GUI and ILGU welcome plan to introduce universal handicapping system

New system designed to streamline current formats set to be introduced worldwide by 2020

The Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) and the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union (ILGU) have jointly welcomed the new plan to introduce a universal handicapping system worldwide by 2020.

Developed by the British Open organisers The R&A and the United States Golf Association, the new system aims to streamline the current formats which are administered by six existing handicapping authorities from around the world.

Along with being applicable to any course, the universal handicap would also include daily revisions that would take into account course and weather conditions.

Other new features include social rounds counting towards the handicap and an average-based handicap which takes into account the best eight of the last 20 scores.

The announcement comes after an extensive review of the various handicapping systems administered by Golf Australia, Council of National Golf Unions (Congu), European Golf Association (EGA), South African Golf Association (Saga), Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA.

The six bodies represent around 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a golf handicap.

Irish handicaps come under the Congu umbrella and its Unified Handicapping System.

ILGU chief executive Sinéad Heraty said: “A standard system of handicapping worldwide is a welcome development for the sport. The new system will make it easier to obtain and retain a handicap and will be easier to understand for all golfers.

“The introduction of flexible formats to count for handicap purposes will also ensure that the game continues to become more inclusive and recognises more modern formats of the game which in turn will encourage more players into club membership.”

GUI chief executive Pat Finn: "We welcome the announcement today in relation to the World Handicap System and we look forward to engaging and consulting with our affiliated golf clubs prior to adoption."

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers outlined the main reasons behind the universal handicapping system.

“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers,” said Slumbers in a joint statement with the USGA.

“Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”

Organisers hope that the new system will encourage more people of varying backgrounds to take up the sport, particularly as there will be a limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum hole score and a maximum handicap limit of 54, regardless of gender.

Previously, the USGA’s maximum limits, for example, were 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women.

"For some time, we've heard golfers say, 'I'm not good enough to have a handicap' or 'I don't play enough to have a handicap.' We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game," said USGA chief executive Mike Davis.

“We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernising golf’s Rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play.”

The organisers’ statement added that all parties would now embark on a two-year transition period so that it would be ready to come into effect from 2020.