Features of the WHS

Prior to 2020 there were essentially two handicap systems used throughout the world: the USGA system (67 countries) and the Unified Handicap System (UHS) -commonly referred to as the Congu system (54 countries). The WHS is largely based on the USGA system, and most of the features of the UHS have now been discarded.

124 countries have gone over to the WHS.  Notable exceptions in this region who have not signed up to the WHS are China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Taiwan.


See an explanation of some of the terms used in the WHS here.  2/1 Glossary

      • The maximum Handicap Index is 54. ( Although for competitive golf, organisers may set a maximum Playing Handicap for any competition).

        • Both competitive and recreational rounds count for handicap purposes. ( See here for acceptable formats of play). 2/2 Acceptable scores

          • Handicaps are updated daily.


            • The maximum score per hole for handicapping purposes is “Net Double Bogey”  which is the equivalent to zero Stableford points.  Either Stableford points or Adjusted Gross Score can be entered into the PSC System. 2/3 NetDoubleBogey

              • Each score is converted into a Score Differential, which takes into account the difficulty of the tees played.  pop-up 1

                • The Handicap Index is the average of the best 8 Score Differentials from the ‘most recent’ 20 rounds and is recalculated after each new score is submitted.

              Extra safeguards in the WHS.

                  1. Hard and Soft Caps – these limit the amount a Handicap Index can increase over time. 2/4 Soft Hard cap

                    • Exceptional Score Reduction – an additional reduction to the Index for very low scores. 2/5 Safeguards

                  Very inconsistent players can experience wild swings in their handicap, the caps ensure the Handicap Index remains close to their demonstrated ability.

                  Also this makes the handicap system less susceptible to manipulation.

                  USING THE HANDICAP INDEX

                  The Handicap Index is not intended for use as a playing handicap, rather it must be used in conjunction with the difficulty rating of the set of tees being played to calculate a golfer’s handicap for the day. This is called the Course Handicap and will be different for every set of tees you play.   pop-up 2

                  Playing Handicap: When playing in a competition, your Course Handicap may be further adjusted depending on the type of competition you are playing in. pop-up 3   2/6 Playing Handicap Allowance

                   For recreational golf, the Playing Handicap will be the same as the Course Handicap.

                  MULTI TEES

                  Because all Course Handicaps are referenced back to the par of the course (i.e. 72), players can compete against each other with their Course Handicaps, without any further adjustment.

                  This allows players to play off different tees in the same competition on an equal basis.


                  Course Difficulty – The difficulty of every set of tees is assessed using 3 different factors: Course Rating, Slope Rating and PCC (Playing Conditions Calculation). 

                  2/7 course rating  

                  2/8 slope rating 

                  2/9 PCC

                  (Note that the Ratings are gender specific and the tee which a golfer plays from has a Rating for each gender).

                  The Course Rating and Slope rating are used, both to calculate the Course Handicap for the set of tees being played, and in the calculation of the Handicap Index once a score has been submitted. The PCC is determined after the round has been played and only used in the Handicap Index calculation.

                  SOME FINAL NOTES

                      • One benefit of the WHS is that when you score 36 Stableford points you know you have played to your handicap, regardless of the course or set of tees. (This wasn’t the case with previous handicap systems).

                        • Although the WHS is based on the USGA system, the WHS incorporates quite a few improvements to the USGA system. The USGA has provided a good explanations of those changes and the reasons for them in this summary. 2/10 USGA Changes summary

                          • If you are interested in how a course is rated here is a link to the USGA rating guide.