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WORLD OF GOLF: The new World Handicap System isn't rocket science – it's even harder!


For the first time in almost half a century, I will no longer be a single- figure handicap golfer come the start of next month. Currently off eight, my playing handicap at my local club will shoot up to 10 or 11 on November 2, a mark I haven’t seen since I was aged, well, 10 or 11.

If you haven’t heard, a new handicap system is coming into operation on that day and boy, will you see some furrowed brows. Forget, for a moment, the NHS. This is the time for all golfers to spend some time contemplating the WHS.

If you thought the rules set to protect the National Health Service were confusing, you’re in for a treat when you digest the online 46-page toolkit — yes, 46 pages! — regarding the World Handicap System.

A complex new system to calculate golfers' handicaps is set to be introduced in November

A complex new system to calculate golfers’ handicaps is set to be introduced in November

Summing it all up was a neat little device on the R&A website designed to calculate your new handicap. Put in a couple of details and hey, presto. Except, when I put in the par figure for my home course my handicap was 11, and when I didn’t, it was 10. That really helps clear the mind, doesn’t it?

To be fair, it is all well-intentioned. If you’ve ever played abroad and thought a course was much easier or harder than reflected by your handicap, the change is designed to marry up the six different systems in operation around the world to solve that puzzle.

Your handicap index, as it is now known, is calculated from the best eight rounds from your last 20 scores. That will then translate into a course handicap, which will be different depending on the tees you’re playing from and the venue.

To know how each course’s rating is calculated, you enter the world of slope ratings and bogey ratings and believe me, it is a path down which you don’t want to travel. Leave it to the geeks. There will be notices posted at every club that will work out your course handicap for you.

New way of calculating has been brought in to marry up the six different systems around world

New way of calculating has been brought in to marry up the six different systems around world

For the amateurs who play a significant percentage of their golf outside their home course, the changes will be welcomed. It’s obviously simplistic to take an eight handicap at a straightforward inland course and think it translates to playing off the same mark at, say, Royal Birkdale. This more nuanced approach will make the necessary adjustments.

The reason I’ll get a couple of extra shots at my home course is that it has a high slope rating, meaning it is more difficult than your average track.

Why introduce this in the middle of a pandemic is a valid question. But when we’ve grown accustomed to the changes, it ought to make sense.

In the meantime, you can always take refuge in the cheerful conclusion reached by our handicap chairman: ‘Do not become overwhelmed by all the information, the calculations and the formulae: remember, the computer will do it all for you.’

 Absurd Hatton hoodie debate reaches new level

While the debate about him wearing a hoodie at Wentworth raged, Tyrrell Hatton (right) took himself off to Las Vegas following his BMW PGA Championship success and finished third in the CJ Cup on Sunday — his seventh top-six finish in a dozen starts. 

The absurdity of the hoodie debate surely reached its height when a club in the North East put out a notice littered with grammatical errors pompously pointing out such clothing wasn’t permitted at their establishment. 

I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice: the modern golfer whose eloquence and style on the course speaks for itself; or the club stuck in the past — with no clue where to stick an apostrophe.

Tyrell Hatton sparked a ridiculous outrage when he wore a hoodie at BMW Championships

Tyrell Hatton sparked a ridiculous outrage when he wore a hoodie at BMW Championships

The Zozo Championship claimed by Tiger Woods in Tokyo last year for his record-equalling 82nd PGA Tour success will be staged half a world away this week in California. 

Any disappointment the sponsors are feeling about the relocation owing to the pandemic is surely tempered by the fact that the field is far stronger than it would have been in Japan. 

Indeed, what will take place at Sherwood Country Club on the outskirts of Los Angeles is a Masters dress rehearsal in all but name, for this will be the last appearance before Augusta for many, including Tiger, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood. 

Zozo Championships last won by Tiger Woods will be hosted half the world away in California

Zozo Championships last won by Tiger Woods will be hosted half the world away in California

The venue is a familiar one for Woods. He hosted his own tournament staged each December there for many years, winning it five times and finishing runner-up five more. 

Could this be the week he goes past Sam Snead and claims an historic 83rd triumph? 

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