# World Handicap System Now Out (2020)

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I posted this elsewhere, but it's helpful (I think), so I'll post it here too. It's in response to a rather poor article, IMO, from Dean Knuth on Golf Digest's site.

I can elaborate as needed, but basically… the use of par serves two purposes.

1. It plays a role in limiting “net double bogey”.
2. It helps to “bake in” the difference in playing handicaps from different tees.

I’ll briefly explain both, starting with the second one first.

Baked in Tee Difference
Assume a 5.1 index golfer has the choice to play two tees (or two 5.1 golfers want to play against each other from different tees). A tees are rated 73.4/139. B tees are rated 68.2/124. First let’s assume the par is 72 from both sets of tees. The playing handicap or course handicap (CH) from both tees are:

A: 5.1 * 139/113 + 73.4 - 72 = 7.7 = 8 CH
B: 5.1 * 124/113 + 68.2 - 72 = 1.8 = 2 CH

This is the “big difference” by adding par to the equation… but what it’s really doing is adding the course rating to the equation. The back tees play tougher than par for the scratch golfer, so it makes sense that golfers get more strokes, and vice versa for the shorter tees - they play much easier than par, so we take some strokes away.

This isn’t really different from the old way that you were supposed to handle playing from different tees except that it’s baked in to the actual course handicap. Under the old method, you’d have gotten course handicaps of the same thing— 6 — because (5.1 * 139/113) and (5.1 * 124/113) both equal 6, but then you’d have to figure out the difference between the course rating: 73.4 - 68.2 = 5 strokes someone playing from B would have to give someone playing from A.

Why is the difference now six shots when it used to be five? Because the old formula rounded twice (one rounds down to a 6, the other rounds up to 6), while the new way just rounds the one time after the course rating is included.

Again, this makes sense. Why should a 5.1 index get six strokes when they’re playing a 73.4/139 set of tees and the same six strokes when they’re playing a 68.2/125 set of tees? The use of par in this case just “bakes in” the course rating and makes it easier for players, tournament directors, etc. to conduct a fair match from different tees.

Let's assume a 1.0 plays a 5.2 and wants to play from different tees with the same par:

Old Method:
1.0 * 139/113 = 1 CH
5.2 * 124/113 = 6 CH, minus the 5 shots difference in course rating… the golfers would play each other straight up.

WHS Method:
1.0 * 139/113 + 73.4 - 72 = 3 CH
5.2 * 124/113 + 68.2 - 72 = 2 CH, so the 5.2 has to give the 1.0 a stroke.

(Again, this is because the rounding is done just once, instead of twice.) The 1.0 is only about 4 shots worse (5.2 to 1.0), and yet he’s playing a course that’s over 5 shots easier (73.4 to 68.2). So the 5.2 giving the 1.0 a shot makes sense, and it’s baked in: you just have to look at your playing handicap for those tees and away you go.

Application of NDB
The application of NDB (net double bogey) also relies on par.

I’ll keep this section fairly simple, as I’ve seen a LOT of math from the USGA, and it just works out pretty darn well overall. You can come up with examples left and right, but basically… if you’re playing an easier set of tees, you’re limited with the use of par in posting higher scores a bit more so than you used to be under the old system.

Under the old system a 13 index golfer might be a 14 from the back tees and a 12 from the front tees. People saw this as an advantage, but it really just meant that you could post almost the same score from one set of tees as you could from another, despite the forward set of tees often being 5, 6, or 7 shots easier, inflating his handicap much more quickly from the front tees.

With NDB, he can’t inflate his handicap as quickly. Let’s use the same A and B tees with a 5.1 index, and assume the par for each set of tees is 72 and 69.

Old:
A: 5.1 * 139/113 = 6 CH
B: 5.1 * 124/113 = 6 CH

Because the course rating of the B tees is 68.2, a golfer looking to inflate his handicap would definitely play the B tees. He could post the same exact score despite the course playing about five shots easier (or three shots easier, if you use par instead of the course rating).

New:
A: 5.1 * 139/113 + 73.4 - 72 = 8 CH
B: 5.1 * 125/113 + 68.2 - 69 = 5 CH

Under the new scenario, we’ve already shaved three strokes off just from the course handicap/playing handicap for that player, but an additional three shots comes off from the par because we’ve lost perhaps three par fives that become par fours (par 72 -> par 69) for the golfer. This change costs him six shots off his potential score, resulting in about the same differential if the golfer has a “bad day”:

A: (86 - 73.4) * 113/139 = 10.2 differential
B: (80 - 68.2) * 113/124 = 10.8 differential
B: (86 - 68.2) * 113/124 = 16.2 differential - OLD WAY

Here the golfer “saves” those six strokes - since “Net Double Bogey” is tied to par - and shoots about the same differential. The latter is still a bit higher, but only half a shot and nowhere near as high as the score he could have posted with the six strokes (three from the par, three from the playing handicap) added back in.

