Steven Edmondson is the Joint Director for the World Handicap System initiative, working in collaboration with The R&A, and other handicap authorities and countries around the world to design and launch a World Handicap System that will serve the game of golf for years to come.



The Handicapping and Course Rating Department is responsible for writing and interpreting the Rules of Handicapping, and the USGA Course Rating System – which are used to enable golfers of all abilities to play and compete on an equitable basis.This includes working with Authorized Golf Associations responsible for carrying out the important administration and oversight of the handicap system within the U.S., as well as the on-course portion of the course rating process.  


Additionally, the USGA works with countries from around the world that use the USGA Course Rating System — which will become part of the World Handicap System in 2020 — or the USGA Handicap System, ensuring that the standard used around the world is applied accurately and with consistency. 


The Association works with golfers and golf clubs regarding the use of the USGA Handicap System. Golfers are advised on how to establish a Handicap Index or the application of procedures or adjustments when scores are posted. For golf clubs, the USGA helps ensure various procedures are followed correctly that help to level the playing field, regardless of format of play or the ability of the golfer. 




You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?  

To improve. The game continues to evolve and ensuring that the Handicap System evolves and continues to bring greater enjoyment for those that play the game is clearly a driver for me and my team. I am fortunate to have a great team that simply bring it every day.


Why the need for a World Handicap System? 

The game has had a single set of playing Rules since 1952. The time was right to do the same with the Rules of Handicapping, elevating it with the other sets of Rules (Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status, and Equipment Rules). A single measurement for a golfer’s ability level used worldwide will be great for the game.


What was deficient from what was done for so many previous years — particularly for American golfers? 

Existing handicap systems have served well for over 100 years. However, the development of the World Handicap System allowed us to consider principles from each handicap system and the various golfing cultures from around the world, and introduce several characteristics that are simply more modern for today.  


Within the U.S., characteristics such as a Daily Revision and the Playing Conditions Calculation that considers abnormal playing conditions will be impactful for American golfers. Additionally, the U.S., like many other countries, will leverage technology to improve the portability and integrity of the handicap system, as well as enhance the experience for the golfer.


How and when did this need for a World Handicap System get started?  

The World Handicap System began in initial discussion as early as 2011, with 2012 being an important milestone after receiving unanimous support from the existing handicap authorities and countries from around the world.  


Will the USGA be doing any outreach efforts in educating golfers on what’s going to take place in 2020?  

In the U.S. each Authorized Golf Association has attended an education workshop and completed certification with many of them now educating golf clubs within their territories. Internationally, The USGA and The R&A have together conducted 10 workshops in countries around the world where approximately 100 national associations have participated in one of the WHS education workshops.  

At the same time, the USGA along with many other countries have been using its social media channels to begin educating golfers on what to expect in 2020. We have really focused on 5 key changes and will continue to do so through the implementation period.  

Posting all scores is a crucial ingredient for a handicap system to work. How can individuals and clubs of all types encourage others to do so?  

Spot on. A measurement of a golfer’s ability is actually their “demonstrated” ability and is only determined based on the posting of all scores. This is at the core of the Handicap System. With the move to a daily revision beginning in January, it will be an ideal opportunity to remind golfers to post all their scores, and post them the day the round was played so that the score can be used for the Playing Conditions Calculation – which is really a statistical model based on how many golfers played outside of their expected score on the day.  With peer review, fellow golfers make a difference and should encourage everyone to post their scores.

Will this new system mean a differentiation in terms of how handicaps are calculated and will that mean more stroke allocations for higher handicap players?  

The WHS is modeled after the USGA Handicap System, which is a better-half average system. Instead of 10 of 20 with a bonus for excellence multiplier, it will be 8 of 20 without the multiplier. This change is slightly more responsive to good scores, and slightly less responsive to bad scores. This also rewards the more consistent player regardless of low/high handicap.  

The strokes received for players of similar consistency will remain the same (equity retained or improved slightly). In general, the previous system favored the lower handicap player, while the WHS will favor the more consistent player throughout the spectrum of handicap ranges.


Besides the handicap system changing  – if you could change one other thing in golf unilaterally what would it be and why? 

Accessibility. Everyone who plays the game enjoys the unique benefits of this game, its traditions and life-long lessons. While there has been progress in accessibility and many great programs on this matter, there remains a lot of work to do. 

All of the major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA — are all seeking ways to attract new players to the game especially Millennials, women and minorities. How does the new World Handicap System help do that?  

The development of the WHS included market research and focus groups from around the world where this was one of the topics. The feedback helped to shape a WHS that is more inclusive – such as increasing the maximum Handicap Index to 54.0 for both men and women for those who believe they are “not good enough” to have a Handicap Index, or requiring only 54 holes to establish a Handicap Index.  

Additional efforts are underway to use the WHS to help promote the uniqueness of this game – that is the ability for anyone to play and compete regardless of age, gender or ability level. It is the great equalizer and truly makes the game more enjoyable.

Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from? 

It’s just a game — don’t sweat the small stuff — but make sure to enjoy it.


For more info go to: