The R&A and USGA are working with golf’s handicapping authorities to develop a single world handicap system for the game.
More than 15 million golfers in more than 80 countries currently have a handicap, a numerical index long used as a measure of a golfer’s potential skill level. Handicaps are currently delivered through six different systems around the world.
The aim of the proposed handicap system is to adopt a universal set of principles and procedures that would apply all over the world.
An extensive review of existing handicap systems administered by Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AGA) and the United States Golf Association (USGA) has been undertaken.
Golf organisations from different parts of the world have also been engaged with the current handicap authorities for the past two years to help shape the proposed system, which takes into account the many inherent golf cultures and most common formats of play. Research conducted to date has also reviewed systems and best practices inherent to handicapping, such as course rating and administration.
A joint committee led by the R&A and USGA has been formed, including representatives from each handicap authority as well as the Japan Golf Association and Golf Canada. The joint committee plans to announce its proposals later this year.
“One wonderful aspect of golf that separates it from other sports is the opportunity for players of differing abilities to play on an equitable basis through handicapping,” said USGA executive director/CEO Mike Davis. “With one global system, golf courses will be rated and handicaps calculated in a consistent manner everywhere in the world. Removing borders to provide an easy way for all to play together is great for the game and golfers everywhere.”
Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, added: “We have been concerned for some time that many golfers find the handicapping landscape to be complicated and can be frustrated when it is not always applied in the same way in different parts of the world.
“We are working closely with the existing handicapping bodies to benefit from their insights as we try to formulate a system that will be easy to understand and can be applied consistently on a global basis. We very much appreciate their support for this initiative.”