(Generally speaking, though… the NDB stuff doesn’t matter too much. Tons of studies the USGA has conducted show that the odds of a round that has ESC or NDB applied almost never actually figure into the 8 rounds that count, and the small percentage of the time they do, it’s going to amount to a small difference only.)

I hope that helps to explain things a little. It can be confusing, but the use of par is actually pretty elegant. It “bakes in” the handicaps when playing from different tees when par is the same (see also 6.2 of the handicapping manual). Few understood that they had to make this second adjustment before - look at how silly it was that two 5.2 indexes playing from A and B tees to both have 6 course handicaps. Golfers often didn’t know to subtract the difference in the course ratings, but the new system bakes that in and prints it right on the sheet you’ll read in the pro shop or locker room.

Then, for the application of NDB, the use of par (and the course rating) result in a wiser, more just application of controlling bad holes.

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15 minutes ago, iacas said:

Baked in Tee Difference
Assume a 5.1 index golfer has the choice to play two tees (or two 5.1 golfers want to play against each other from different tees). A tees are rated 73.4/139. B tees are rated 68.2/124. First let’s assume the par is 72 from both sets of tees. The playing handicap or course handicap (CH) from both tees are:

A: 5.1 * 139/113 + 73.4 - 72 = 7.7 = 8 CH
B: 5.1 * 124/113 + 68.2 - 72 = 1.8 = 2 CH

This is the “big difference” by adding par to the equation… but what it’s really doing is adding the course rating to the equation. The back tees play tougher than par for the scratch golfer, so it makes sense that golfers get more strokes, and vice versa for the shorter tees - they play much easier than par, so we take some strokes away.

This isn’t really different from the old way that you were supposed to handle playing from different tees except that it’s baked in to the actual course handicap. Under the old method, you’d have gotten course handicaps of the same thing— 6 — because (5.1 * 139/113) and (5.1 * 124/113) both equal 6, but then you’d have to figure out the difference between the course rating: 73.4 - 68.2 = 5 strokes someone playing from B would have to give someone playing from A.

I agree entirely with this explanation, and I also agree in that I don't share Knuth's concerns.  Specifically, I agree that the (CR-Par) term applies the correction that was once used primarily for competitions to our every-day handicaps.

However, we've also discussed that "par" may be revised in some (many?) cases based on yardage of the holes, so that par will differ from one tee to another more than it has previously.  Right now, GHIN calculates Course Handicap based on those differing par numbers, at least it does for a few examples I picked in North Carolina. Rule 6.2b tells us how to handle this, its a simple process to adjust Playing Handicaps for differing pars on different tees, but its an adjustment that is in addition to the "baked in" Tee Difference you describe.

Revising "par" has merit when applied to handicap posting, specifically to make the Net Double maximum, and the Net Par used for holes not played more accurate.  I don't believe the effect will be large, but it IS more accurate in my mind.  But for calculation of Course Handicap, it has the potential to add confusion to a transition that is likely to cause plenty of confusion already.  My preference would be to keep par consistent for all tees, or at least for all men's tees (and of course for all women's tees) whenever it is reasonably possible.

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5 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

My preference would be to keep par consistent for all tees, or at least for all men's tees (and of course for all women's tees) whenever it is reasonably possible.

Yes, par being different across different tees:

• Means that you still have to apply the difference in par when playing from different tees per 6.2b.
• Probably "better" accounts for NDB, but only if players are aware of the "par" for the hole they're playing.

Overall it's a better system, IMO, than the previous one where your course handicap didn't change much despite going from 73.4 to 68.2 rated tees that change slope fifteen or twenty points… but there are still a few corners on which you can catch yourself. It'll be interesting to see how things shake out: do most courses and/or associations keep par the same (ease of playing from multiple tees) or change par (probably "better" NDB and better handicapping)?

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Hi, the picture I've attached is for the old USGA handicap before the new world handicap system. I can't find the same information for the new formula. Does anyone have it? Thanks!

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15 minutes ago, humblepeasant said:

Does anyone have it?

Why not simply change the one you currently are using?
You will need to Drop the Lowest 9 and Lowest 10 from your equation and change to using Lowest 8 for them.
Also, I believe a new handicap can be established after only 3 rounds, so adjustments should also be made.

I'll post a chart later when I have time.

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I'm a little worried that the changes @iacas and @DaveP043 are discussing here have not been well-publicized. There are going to be a lot of golfers who show up to their first event, get fewer strokes than before, and don't understand why. And it will be the committee's fault, not the USGA's fault, in their mind. I wonder how many people are actually on top of this and understand. And I wonder how many handicap chairs will understand this and be able to explain it.

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I'm a little worried that the changes @iacas and @DaveP043 are discussing here have not been well-publicized. There are going to be a lot of golfers who show up to their first event, get fewer strokes than before, and don't understand why. And it will be the committee's fault, not the USGA's fault, in their mind. I wonder how many people are actually on top of this and understand. And I wonder how many handicap chairs will understand this and be able to explain it.

