Golf Associations Aim for Standard Global Handicap System

The U.S. Golf Association and the organization that puts on the British Open are working to standardize the golf handicap systems in place globally, with a goal of making them easier to use.

The game of golf is about to get a lot more consistent around the globe.

And it all has to do with the way the handicap works. Currently, golfers around the world use one of six numerical handicap systems, designed to measure a golfer’s potential skill level. But in recent years, golfing’s main global bodies—the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) and The R&A, an offshoot group of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews that puts on the British Open—have started putting into works a plan to standardize handicap scores globally, something the two groups announced a year ago.

And this week, the two groups outlined their plans. Starting in 2020, golfers will use a universal handicap system that is designed to take into account the current course and weather conditions, the application of social rounds in an overall handicap score, and a standardized way of determining handicaps: a division of the best eight scores out of 20 rounds.

The reasoning behind the move? The golf associations want to make handicaps more appealing to the average player, according to USGA CEO Mike Davis.

“For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap.’ We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game,” Davis said in a news release.

The two groups closely reviewed the existing handicap systems in building out the World Handicap System, including those run by Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG), and USGA. The groups, which represent 15 million golfer handicaps in 80 countries, will help administer the new standards locally after a two-year transition period.

“We are working with our partners and national associations to make golf more modern, more accessible, and more enjoyable as a sport, and the new World Handicap System represents a huge opportunity in this regard,” explained The R&A’s CEO, Martin Slumbers.

The handicap standardization process comes amid a larger shift in the sport’s rulemaking, which was first announced last year and is expected to be in place in 2019.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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