Frequently Asked Questions - WHS

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Course Rating - Par not used for Course Handicap Calculation?


Within the WHS there appears to be two methods for calculating the Course Handicap – one which includes the difference between Course Rating and Par to determine the number of strokes, and the other which does not.  These methods have different outcomes and in many cases the player receives a different number of strokes as a result.  Why does the CONGU® jurisdiction not use the Course Rating – Par approach that is detailed in the USGA calculator?


The fundamental measure of difficulty of a course (and therefore stroke allowance) is the Course Rating and the Slope Rating.  Par is an arbitrary figure generally decided by the club, and does not contribute to the difficulty measure.

Those jurisdictions that use the Course Rating – Par approach are generally those where Stableford is the prime scoring method.  It was well understood under the CONGU® WHS that where the SSS differed from Par, the ‘Play to Handicap’ score would be higher or lower than 36 points (dependent on the difference between the two).  Many jurisdictions (e.g. some European countries) like to have 36 points as the ‘Play to Handicap’ score and simply use the Course Rating – Par approach to achieve this.

On courses where all tees have the same Par regardless of length, the Course Rating – Par can become a significant negative number and the impact on stroke allowance is then perceived by the players as due to differences in Slope, when it is not.  In such situations, the player may well believe they’ve reached a Net Double Bogey score sooner than they actually have, and so they pick up.  In such situations, they will penalise themselves for handicapping purposes.

In order to address these points, all Home Unions (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) have directed that the Course Rating – Par approach will not be used.

Why use Course Rating - Par for 9-hole Course Handicap Calculation?


Whilst the CONGU® jurisdiction does not use Course Rating – Par in the calculation of the Course Handicap, why is it used for 9-hole Course Handicap calculations?


There are a couple of options within WHS worldwide to allow 9-hole rounds to count for handicap.  The first ‘stores’ a 9-hole return awaiting another 9-hole score to pair it with, to provide for an 18-hole return.  The other option is to ‘scale up’ the 9-hole score to provide an 18-hole return for handicap purposes immediately.  As the previous CONGU® system provided a method to generate a handicap revision directly from a 9-hole return, it was seen as important to maintain this.  Accordingly, the approach which achieves this is the ‘scale up’ approach (as the other will leave a 9-hole return pending until another appears).  The WHS ‘scale-up’ approach sees a standard Net Par + 1 (the equivalent of 17 points) being added to the 9-hole return to provide an 18-hole score for handicapping purposes.  However, a fixed score of Net Par +1 being added assumes that Course Rating = Par for this to be valid (i.e. if we use just the Course Rating, 17 points would only be appropriate if Course Rating = Par, anything else would require a different score).  Whilst there are options to address this issue, the expedient approach was to use the Course Rating – Par for the 9-hole Course Handicap calculation, especially as this is the approach used previously in the CONGU® system.

Why do we now use 95% for the Individual Allowance for Competition?


Under the WHS there is an allowance of 95% to be applied for Playing Handicap for individual stroke play competitions.  This will clearly have an adverse effect on the higher handicap players.  As an example, a person with a Course Handicap of 36 would have a Playing Handicap of 34 – this will make it more difficult to reduce their handicap.  Why has this been introduced?



Historically, all handicaps systems have used different handicap allowances for different formats of play as a way of ensuring equitable outcomes in competitions. In developing the WHS, a significant amount of score analysis and statistical modelling identified that different allowances for singles Stroke Play and Match Play were required, something that is borne out by experience in jurisdictions where averaging systems (and ‘best of 8 specifically) have been in place (e.g. Australia).

The 95% stroke allowance has no impact on handicap calculations as it is used purely to achieve equity in a competition for the allocation of prizes. The Playing Handicap only impacts the net score result:  it is the Course Handicap and Adjusted Gross Score that impact the final handicap calculation.


For info:

Both the previous Australian and USGA systems were averaging systems and had a factor of 93% or 96% respectively in their handicap index calculations.  This delivered equity in stroke play, but favoured  lower handicapped players in match play.  They decided to live with this anomaly as match play was played less often in those Countries.