The chairman of Golf Australia, John Hopkins, recently announced that the World Handicap System will be adopted in Australia.

The WHS is an initiative that the R&A and the USGA have been working on for a number of years together with golf’s major handicapping authorities. Golf Australia is one of the organisations that have been integrally involved. Last October, the R&A and USGA issued a formal invitation to Golf Australia to adopt the WHS and our national body has now accepted this invitation.

The decision by Golf Australia to adopt the WHS follows a period of extensive consultation with the industry. In announcing the move, Hopkins advised the key factors in the decision were:

• “The WHS will result in just two changes of substance to the user experience of Australian golfers and administrators (these two changes are explained below). The two changes are both considered strong improvements to Australian handicapping. Golf Australia’s chief statistician is also strongly supportive of both changes.

• “Golf is played globally with one set of playing rules; it makes sense for there to be only one handicap system.

• “Every other major country will adopt the WHS. Given this we believe it is important that GA align its operations with the global standard and with world’s best practice. We do not believe strong governance is best served by continuing to invest in a stand-alone handicap system when resources could instead be directed to supporting the sustainability of golf clubs and facilities.

• “Golf NSW, Golf NT, Golf Queensland, GolfSA, Golf Tasmania, Golf Victoria, GolfWA, and the board of Golf Management Australia all previously recommended adoption of the WHS.

• “GA commissioned respected industry consultant GBAS to poll the views of individual golfers. This polling displayed the following sentiments on the WHS. Change to Daily Handicap calculation: 65% strongly in favour, 27% slightly in favour, 6% neutral, 1% opposed. Introduction of Soft Cap: 56% strongly in favour, 26% slightly in favour, 13% neutral, 4% opposed. Should Australia adopt the WHS? 81% strongly in favour, 13% slightly in favour, 4% neutral, 2% opposed.

• “Despite the invitation to all clubs to provide comment on the proposal to adopt the WHS, no clubs advocated against its adoption.”

What will the WHS changes of substance be for Australia’s clubs and golfers?

1. There will be a Hard Cap of 5 strokes as per Golf Australia’s current regulation.

There will also be a Soft Cap currently set at 3 strokes, which will be a new regulation for Australia. The Soft Cap will allow a player normal increases in their GA Handicap unless it increases to 3 strokes above their best GA Handicap from the previous 12-month period. Above this point the GA Handicap will only be permitted to increase by 50% of the calculated amount. [Example: a player’s ‘8 of 20’ calculation is 17.2. Their best GA Handicap within the trailing 12-month period is 11.2. Their GA Handicap is 15.7 (i.e. 11.2 + 3 + (50% of 3)]. Modelling indicates the Soft Cap will impact up to 20% of the total number of handicap calculations performed by GolfLink each year. The introduction of the Soft Cap will reduce the percentage of players impacted by the Hard Cap from 5% down to less than 1.5&. GA has been aware for some time that our existing system produces a competitive advantage to the inconsistent player over the consistent player and we have been looking for a way to soften this outcome. The Soft Cap will improve this situation and will improve the equity of Australian handicapping.

2. The Daily Handicap calculation will be changed to incorporate the difference between the Scratch Rating and the par.

This is all that needs to happen to enable 36 Stableford points (or net par) to become the equitable measure of whether a player has played to their handicap, irrespective of the course or set of tees. To determine a WHS Daily Handicap, GolfLink will start by performing the exact same calculation as currently occurs under the existing GA Handicap System. And then it will simply adjust this amount by the difference between the Scratch Rating and the par. This change will eliminate the significant complexity involved with scoring for multi-tee and mixed gender competitions, and as a result will be beneficial from a game participation and engagement perspective.

What other changes will there be for Australia?

