WORLD HANDICAP SYSTEM
3 Things to Know About 3 World Handicap System Safeguards December 23, 2020 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By Terry Benjamin, USGA

The World Handicap System includes safeguards that help protect the integrity of a player's Handicap Index. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

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When the World Handicap System™ (WHS) was implemented in January 2020, three new safeguards designed to protect the integrity of your Handicap Index® were built into the system. Now that more golfers are seeing these features come into play, here are three things to know about each one:

Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC)

1)  The PCC is entirely based on scoring data.

Simply put, the PCC compares the actual scores made at a given course each day to the expected scores of the players who made them. If the number of players who score at or below their expected score is higher than anticipated, the course played easier. If the number of players who score at or below their expected score is lower than anticipated, the course played more difficult. PCC adjustments are applied automatically and are clearly identified within a player’s scoring record.

2) The more scores, the better!

For the calculation to take place, at least 8 scores must be posted at a course by players with a Handicap Index of 36.0 or below – and the more scores that are posted, the more reliable the data becomes. The calculation also takes into consideration each player’s Course Handicap and the Course Rating™ and Slope Rating® of the tees that were played.

3) When you post matters!

The PCC takes place at the end of each day, so only scores posted on the day of play will contribute to the data pool. With that said, if you forget to post on the same day, the result of the PCC will still be applied to your score when it is posted – as long as you post it to the appropriate date.

So far in 2020, 58 percent of scores have been posted on the same day – let’s all do our part to increase that number!

Soft Cap and Hard Cap

1) It starts with your Low Handicap Index®.

A Low Handicap Index serves as the baseline for the cap procedure and is the lowest Handicap Index achieved by a player within the 365-day period preceding the most recent score in their scoring record. A player does not establish a Low Handicap Index until they have 20 scores in their scoring record.

2) The caps are applied automatically.

  • Each time your Handicap Index updates, the new value is compared to your Low Handicap Index and:If a 3.0 stroke increase takes place, the soft cap reduces the rate of upward movement beyond 3.0 strokes by 50 percent.

  • If a 5.0 stroke increase takes place (after the soft cap is applied) the hard cap prevents any additional upward movement from taking place.

3) The Handicap Committee can override the cap – but only if necessary.

All of us as golfers experience a poor stretch from time to time – but since underlying ability does not typically change significantly over a short period, a player’s Handicap Index usually works its way back toward their Low Handicap Index. However, if a player experiences an injury or illness that causes higher scores and the cap(s) to be applied, the Handicap Committee at their home club can override the cap by adjusting their Handicap Index to a level reflective of their current ability.

Exceptional Score Reduction (ESR)

1)  A score that is 7.0 strokes or better than the player’s Handicap Index is considered exceptional.

WHS research shows that a player who shoots an exceptional score is more likely than others to score at or below their Handicap Index in subsequent rounds. As a result, the ESR is designed to better reflect demonstrated ability and prevent a player from having an advantage.

2) The procedure is simple.

When a score is between 7.0 and 9.9 strokes better than the player’s Handicap Index at the time the round was played, their Handicap Index is reduced by 1 stroke. If the score is 10.0 strokes or better, their Handicap Index is reduced by 2 strokes.

3) The impact of the ESR diminishes over time.

When an ESR takes place, a -1 or -2 adjustment is applied to the most recent 20 score differentials in the player’s scoring record. However, scores made from that point forward will not include the -1 or -2 adjustment – unless they are also exceptional – which allows the ESR to work itself out of the player’s scoring record over time.

For more information or to learn more about the World Handicap System, visit www.usga.org/whs.

Terry Benjamin is an assistant manager for USGA Handicapping and special projects. Email him at tbenjamin@usga.org.

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