The implementation of golf's new handicap system is just a couple of months away. The USGA and R&A have worked to marry the six different handicap systems new system currently in place around the world into one global system.

For most of us using the USGA Handicap System, we will see little change. The current system computes your 10 best scores from your 20 most recent rounds. With the new system, you will count only your best eight rounds.

Best of all, the 96% multiplier that the old system used will no longer exist, making calculating your index a lot easier. Even for those not so quick with numbers.

Gone will be the USGA Course Rating, replaced with the Course Rating System. Replacing the USGA system required raters to go out into the world and assess over 3,000 courses around the world. Tough work I am sure.

If you don't have an official handicap, it's even easier now to get one. You will only have to play tree rounds or six nine-hole rounds to obtain a Handicap Index. In the old system, you had to post five 180hole rounds.

Many golfers feel that they aren't good enough to bother with a handicap. In the new system, the maximum index for men and women is now 54.0. Previously, the men topped out at 36.4 and the women at 40.4. This allows golfers who do not play as well, or may be just learning the game to still compete with our giving up as many strokes. The system makes the game more fair for all across the board.

The creation of a global handicap system was not cheap. There was a lot of man-hours and technology involved. However, the annual fee for the golfer to keep his or her handicap is usually $20-30. There are even some apps available that will do the computing for even less, but your handicap will not be official should you plan to play in a sanctioned USGA event.

The old system revised your index twice each month. The new system updates every day. This way your good or bad round yesterday or today will affect your handicap tomorrow. This allows your latest scores to have more relevance.

With the new system, playing conditions will become a factor. The new Playing Conditions Calculation will use scores posted at the same course on the same day to help determine if the course was playing more difficult or easier than normal due to conditions or setup.

Handicap differentials from all players will be pieced together to create this calculation and your handicap could be impacted by what it determines the conditions to be for that day.

The system knows what score to expect on average from every golfer, and when it sees too many golfers scoring higher or lower than it expects, it will adjust the handicap scores accordingly. The USGA says this adjustment will not happen very often. Nice to know that when the super has a bad night out with the boys and decides to put the holes in the toughest spots the next morning, we may see some relief.

Equitable Stroke Control is also changing. ESC, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the maximum number of strokes one can take on each hole for handicap purposes. The new guideline is a net double bogey.

If a golfer with a 12 handicap is playing the 10th most difficult hole, the worst score that golfer can post would be a double bogey, plus one. The same golfer playing the 15th most difficult hole would post, at worst, a double bogey, as he or she doesn't get a stroke on that hole.

If your game takes a turn for the worse, there is a new “cap” in place. If you post six scores well-above your normal rounds, you will fall into a “soft cap”. If your handicap gets worse by three points in a 12-month span, any further additions will be calculated at 50%. This will keep you from having rounds where you were perhaps sick, injured, or had the shanks, from destroying your handicap.

The new World Handicap System begins the first full week of 2020.

James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at

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