UPDATE: Golf Australia has announced proposed changes to the Australian Golf Handicap System to be rolled out in September 2011. Click here to read the update

Here is everything you need to know about the new Australian Golf Handicap System adopted by  Golf Australia and Golflink.

There are two major differences that Australian golfers will experience with the new handicapping system:

Part 1: Calculating your Handicap:

The first major difference is how your handicap is calculated. Whereas the old Australian system had an intricate scheme of differentials and buffer zones, the USGA’s “handicap index” is calculated by averaging the best 8 of your last 20 scores. Simple.

The new system will be used to calculate the Australian Men’s and Women’s handicaps, and is the first step on the way to full adoption of the USGA Handicap System.

The new system: explained

The new system calculates an exact handicap by averaging the best 8 differentials (differential = gross score – AMCR/AWCR) of your 20 most recent valid scores), then multiplying that number by 0.93 and truncated to 1 decimal point.

The 0.93 is referred to as the “bonus for excellence” as described in the USGA Handicap System. In essence, this multiplier favours the low handicappers — and thus gives all golfers the incentive to lower their handicap – as the 0.93 factor results in a smaller reduction in lower handicaps versus higher ones.

GOLF Link, which manages the handicaps across Australia, has posted a Q&A Page on their website which answers many of the common questions that golfers have been asking throughout the last year. For more information: Golf Australia website

An example of how the handicap system will work is shown in the following table published by GOLF Link.

‘Rolling Sample’ Handicap Calculation Method. Example:

The example to the right shows a golfer’s last 20 scores with the best 8 “Played To” differentials highlighted. 

To calculate this player’s handicap we average out those 8 differentials (average of 17, 17, 12, 15, 13, 13, 15, 13) which gives us a value of 14.3.

This is then multiplied by 0.93 (the bonus for excellence) to give 13.368.

Finally any numbers after the 1st decimal point are truncated (deleted) to arrive at an exact handicap of 13.3.

This in turn is rounded to a playing handicap of 13.

Round Gross Score AMCR Played to
1st Most Recent Round 87 70 17
2nd Most Recent Round 87 70 17
3rd Most Recent Round 94 70 24
4th Most Recent Round 89 70 19
5th Most Recent Round 92 70 22
6th Most Recent Round 82 70 12
7th Most Recent Round 85 70 15
8th Most Recent Round 93 70 23
9th Most Recent Round 90 70 20
10th Most Recent Round 89 70 19
11th Most Recent Round 83 70 13
12th Most Recent Round 88 70 18
13th Most Recent Round 94 70 24
14th Most Recent Round 90 70 20
15th Most Recent Round 83 70 13
16th Most Recent Round 85 70 15
17th Most Recent Round 88 70 18
18th Most Recent Round 83 70 13
19th Most Recent Round 90 70 20
20th Most Recent Round 89 70 19

This is hoped to produce a more accurate handicap that better reflects your current/recent playing status as well as your future potential. It will also be very beneficial to players who, for example, may have suffered a dip in form, or conversely, those who may have had one lucky “day out” round. Thus, under the old system whereas players could only “blow out” by just 0.1 of a shot each time they fail to play to their handicap, the USGA system allows players undergoing a “rough patch” to see a few more strokes added to their handicap a bit faster than before. Of course, this opens the door to the potential handicap “manipulation” by dishonest players. To combat this (and other concerns), the USGA has an Equitable Stroke Control system in place.

A note on Equitable Stroke Control:

ESC sets a maximum score per hole when calculating your handicap – and it is used to minimise the effects of “blowout holes” on your handicap.

For example, say you take an 8 on a par-3 (we’ve all been there). On its own, that snowman could potentially throw your handicap well out of whack. With Equitable Stroke Control, the 8 will count towards your total score for the daily comp, but not all of those extra strokes will count towards your handicap. Depending on your course handicap, the maximum you could claim towards your handicap might be a double-bogey 5. After subtracting all the “extra” shots from your round, the resulting score is your adjusted gross score, which is what is used to calculate your handicap.

Note that Golf Australia has applied for an amendment to Equitable Stroke Control, which would use a Stableford-type adjustment system, which would require players to adjust their score downward to what is effectively a net double bogey…effectively the lowest score that would give no Stableford points. If this still seems a bit complicated, don’t worry. In the US, they have a fully computerised system to do most of this work for you, and it would seem that a system like GolfLink could easily be tweaked to fit. In addition, tournament directors and club managers will likely be instructed on the “ins and outs” of the system.


Part 2: Course Rating vs Slope:

The old Australian system factored in a Course Rating which, while beneficial in comparing courses, does not really assist a golfer at the more difficult tracks. For example, if your handicap is 15, then under the old system you would play at a 15 at any course, regardless of its level of difficulty. In the USGA-based Slope system, however, your 15 “handicap index” would be converted to a “course handicap” based on the difficulty of the course. (Slope can range from 55 to 155, with 113 being considered a course of average difficulty.) So on a local/easy track, your handicap for the day may be, say, a 12, while on a monster it could be a 17 or 18. (Luckily, the USGA has calculators and charts to make this all simple for you.)


To make the change, all of Australia’s 1600+ courses will be re-rated under the USGA stroke system. An army of course raters, recruited via the state golf associations under a selection criteria, are moving around the country undertaking the necessary changes.