Too few.

From what I've seen, btw, the USGA is doing a lot. But they're doing it through the regional golf associations, who then may be doing various amounts of community outreach.

For example the WPGA has a number of seminars scheduled with local clubs and golfers. But then the golf clubs themselves have to recruit members, and so on, to attend.

So who ultimately gets the blame? Tough to say. I think that the USGA is doing a good job, and regional associations are varied in what they're doing and the success they're having, and ultimately golfers have to be aware enough to know that something happened and to educate themselves.

That's a big part of the reason I think @DaveP043 and I are posting here, to try to educate people, or at least to let them know they need to go seek out more information at a seminar or something.

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I just noticed that at the course I play the most that the Gold/Senior tees, which I play occasionally to prep for a senior tournament, are now rated par 68 instead of par 70 at the Back/Black tees.  I assume this par relates to NDB only, because whereas one of the Par 5's is only 447 from and Gold and quite reachable, the other two are still 460 and 477 with a water hazard and bunker blocking the fronts respectively.  Rarely do I get to go for those holes in two.

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11 minutes ago, gbogey said:

I just noticed that at the course I play the most that the Gold/Senior tees, which I play occasionally to prep for a senior tournament, are now rated par 68 instead of par 70 at the Back/Black tees.  I assume this par relates to NDB only, because whereas one of the Par 5's is only 447 from and Gold and quite reachable, the other two are still 460 and 477 with a water hazard and bunker blocking the fronts respectively.  Rarely do I get to go for those holes in two.

That might still change.

WPGA is, generally speaking, going to go with a fairly standard par everywhere. So if a course is par 72 from the tees most people play, it'll be a par 72 for all tees. (Except maybe the super-short often-named "family" tees or "fairway" tees or whatever.)

Golf associations are still playing catch-up a little. Give them a little time. Even by mid-January I think things will be settled into place, at least in areas with active seasons.

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You can almost use the same formula that you are currently using to calculate the differential.   The only real difference is subtracting the PCC (playing conditions calculation).

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1 minute ago, dennyjones said:

You can almost use the same formula that you are currently using to calculate the differential.   The only real difference is subtracting the PCC (playing conditions calculation).

I think he was looking for the number of scores to use when just beginning to establish a handicap, at least those are the tables he posted.

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12 hours ago, iacas said:

Again, this makes sense. Why should a 5.1 index get six strokes when they’re playing a 73.4/139 set of tees and the same six strokes when they’re playing a 68.2/125 set of tees? The use of par in this case just “bakes in” the course rating and makes it easier for players, tournament directors, etc. to conduct a fair match from different tees.

Thanks for posting the explanation.

My handicap changes two shots from one tee up. This new system sucks 😂

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I'm a little worried that the changes @iacas and @DaveP043 are discussing here have not been well-publicized. There are going to be a lot of golfers who show up to their first event, get fewer strokes than before, and don't understand why. And it will be the committee's fault, not the USGA's fault, in their mind. I wonder how many people are actually on top of this and understand. And I wonder how many handicap chairs will understand this and be able to explain it.

Not sure if anybody listened to the latest No Laying Up podcast. They discussed the new handicap system for about 15 minutes, and it made me want to blow my brains out. They didn't understand basic things about the new (or the old, for that matter) handicap system. They parroted the whole article @iacas posted above. It was wrong, and it was bad. And it was just USGA bashing, which I get, but it's undeserved here.

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9 hours ago, mvmac said:

Thanks for posting the explanation.

My handicap changes two shots from one tee up. This new system sucks 😂

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44 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

@mvmac would be like a +7 from there, probably.  Boo hoo for him!

Not sure if anybody listened to the latest No Laying Up podcast. They discussed the new handicap system for about 15 minutes, and it made me want to blow my brains out. They didn't understand basic things about the new (or the old, for that matter) handicap system. They parroted the whole article @iacas posted above. It was wrong, and it was bad. And it was just USGA bashing, which I get, but it's undeserved here.

I wonder what Hank Haney will say about it.

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20 hours ago, iacas said:

That might still change.

WPGA is, generally speaking, going to go with a fairly standard par everywhere. So if a course is par 72 from the tees most people play, it'll be a par 72 for all tees. (Except maybe the super-short often-named "family" tees or "fairway" tees or whatever.)

Golf associations are still playing catch-up a little. Give them a little time. Even by mid-January I think things will be settled into place, at least in areas with active seasons.

It seems they're making progress.  I checked a few of the courses from NC, and now the hole-by-hole scores show the holes in the proper order, and the par is the same from almost every tee.  Same for the few Virginia courses I checked.  By the time I get to play on Sunday, it should all be good.  Not sure if Hole by Hole will be working for California, but that's not a huge deal for me.

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First round doing the hole-by-hole scoring and entering the stats. Riots in the pro shop today, guys in the Wed group weren't happy how much their handicaps lowered. One guy just kept arguing that "it's not right" 😂

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