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3 things you need to know about the new changes to the World Handicap System for 2024

Four years removed from the historic launch of World Handicap System, which consolidated a half dozen handicap calculations in place worldwide into one global program, the USGA and R&A are rolling out the first significant updates starting Jan. 1, 2024. The changes are based on data gathered from 100 million scores posted yearly under the WHS, with the number of people who have a handicap index having grown from 2.59 million in 2020 to nearly 3.5 million in 2023.

Here are three things to remember as you begin posting scores in 2024:

1. A new way to handle nine-hole rounds.

Beginning in January, the WHS will use an “expected score” formula to take nine-hole scores and adjust them to 18-hole score differentials. That means golfers no longer will have to post a nine-hole score and then need to wait for an accompanying nine-hole score for it to be paired with to create an 18-hole number.How does the new formula work? Using the data gathered from previous year’s posted scores, a model scoring formula for every handicap index for males and females has been developed. The appropriate one will be applied to your index and create an expected score on any remaining holes you had for handicap purposes, taking the place of applying a score of net par for any missing holes. The new formula is built to account for a standard golf course, so the calculations are no longer course dependent compared to the math applied in the past.“We want to be able to understand somebody’s true demonstrated ability, so you want to remove some of those outliers, and we feel like that has done so,” said Steve Edmondson, managing director of Handicap and Course Rating for the USGA.

Additionally, golfers who mostly play nine-hole rounds will have their handicap index updated in the same timely manner as those posting 18-hole rounds. Nightly calculations will be run for everybody in the WHS. Any lingering nine-hole scores will be recalculated under the new system in mid-January and any short-course score posted in the new year will show up around that time as well.

2. Your scores will count for handicap purposes at more courses.

Starting in 2024, the USGA and R&A are reducing the minimum yardage for a course to be included in the Course Rating system. Previously, 18-hole courses had to be at least 3,000 yards and nine-hole course had to be 1,500 yards. Now they must only be 1,500 and 750 yards, respectively. This is expected to allow roughly 700 more par-3 courses in the U.S. alone to become part of the WHS system.As golf’s popularity surged since the COVID-19 pandemic—3.3 million people in the United States played on a course for the first time in 2022, according to the National Golf Foundation—so too has the popularity of playing nine-hole rounds. According to USGA data, nine-hole rounds accounted for 21 percent of scores posted by new male golfers in the U.S., and more than 45 percent of scores posted by new female golfers.By providing more opportunities to utilize nine-hole rounds for handicap purposes, Edmondson says, “We are trying to make sure we are meeting the game where it is moving, meeting the golfers as they are playing it.”

 

3. Your Index will (continue to) weather the storm.

In 2020, the WHS implemented a “playing conditions calculation” (PCC) that adjusted how your score impacts your Index depending on the average of all scores posted at that course that day. So say 20-mph winds cause you to shoot in the high 80s when you normally post 78s and 79s. The WHS algorithm accounted for this to keep the score from negatively affecting your Index, particularly if all scores that day were high.For 2024, the PCC will still be in place, but will be applied more frequently as the statistical barrier on which an adjustment is triggered has been relaxed. According to Edmondson, the model in 2020 allowed for adjustments at a 5 to 10 percent rate. It will now come into play in 10 to 15 percent rate.

Source: Golf Digest