Golf Handicap Changes Q & A

No need for concern – the friendly Golf Link computers will have everything under controlTHE world will change for Australian golfers with an official handicap at 9am on April 9, 2010.

That’s when, after two days of being off line number crunching, Golf Link’s computers will flicker back to life with either good, bad or unchanged news for Australian golfers.

If it all sounds a bit like The Terminator and SkyNet – it well could be for some golfers.

If you’ve had at least 10 good rounds of late, or even just average to above average rounds, you might be pleasantly surprised.

If your last 20 rounds have been uncharacteristically dismal, you might be in for a shock.

Speaking personally, I know my handicap change is not going to be a shock but it is not going to be good.

The new system doesn’t care if you have been hovering around, say, 14 and 15 for the last few years. Only what has happened in the last 20 count.

If, like me, you have had a bit of a form slump of late and most of your club stableford scores have been in the low 30’s – watch out. And remember, all the scores will be adjusted to the courses’ ACR, not whatever the CCR was on the day.

That means a lot of people could suddenly jump a handful of handicap points.

Back in January when my recent form had been much better, I actually did calculate what my handicap would be under the new system – and it was almost a point and a half lower.

That’s because I had a couple of low 40’s, a few 38’s etc and a number of 36’s.  From memory, I only had to take (as part of my 10 best scores out of the previous 20) one or two scores below 36.

And that’s what they say the new system will provide – a much better representation of your current performances.

The Golf Link computers will be doing all the work – golfers won’t have to do anything differently ( except now three quarters of the way through a round you can’t think I’ll stop trying so hard because I am only going to get .1 back anyway, because every round now could count and be one your best 10).

Golf Link Q & A

Golf Link has published a Q & A about the handicap changes and I reproduce most of the pertinent points below. For the full details check out the relevant Golf Link page.

From 9 April 2010 the method used to calculate your Australian Men’s or Women’s Handicap can be explained in one sentence:

Your exact handicap will be the average of the best 10 differentials (differential = gross score – AMCR/AWCR) of your 20 most recent valid scores, the result of which is multiplied by 0.96.

This is a much more straight forward process than the current incremental calculation system, and is the first step of several on the way to full adoption of the USGA’s handicap system.

What is meant by the term “differential”? 

Your handicap differential is the difference between your gross score and the course rating (AMCR or AWCR) for the course that you played. So for example if you have a gross score of 85 off the stick in a stroke event and the AWCR is 70, (note this is not the par of the course – see below for definition of AMCR/AWCR) then your “differential” is 15.

Simply stated: DIFFERENTIAL = GROSS SCORE – COURSE RATING. The only exception to this rule is when the “tee up through the green” regulation is in effect, in which case the AMCR or AWCR is reduced by 2 shots for that day. You will see the differential for each of your rounds in the “played to” column of your handicap history on Golf Link.

How is the differential calculated in a Stableford or Par event? 

The calculation of the differential is no different in a stableford or par event – it is still based on your gross score, you just have to first work out your gross score using the formula: GROSS SCORE = 36 – STABLEFORD POINTS + COURSE PAR + HANDICAP, or GROSS SCORE = COURSE PAR + HANDICAP – PAR SCORE. For example if you scored 34 points in a stableford competition (or -2 in a par competition) off a handicap of 12 at a par 72 course which is rated 70. Your gross score is 86 (2 worse than your handicap so equivalent to 14 over par), remember though that the differential is based on the difference between your gross score and the course rating, so given the course rating in our example is 70, then the differential will end up being 16.

Why is Golf Australia making these changes? Are we adopting the USGA Handicap System, and is “Slope” a component of this new system. 

The new handicap calculation method being introduced on 9 April 2010 is not the same as the USGA Handicap System, detailed information on Golf Australia’s strategy for adoption of the USGA Handicap System as well as information on the “Slope” component of the USGA’s system can be found here: USGA Handicap System

What are the AMCR and AWCR? 

The Australian Men’s Course Rating (AMCR) and Australian Women’s Course Ratings (AWCR) are similar to the course ratings that were used in the old handicap system. The main difference will be that they are going through a process of being reassessed according to the USGA course rating method for appraising a course’s difficulty.

Is there still a concept of a Calculated Course Rating (CCR) to take into account variable conditions from day to day? 

The USGA Handicap System doesn’t have a daily rating component. We know that the difficulty of a specific golf course may vary due to changes in weather, climate, and course set-up, however the problem has always been in arriving at a system which enjoys golf community-wide confidence and that will reliably produce ratings that are reflective of the actual difficulty of a golf course. By its nature, there will always be unavoidable problems associated with using a statistical method to measure course difficulty. And our experience and continued feedback on CCR over a long period of time is that the benefits are unfortunately outweighed by the drawbacks. At the end of the day, the average golfer is still prone to lack faith in the concept of the daily course rating being determined by the performance of the field. Then of course there are the issues of attempting to derive a statistical daily course rating from a scenario where the field is too small to provide an adequate sample set such as often occurs at country courses or with a large proportion of women’s fields. For all these reasons there will be no concept of a Calculated Course Rating (CCR) in the rolling sample calculation method. However on days when “Tee up Through the Green” is in effect, the calculation of your differential will be affected because the AMCR or AWCR will be reduced by 2 shots for that day only.

What if I have less than 20 scores in my handicap history? 

GOLF Link will still calculate your handicap if you have less than 20 scores, we simply reduce the number of best scores that are averaged out in the calculation.

What if I have more than 20 scores? 

Only your most recent 20 valid scores are used to gather the 10 best scores, hence the calculation is based on a “rolling sample” of your most recent 20 valid scores. Any scores older than your most recent 20 valid scores are not considered for handicapping purposes.

Why is the average of my best 10 differentials multiplied by 0.96? 

This is the “bonus for excellence” as stipulated in the USGA Handicap System. It is an incentive for you to improve your golf, since it results in a situation whereby as your handicap improves (gets lower), the 0.96 factor results in a smaller reduction in your handicap compared to a high handicapper, thus giving you a slightly better chance of placing high or winning a handicap event.

Is my handicap going to be different at different courses? I’d heard that the slope aspect of the USGA Handicap System involves a sort of indexing of my handicap depending on the course I’m playing. 

No, the first package of changes does not include a change to this component of the handicapping rules. As a result you will just have one handicap based on the 10 best differentials from your last 20 rounds regardless of where they were played and you take that handicap to your next round of golf regardless of where it will be played.

Further changes will be made at a later time.

Is my handicap still recalculated after each round I play? 

Yes, GOLF Link will recalculate your handicap as soon as your club submits your latest round to us. At a later point, Australian Handicaps will only be revised (ie recalculated) on a periodic basis (somewhere between two weeks and one month). However, GA has not as yet determined a precise implementation date for this change. We are also as yet to determine the revision time period.

My club is not on GOLF Link what happens to my handicap? 

Non-GOLF Link clubs will need to ensure their calculation processes replicate those performed by GOLF Link. GOLF Link clubs will not need to do anything to instigate the process of recalculating all handicaps in accordance with the new regulations.


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Brian is an award winning golf writer and is the founder and editor of Australian Senior Golfer. A former Sydney journalist, he launched 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, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Fred Couples and Karrie Webb. He has also reported on numerous amateur tournaments, particularly national senior and veteran events. Brian is a member of the Australian Golf Media Association and won the award for Best Golf News Report 2016 - 2017.


  1. ASG, thanks for picking up the Q&A from the recent page we publish. we certainly aim for the computers to do all the work.

    If your question is not answered in this first installment of QandA’s, drop us a note at – we will pick the most interesting ones and answer them on the site on a regular basis.

    if you have a more urgent query just come visit us and we’ll be in touch promptly


  2. when did golflink become the owners of our handicap…..sounds like a back room deal was done here….

  3. This new system is going to do great things for Golf. However the old cheat who traded on the .2 back each game and played 4 or 5 times per week with deliberate bad scores to increase his handicap what is to stop him having his 7 or 8 in these games to achieve the same handicap increases.
    Golf Aust will only receive his gross scores and his deliberate differentials to keep on cheating the handicaper.
    I am sorry but this cheating the handicapper has become the norm. sadly these days and many golfers believe they have to do this to compete.
    In the old day’s with the manual system these blokes were noticed and dealt with, golf is to great a game to have and encourage this sort of thing.
    John Hall

  4. Will the highest handicaps remain at 32 for men and 45 for women under this new scheme. I have heard the lades highest handicap will be dropping to 40. Is this correct?

  5. Hi Irene,

    As far as I am aware the men’s handicap maximum will remain at 36 and also be unchanged for women on 45.



  6. 36 for men
    40 for women…

    also…only people <5 handicap got 0.2 back….

    Sorry John…I have to disagree with your view it will do great things for golf….the system works well in America because they play one comp round per month perhaps…and they can enter social rounds in for handicapping whenever the play without the need for a marker…..never believe an American who says they play to a low handicap..unless they are a ranked player…at least here we had honest low markers with a penalty for NCR being 0.2 back….

    I looked at it and I will lose 1-2 shots next week I think…but I can also go out 5 shots really quick too….the new system is a massive rort in that repect…

    we had a good system here in Australia….the only reason for change is to standardise systems across the world….I think we could of worked our system a little better as the main issue or whinge was I cannot get shots back quick enough…well..guess what…we have that now…and cheats will rule….

  7. If I leave my current club and ther is a lag period before I am accepted into another club, do I retain my handicap?
    The lag period may be 3 months or so.

  8. Sam,

    Your last 20 rounds recorded on Golf Link will be used to calculate your handicap no matter how old they are. Handicaps can no longer “lapse”.

    The official garb from the Golf Australia provisions is:

    “When a player (who has previously been a member of an affiliated Club) joins a Club after a period away from handicap
    golf, the Handicap Manager or Handicap Committee of the ‘new’ Club must reinitiate the status of the player’s last recorded
    handicap (using the player’s archived GOLF Link handicap record if applicable)


  9. Under the previous handicap system a player could be handicapped for scoring above 42 points in a 4BBB event. Is this still the case under the new system?

  10. It is now compulsory for players scoring 42 or more in fourball events to be handicapped and as far as I am aware that won’t change.

  11. Can anyone advise me the old handicap system with percentages you are cut when playing better than your handicap ie I know if you where a 10 handicapper it was .2 off 17 i think it was .3 I would like to know all the percentages from scratch to 36 please

  12. I fail to see how this improves your golf all it does is encourage
    high scores surely the aim of any golfer is to get his score as low as possible The social club where I play has decided to keep with
    the old system with men on max 30 women on max 36 which makes it fair on everyone here
    Lyndsay Copeman Carramar 40s + social golf club
    ps using the new system some of the men would be on 38
    and the women on 44+

  13. I play off 17 but play with an 85 year old on 36 who has not been able to play to his handicap for 2 years but his golf is very important to him; is it possible for his handicap to go above 36?

  14. The current maximum handicap for men is 36.4 (playing off 36) and unfortunately for your friend I’m not aware of any moves to increase that at present. This increased from 32 within the last couple of years. The maximum handicap for women is 45.

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