Cap from 5% down to less than 1.5%.  GA has been aware for some time that our existing system produces a competitive advantage to the inconsistent player over the consistent player and we have been looking for a way to soften this outcome.  The Soft Cap will improve this situation and will improve the equity of Australian handicapping.

Click here to see a Q&A on the new Soft Cap regulation.

2. The Daily Handicap calculation will be changed to incorporate the difference between the Scratch Rating and the Par.  This is all that needs to happen to enable 36 Stableford points (or net par) to become the equitable measure of whether a player has played to their handicap, irrespective of the course or set of tees.  To determine a WHS Daily Handicap GOLF Link will start by performing the exact same calculation as currently occurs under the existing GA Handicap System.  And then it will simply adjust this amount by the difference between the Scratch Rating and the Par.  This change will eliminate the significant complexity involved with scoring for multi-tee and mixed gender competitions, and as a result will be beneficial from a game participation and engagement perspective.

Click here to see a Q&A on the changes to the calculation of the Daily Handicap.

What other changes will there be for Australia?

There will obviously be changes to technical regulations but the above two regulations will be the only changes of any substance to the user-experience of Australian clubs and golfers.  A WHS handicap index (ie GA Handicap) will be calculated by averaging the best 8 of the most recent 20 scores.  We will continue to use the .93 multiplier.  Stableford handicapping of all Stroke competitions will continue.  GA’s existing pre-nominated social scores regulation will continue without amendment.  The WHS will include a statistical daily rating mechanism (which will feature different formulas to the existing DSR formulas) and Slope.

Click here to see a media release on the World Handicap System from the R&A and United States Golf Association.


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Brian is an award winning golf writer and is the founder and editor of Australian Senior Golfer. He is a former Sydney journalist who had little interest in golf till he hit his first ball at the age of 49 (and a half). Since then golf has just about overtaken his life. Brian founded ASG in April 2008 and has since covered every Australian Open, Presidents Cups, World Cups and numerous other big men’s and women’s tournaments, spending days inside the ropes with the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Karrie Webb, and many others. He has also played in, and reported on, numerous amateur tournaments, particularly senior and veteran events, around the country. Brian is a member of the Australian Golf Media Association and won the award for Best News Report for 2016 - 2017


  1. As to the handicapping referring to “older” golfers I will just about bet that it was “Older” Golfers who volunteered at coffs.
    I am over this rush rush rush. it is now a truly selfish bunch who play golf and have no thought to the elderly who I might say ride in carts and probably did a lot of the work on the courses played so that these whipper snippers now enjoy and without doing too much towards upkeep etc. just take a chill pill and expect to take 4 hours plus from your day to play a round of golf. otherwise take up tennis or some such sport. ie tiddlywinks


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