Updated on March 29th, 2023 at 01:56 pm

The USGA will become part of the World Handicap System in 2020. This will result in some MAJOR changes to how handicaps are calculated. We have not received an Official Handicap Guide as yet. The following is based on what’s been available. This article is intended to cover the major items:

  • Number of Scores Required — reduction in minimum number of scores from 5 to 3 to obtain a Handicap. (54 holes)
  • Maximum Handicap Index— increased to 54 for all golfers. This is to encourage participation, especially beginners
  • Best 8 out of 20 scores. —- your Handicap Index will be based on the best 8 out of 20 scores vs. the current best 10 out of 20 scores. The current 96% factor applied to your best 10 scores has been eliminated.
  • Daily Updates — your handicap will be updated Daily provided you posted a score. This results in a host of issues involving flights for tournaments as well as changes in Handicap Indexes in the middle of a tournament. These issues will be addressed by the various organizations of your golf club.
  • Maximum Hole Score —- the Maximum Hole Score for ALL golfers Is Double Bogey + any Handicap Strokes a Player receives your on that hole based on their Course Handicap. Example — a 10 handicap player receives a stroke on #10. They can record up to 7 on #10 — Double Bogey plus 1 handicap stroke. A 20 Handicap can record up to an 8 on Hole# 5 —Double Bogey plus 2 Handicap Strokes.
  • 9 Hole Round vs 18 Hole Round — 7- 13 holes will be considered a Nine Hole Score and 14 holes or more will be considered an 18 Hole Score.

The following items all relate to the determination of Handicap Index, Course Handicap and Playing Handicap. Each of those terms have different meanings and applications.

Golf handicap rules 2020 - AEC InfoHandicap Index

  • For each round a Scoring Differential will be calculated —same as it is today based on Course Rating and Slope. Your Handicap Index will be based on the average of lowest 8 Scoring Differentials.
  • Limits on increases to Handicap Indexes –A Soft Cap and Hard Cap calculation will be made to limit the extreme upward movement of an index within a 12-month period.

If your Index increases by more than 3 strokes an automatic reduction of 50% of the increase over 3 automatically takes place. This is the Soft Cap.
Hard Cap. The Hard Cap will restrict movement if after the application of the Soft Cap — a 5 stroke increase occurs

Exceptional Score Reduction

Tournament Scores replaced by Exceptional Scores. Currently, certain scores are reported as Tournament Scores and there are provisions that automatically reduce an Index for exceptional Tournament play. That rarely gets applied today. This is eliminated. In its place is something called Exceptional Score Reduction.

Starting in 2020 if a player submits any score that is 7 strokes better than their Index there is an automatic 1 stroke deduction to their most recent 20 Differentials.

If the submitted score is 10 shots better than their Index — there is two stroke deduction.

Playing Conditions Calculation

The best I can describe this is grading on the curve. The computer is going to look at all scores submitted for that day and determine if scores challenging conditions should be considered different than those in ideal weather and conditions.

(More needs to be shared on this subject in order to make recommendations)

Course Handicap —– This is a Major Change

Everyone will have a Course Handicap for each set of tees. The new methodology includes an adjustment to your Handicap Index based on the Course Rating and Par for the tees you are playing. An example is as follows

A player with an index of 13 currently receives 15 strokes from the White Tees and 14 from the Gold Tees. Under the new methodology their Course Handicap will be computed as follows:

  • White Tees — 13 Index / 127 slope = 15. 15 + (70-72) = 13 . 70 is the course rating from the White Tees.
  • Gold Tees —- 13 Index / 124 slope =14. 14 + (69.3-72) = 11.3. This is rounded to 11. 69.3 is the Course rating from the Gold Tees
  • The 15 and 14 above are based on the current table of Index and Strokes per USGA.
  • There will no longer be an adjustment required for players playing different tees. It will be built into your Course Handicap for the set of tees you are playing.
  • Anyone playing tees that have a Course Rating less than par will see their strokes decrease. They will decrease for everyone.

Playing Handicap

Playing Handicap is the number of strokes you receive in an event that allows you a percentage of your Course Handicap. For example, if your Course Handicap is 10 and you are to receive 80% of your strokes — your Playing Handicap is 8.

The above information is based on articles addressing the forthcoming changes to the USGA Handicap system. I am awaiting receipt of an Official Handicap Guide from the USGA. I believe the above to be substantively correct but there may be corrections or clarifications once the Guide is issued. We will keep you advised.

Golf instruction links on AEC Info: