These are division times in golf. But the game still has a unifying force.
The handicap system, designed to keep us all on an equal footing.
In January 2020, the USGA and R&A expanded the democratizing scope of the system by incorporating the six existing handicapping systems around the world into a single World Handicap System.
The WHS has brought a range of benefits.
Easy to understand, without sacrificing accuracy, it has made setting a handicap simple. The system also accommodates all golf cultures, allowing players of varying abilities to compete fairly on any course, in any format, anywhere on the planet. (Don’t have one? Head here to get started.)
Golfers have responded en masse.
In the United States alone, more than 2.86 million golfers now hold a handicap, an increase of about 10 percent from 2020. In 2021, more than 82 million scores were posted on the GHIN system, the digital platform that supports the WHS. In the last three months, through a joint initiative of the USGA and its 58 affiliated state and regional associations, some 50,000 golfers have joined the GHIN fold.
Of all the reasons to set and maintain a handicap, the most compelling is that it makes the game more fun. It gives you access to a wide variety of events. It also gives you personal goals, benchmarks to help you measure your progress. Not that you have to be a serious stick. To facilitate the establishment and maintenance of an index, government agencies have raised the maximum handicap to 54.
“I think the biggest myth about disabilities is that people think, ‘I’m not good enough to have one,'” says Steve Edmondson, managing director of USGA Handicapping and Course Rating. “That defeats the purposes of a handicap – it’s meant to make the game more enjoyable for everyone.”
A growing number of golfers have learned this. As they set handicaps, the golf world has also learned more about them.
Here’s a look at some disability facts and figures, along with a look at recently added disability-related innovations and more to come.
The game is more global than ever
Before 2020, the six separate handicap systems in use around the world included just over 80 countries. There are currently 119 countries in the WHS.
It takes time to add a country
For a country to be part of a handicap system, its courses must be graded. The governing bodies got to work on this long before the WHS was launched. In some countries, it took more than 5 years to qualify the courses. On average, the game’s governing bodies and their affiliated state and regional associations rate between 3,000 and 4,000 courses a year.
The average handicap has remained stable
In recent decades, the average handicap has not changed much. And it has been fairly stable since the launch of the WHS. Today, the world average is 14.5. In the United States, it’s 14.2 for men and 25.7 for women, numbers that are pretty much on par with those around the world. The USGA will have more comprehensive disability data later this year, thanks to a new centralized disability calculation platform.
More men play, but more women join
Men make up about 79 percent of golfers with disabilities and women make up about 21 percent. But girls and women currently represent the fastest growing segment of the game.
The technicians are always working on their games.
The move to WHS came with a complete overhaul of the GHIN platform, which was significantly simplified for the user even as it added a range of sophisticated features. In association with GolfLogix, which is an affiliate of GOLF.com, greed reading features and GPS technology have been added, giving golfers quick access to valuable information through their mobile phones, all in accordance with the Rules of Golf. Golf.
Starting this month, the GHIN app is also compatible with Apple Watch, bringing the power of scoring and tracking stats to golfers’ wrists.
Other innovations are on the way, including more advanced stat tracking, as well as a games feature that will make it easier for golfers to keep track of friendly competitions. Who gets hit on which holes in a four-ball game for a beer? Let GHIN take care of that. By 2024, the USGA also plans to add features that will make it easier for golfers to record 9-hole and alternate-length rounds.