Handicaps will change on a daily basis next year, not once a fortnight

By Dean Murphy
New Zealand Golf Chief Executive

New Zealand Golf will next year introduce the new world handicap system which is a milestone for the game. 

The world handicap system is the culmination of five years of research and adds to the modernisation of the Rules of Golf in 2019 to make the game more accessible and enjoyable. The best components of the six handicap systems currently used throughout the world have been combined to provide what will be the most accurate measure of a player’s ability.

The role out of the new system will happen during 2020, with some countries better prepared than others. We are fortunate in that we already use the United States Golf Association (USGA) course and slope rating system so we should be in a position to transition to the new system in March or April of next year. 

Our other advantage over the rest of the world is that New Zealand Golf’s computer software provider DotGolf is a world leading handicap technology business and the way we can print score cards, book tee times and follow our handicap records is a great member benefit.

So what will change for us when the world handicap system is introduced? 

The current handicap formula takes an average of the best 10 of your most recent 20 scores and is then multiplied by a 96 percent potential factor. Next year that will change to the best eight of 20, with no percentage adjustment, therefore we expect little change to current handicaps when we convert to the new world handicaps.

Currently we have a fortnightly rollover, with our handicaps in place for 14 days until the next revision. 

But that will change next year and it will be one of the major changes affecting the way we process handicaps in that handicaps will change daily.

Consequently we strongly recommend that golf clubs enter all score cards on a daily basis. We understand this may be a challenge for our smaller volunteer based clubs and we will provide an option closer to the introduction of the new system.

One of the reasons why cards should be entered daily is the new introduction of a playing conditions calculation. There will be a daily review of scores entered and if they are outside of the expected average, then the course rating could go up or down.

The system will retain a memory of the lowest handicap during the last year, with the maximum we can move out being 5.0. Once the calculation reaches over 3.0 higher there is a softer calculation to control the outward movement. This is referred to as a cap.

There will be a new method of reducing a handicap based on exceptional scores, with a one or two stroke reduction depending on how good the score was. The reduction will apply for the next 20 scores returned.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes will be the way our course handicap is calculated for competition play. We will retain our current calculation which uses the slope number, but we will also calculate the par of the course and the course rating of the set of tees being played, to finalise course handicaps. This provides greater inclusivity in our opinion and the chance for equitable play for both genders regardless of which set of tees they play.

As our world handicap system launch date nears we will increase education. To keep up to date and watch informative videos on the new system go to our website: www.golf.co.nz/About/Handicapping.aspx