30 countries have now adopted the new WHS in continental Europe.
The earliest users of the system in Europe (including Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Norway and Sweden) made the switch in early 2020, while most countries chose later dates in 2020.
Germany and Denmark are among the countries that officially adopted the new system at the start of 2021, while some countries, including Austria and the Netherlands, have scheduled to apply the WHS in the coming months.
In light of these changes, we’ve answered eight of the most frequently asked questions about what the WHS means for golf in Europe.
What is the World Handicap System?
Until 2020, the world of golf used several different handicap systems across different regions of the world, all of which were governed by separate bodies. The country a player was registered in would determine what handicap system governed his/her handicap. The World Handicap System aims to bring together these different systems, unifying the global game under one handicap system, as it is already the case with the Rules of Golf.
The WHS is governed by the World Handicap Authority, which features representatives of the six former handicapping bodies (the European Golf Association, United States Golf Association, Council of National Golf Unions, Golf Australia, South African Golf Association and the Argentina Golf Association), and is now jointly run by the United States Golf Association and The R&A.
What are the advantages of the WHS?
Unifying the game globally under one system means that a player’s handicap is applicable on any course in the world. This avoids confusion when a player goes to play in a region that was formerly governed by a different handicap system to his or her own.
Additionally, having one global system facilitates international competition and means players can compare their handicaps with, and fairly compete against, all registered golfers across the globe.
How does the WHS differ from the former EGA Handicap System?
In Europe, besides the nations of GB&I under the similar Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) system, all European countries previously used the EGA Handicap System. The EGA Handicap system’s calculation method was based on stableford scores and would alter players’ handicap indexes up or down depending on how well they performed after a specific round at a specific rated course.
The World Handicap System uses the course rating method that was previously used in Europe, meaning a player receives a differing number of strokes with the same handicap on different courses (or playing from different tees). However, the calculation method is now different. Under the new system a player’s handicap index is calculated using an average of the eight best of his/her last 20 official scores, rather than changing based on the performance of the latest round alone.
Will my handicap change when the WHS is adopted?
The WHS uses a different calculation method to the former EGA Handicap System. With the adoption of the new system, it is possible for the national handicapping authorities to calculate a player’s handicap index by retrospectively applying the new method to players’ existing scores. This means players’ handicap indexes can go up, down, or stay the same when the new system is adopted in their countries. Limits are in place to prevent extreme changes when the systems are swapped.
Who will govern my handicap under the new WHS?
The WHS is globally governed by the World Handicap Authority (led by the USGA and The R&A), although each National Golf Authority is responsible for the governance of the system in its own golfing territory (for example Swiss Golf in Switzerland).
Are the rules of the WHS the same in every country?
The WHS is the same across the globe, however each National Golf Authority has the power to choose certain discretionary items in the application of the WHS in their country. For example, whether to allow certain formats to count for a valid handicap score or not.
Where can I read more about the WHS?
The WHS has a dedicated website: https://www.whs.com/ which contains a number of informative articles and videos about the new system.
Each National Golf Authority is responsible for the application of the WHS in its territory and will likely have all necessary information readily available on their websites.
Who can I contact for help with the WHS?
The EGA is the governing body for handicapping in Europe except the members representing England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, owing to their membership of the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU).
We suggest contacting the relevant National Golf Authority in the country in question, as they are responsible for handicapping in their territory, and will be able to address any issues or questions relating to their registered players.