The World Handicap System “Excluding CR minus Par” vs. “Including CR minus Par”. What does it mean for the Score Differential?
Read on your phone:
By Tonny Gottlieb
CEO, How Many Strokes
The World Handicap System (WHS) unifies the different handicap systems used in various regions of the world under one global system, similar to the already unified Rules of Golf. Prior to 2020, handicaps were determined by the country a player was registered in and governed by separate bodies. The WHS is now managed by the World Handicap Authority, composed of representatives from six former handicapping bodies and jointly run by the United States Golf Association and The R&A.
WHS aims to simplify the game of golf by unifying the six different handicap systems used around the world under a single system, making it easier for players to compete internationally. With a global system, a player’s handicap will be recognized on any course in the world, eliminating confusion and facilitating fair competition between players from different regions. The WHS was designed to bring together the different systems and level the playing field for golfers worldwide.
The system employs the course rating method that was previously used in Europe, resulting in a player receiving a varying number of strokes for the same handicap on different courses or from different tees. However, the method for determining the handicap index has been changed. Under the new system, a player’s handicap index is calculated by averaging the player’s best 8 scores out of the last 20 official rounds played rather than being solely based on the performance of the most recent round.
The World Handicap Authority, led by the USGA and The R&A, oversees the implementation of the World Handicap System (WHS) on a global level. However, each National Golf Authority is responsible for managing the system within its region. For example, England manages the system in England.
The World Handicap System offers several benefits, including:
- Simplifying the handicapping process and making it more consistent and understandable for all players by using a single, unified measure
- Allowing players to easily transfer their handicaps from club to club and country to country
- Making golf more inclusive and accessible to a broader range of players by creating more opportunities for golfers of all skill levels to play for recreation and competition
- Enabling non-club member golfing communities to have access to their handicap indexes
- Enable golfers of different abilities to play and compete on a fair and equal basis, in any format, on any course, anywhere around the world
- Be easy to understand and implement without sacrificing accuracy
- Meet the varied needs and expectations of golfers, golf clubs and golf authorities all around the world and be adaptable to suit all golfing cultures
Slope Rating and Course Rating
The R&A and The USGA define Slope Ratings as a way to gauge the relative difficulty of a golf course for players who are not scratch golfers compared to scratch golfers.
The course ratings are determined by considering the number of strokes a scratch golfer (an average club player with a handicap of 0) and a bogey golfer (about a 20 handicap for men, 24 for women) would take under normal conditions.
The Slope Rating is calculated by subtracting the bogey rating from the scratch rating and multiplying by a set factor.
Difference between calculating Course Handicap and Score differential
The handicap index is not applied directly during play but is used to determine a course handicap based on the slope rating of the tees being used, with an adjustment for the difference between the course rating and par. The result is rounded to the nearest whole number. In competitions, the unrounded course handicap is converted to a playing handicap by applying a handicap allowance, which varies depending on the play format.
A Course Handicap is the calculated number of received strokes a given player is given before any handicap allowance based on the player’s Handicap Index.
Course handicap is calculated from Handicap Index, Course Par, Slope, Course Rating and playing conditions calculation (PCC)
Course Handicap Calculation “Excluding CR minus Par”
“Excluding CR minus Par” is used inside the CONGU and uses Handicap Index, Course Par, and Slope Rating to calculate the Course Handicap but NOT Course Rating.
England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are members of the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU)
Course Handicap Calculation “Including CR minus Par”
“Including CR minus Par” is used in the rest of the world and uses Handicap Index, Course Par, Slope Rating, and Course Rating to calculate the Course Handicap.
The Score differential or handicap score is used to calculate the player’s handicap (best 8 of 20 scores)
Score differential is a standardized measure of a golfer’s performance, considering the course being played. Typically, the overall score is adjusted before calculation, such as by using net double bogey. The course rating may also be adjusted to account for conditions on the day of play. Everyone uses the same calculation for score differential.
Why two different calculations, and does it matter?
The short answer is YES; it does matter. If the players always play in their own country and never in a country that uses the opposite system, then maybe not that much, but still.
Why would it matter if players always played on their home Course and never left the country?