There will obviously be changes to technical regulations but the above two regulations will be the only changes of any substance to the user-experience of Australian clubs and golfers. A WHS handicap index (i.e. GA Handicap) will be calculated by averaging the best eight of the 20 most recent scores. We will continue to use the 0.93 multiplier. Stableford handicapping of all strokeplay competitions will continue. GA’s existing pre-nominated social scores regulation will continue without amendment. The WHS will include a statistical daily rating mechanism (which will feature different formulas to the existing DSR formulas) and Slope.

Will there be a change to handicap limits under the World Handicap System?

There will be a maximum GA Handicap under the World Handicap System of 54 for both men and women. However, the WHS will specifically provide the flexibility for Australia to build default handicap limits into our software of 36 for men and 45 for women (which is what they currently are).

• The findings of GA’s 2016 national handicapping survey suggest that most Australian clubs wish to retain the status quo on handicap limits. The software solution option described above will be crafted to enable clubs to do this.

• GA has also received feedback from some clubs indicating they would like to be able to increase competition handicap limits. The software solution option described above will be crafted to provide clubs the flexibility to achieve this outcome. This will allow for better engagement with many new players and with older members as average Australian ages continue to increase.

When will the WHS come into effect?

On a global level, the WHS is scheduled to take full effect in January 2020. One theme of feedback that has repeatedly been expressed to GA is that the WHS changes are very positive and many would prefer that implementation in Australia earlier than 2020. As a result, GA is now investigating an earlier rollout. GA is mindful that extensive involvement of various software providers will be required to bring the WHS changes into effect. While GA is hopeful of an earlier implementation than January 2020, nothing has been confirmed and we will keep the industry updated on any new timelines.

Life Converted Into A 7-Handicapper

On the right day and right course, you’ll break 80. Congratulations. As a 7-handicapper, you’re in the top 21 percent of male golfers – top 3 percent for females. A professional career isn’t happening anytime soon, but you should be proud of the level you’ve attained.

Perhaps similar dedication and talent has led you to quasi-mastery in other areas. The problem is, the precision of golf’s handicap system isn’t encountered anywhere else. So for those who want to know how they compare to others – other than by height – we’ve described the equivalent of a 7-handicapper in the following important life pursuits. Go judge yourself.


Teammates are optimistic when you’re batting with runners in scoring position. You don’t strike out. Fielding errors are accompanied by an appropriate level of gravity and surprise. Can reasonably explain the infield-fly rule.


Covers the terrain of the entire mountain and enjoys doing it. Looks good on good snow, but reverts to less-graceful form in icy or variable conditions. Occasionally sustains minor injuries. As far as jumping, stylistically has never progressed further than a spread eagle or heel grab.


Has the potential to go on runs of five or even six consecutive potted balls, but more reliably dinks in one or two. Possesses an elementary understanding of spin and how to position the cue ball, but execution is another matter. Extent of imagination is two shots ahead. Once purchased a mid-priced cue from a sporting-goods store.


Can provide a comfortable experience for a friend or loved one in temperatures warmer than -2 degrees Celsius. Gets the fire going on the first try and prepares hot, though not always delicious, meals. Three nights is the limit. Always returns looking and smelling like he or she has been away longer.


Verbatim from the National Tennis Rating Program on a 4.0 player, so we’re not even making this up: “Has dependable strokes, including directional control and depth on both forehand and backhand sides on moderate shots, plus the ability to use lobs, overheads, approach shots and volleys with some success. Occasionally forces errors when serving, and teamwork in doubles is evident. Rallies may be lost due to impatience.”

Beer Pong

Hits on a full rack half the time. Rarely needs more than three attempts on a “last cup”. Skills sharpest after three beers, but after that it’s a steady decline.


Communicates abstract ideas clearly in meetings. Returns all e-mails within the same business day. Is aware of, though doesn’t necessarily participate in, style trends. Showers every morning. Shops online efficiently and averages no more than an hour reading about sports.


Knows the names of child’s friends and even some teachers. Refrains from altercations with refs and other parents at sporting events. Employs guilt and bribery to drive results. Arguments may be lost due to impatience.

– Max Adler