Let’s look at an example.
Two players in Ireland are both members of the same club. The club has a moderate variance in difficulty (Slope Rating 114-125). In some cases, a club may have a wider difference (Slope Rating 110-150).
One player has a handicap index of 4,0 and is playing off back tee Blue 6742 yds. The player received a course handicap of 4 when playing inside the CONGU:
When “Excluding Course Rating minus Par”, the player has 4 received strokes no matter what tee the player chooses. Had the player been using “Including Course Rating minus Par” to calculate the Course Handicap, the received strokes would have been 6, so 2 more strokes if the player was outside the CONGU.
The other player has a handicap index of 18,0 and is playing off short tee Yellow 5622 yds. The player received a course handicap of 18 when playing inside the CONGU:
Had the player been using “Including Course Rating minus Par” to calculate the Course Handicap, the received strokes would have been 15, so 3 fewer strokes if the player was outside the CONGU.
If the player were playing from Blue tee, the received strokes would have been 22.
Note how a player receives more strokes from blue when “Including Course Rating minus Par” compared to “Excluding Course Rating minus Par” and fewer when playing a shorter tee.
Comparing the two calculations
Hcp 4.0 player of blue tee. The player shoots 81.
When comparing two identical rounds but using the two different calculations, it becomes clear that the score differential in some cases can be very different. The scores have been adjusted to hit the adj. Net Double Bogey to illustrate this more clearly.
The Score differential is used when calculating the best 8 out of the last 20 rounds to determine the player’s actual playing strength or hcp index.
Over 20 rounds, this player would get a lower handicap index with “Excluding CR minus Par” compared to “Including CR minus Par”.
Hcp 18,0 player of the yellow tee. The player shoots 98.
When comparing two identical rounds but using the two different calculations, it seems that the opposite is happening. Since the player has moved to a shorter tee with a different slope and rating, the outcome has been reversed. So, in this case, the player using “Excluding CR minus Par” will actually get a higher handicap than the player using “Including CR minus Par”.
Over 20 rounds this player would get a higher handicap index with “Excluding CR minus Par” compared to “Including CR minus Par”.
One could wonder if it would be beneficial to play of the short tee for a while before a big event; after all the yellow tee is 1122 yds. Shorter.
It might not be socially acceptable, but it is not against the rules.
How big is the difference in the two calculations?
Comparison between “Including CR minus Par” and “Excluding CR minus Par” for three different handicaps. Slope and Course Rating (CR) are paired in the most likely combination. For a complete mapping look at the 3D graph.
As the graph shows, there are courses/tees where the difference is minuscule, and the biggest difference is typically on the shortest or the longest tees.
3D graphs of all the combinations of Course Rating and Slope Rating for the two calculations for an HCP 18.0 Player. The jumps in the graphic are due to the Course HCP being rounded (click on the graph to zoom):
Understanding Net double bogey adjustment for maximum holes score
Upon further examination of the data, it may appear that there are only minor disparities between the two systems. This is especially true for players who typically play from the middle tees, where the variation is minimal. Additionally, for players who perform at or better than their handicap index, the differences between the systems become even less noticeable. So yes, there are cases where there are no differences whether you use “Including CR minus Par” or “Excluding CR minus Par”.
A 0.1 difference in a player’s handicap index could mean extra or fewer strokes in a game, which can make a difference in a competition.
If you are a player in the UK and have been adjusted in a local club, and are playing in a tournament outside of the UK, that can result in a disadvantage if you typically play from the long tee. If, on the other hand, you usually play from a shorter tee, that could result in an advantage when playing outside the UK.
The last thing is the confusion for the players. Let’s say a player from the UK goes to Spain and plays a good solid round of golf. The player gets 38 Stableford Points and happily returns the scorecard in for registration home in the UK. It turns out that the result was only 32 Stableford Point as the home club uses “Excluding CR minus Par” to calculate the Course Handicap.
Indeed, there is plenty of room for discussion and discourse when it comes to this issue. This is a complex topic with many different perspectives and opinions, and it’s essential to keep an open mind and be willing to engage in a healthy and productive dialogue.