Golf Australia believes the new system was long overdue. And they’re confident it will help increase golfers’ confidence in obtaining a golf handicap.

“This will provide the golfer with a greater sense of confidence in the robustness of the system itself,” Golf Australia rules and handicapping manager Simon Magdulski told Inside Golf.

“If you’re going to attract people to the game then you need to be giving them a quality product.

“I think this change will reassure people that they’ll be getting that and their handicap will be in line with international best practice.”

Magdulski doesn’t believe the current system has impacted on the development of golf.

He said it was impossible to pinpoint one reason why a golfer leaves the game or people don’t take it up.

“Golf Australia’s role is always to ensure it’s delivering the best outcome and ensuring we’re giving people a quality product.

“The better practices you have in place, the better opportunity you have to attract and retain people in the game.

“This has been a real positive for Golf Australia and the state associations.

“We believe it has the potential to flow into game development and retention.”

Magdulski said a uniform course rating system meant more consistent handicaps.

“The most obvious advantage of this process is being able to uniformly assess each course.

“That hadn’t been the case when we embarked on the process to improve the course rating system.

“That lack of uniformity was a material issue and it means that people’s handicaps become non-uniform.

“If everyone’s course rating is out then it’s not a problem. But that’s not the case so there are inconsistencies.”

Magdulski understands that club membership has stagnated in the past five years.

And while golf numbers remain strong, there’s a clear and evident shift towards social play.

He said Golf Australia was aware of the trends and would be undertaking the necessary work to ensure Australia’s handicap system could meet the needs of all golfers.

Interestingly, the task of rerating golf courses has generated plenty of interest in volunteering.

“What this has done is promoted a lot of people to become interested in volunteering,” Magdulski said.

“And I’d expect a lot of people who might not been used in this course rating process, might remain on databases and be able to volunteer in other exercises.

“It’s not something we contemplated, but it’s become a by-product of the rating changeover.”

Magdulski said course raters came from a diverse background but generally had considerable expertise.

“We’ve got people that have been great golfers, course designers and some people have a background in course administration.

“But they are all people with a passion for golf and a desire to make the game better.”

The Launch

In April of 2010, GOLF Link launched the new USGA-based system to calculate Australian golf handicaps, bringing more than 12 months of preparation (and anticipation) to a successful close.

Over the weekend of the launch, thousands of golfers (including yours truly) anxiously logged onto Golflink.com.au to check out how the new system had changed our handicaps. After a few minor delays –mostly due to GOLF Link smartly rolling out the changes in gradual steps to prevent massive server loads or website crashes — the new system was up and running.

Judy Pridmore, Golf Link CEO told Inside Golf “The launch created unprecedented levels of interest and activity on the Golf Link website. By the end of the handicapping changes, we had experienced nearly a month’s worth of traffic and are on track to hit a record 300,000 visitors and 3 million page impressions for April.”

The results of the switch, for some of us, were surprising.

Like many golfers out there, my own handicap went up by a full shot. Given my recent good form, however, I reckon it should be 1 or 2 shots lower (but please don’t tell my handicapper). Our publisher, Sam “the sandbagger” Arthur, also saw a 1-shot rise, though he’s arguing that, given his recent poor form, his new handicap should have been 5 shots higher still (tell him he’s dreamin!).

All kidding aside, our research has found that most handicaps haven’t been dramatically affected by the new system. On our web poll (www.insidegolf.com.au) we found that the majority of golfers (around 60%) stayed within 1 shot of their old handicap (see chart).

Phil Laurie, communications manager of Golf Queensland, says that the changes were inline with his expectations:

“The majority of players would have experienced a slight increase in handicap — which is what we expected given that players don’t play to their handicaps that often in competitions,” he said.

However, there were some truly big shifts for some of you out there.

Matthew Pitt, founder of the Bushranger Golf Social Club – which maintains active handicaps for over 160 of their 700 nationwide members – says there were some anomalies with the changeover, in particular among those with less than seven rounds in their history.

“We had one player – who only plays a few times a year — drop from 21 to 16 and a new member skyrocketed from 11 up to 26. A mate of mine who is a top amateur, went from a +1 to a +3, which is quite a jump at that level,” he said.

The move to the new system has not been without its critics. Players from all over the country have voiced their concerns about the changeover, claiming “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But many of us in the industry (myself included), have hailed the change as a positive step in the right direction.

“I’ve got to say that after all the analysis and presentations that I’ve done on the new system – the rolling handicap average is a far superior method to the old CCR calculation,” explains Laurie.

“It gives a much better representation of a player’s ability over a period of time. Before, you could have one blazing round and lose 1.5 strokes and then spend the next 6 months going out 0.1 each time you played,” he adds.


About Richard Fellner

A four-time winner of the Australian Golf Media Awards, including Best Photojournalism, Best Opinion, Best Column and Best Photographic Presentation, Inside Golf Group Editor Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic, having played the game for over 50 years (but has never gotten any better!) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Media Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and has been a featured guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others. Follow Richard Fellner on Quora


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8 Responses to "What the new Australian golf handicapping system could mean to you"

  1. Lyndsay  March 20, 2011

    I fail to see how this system is an improvement eg some casual golfers
    may only play 20 games in 6 months! And I believe you can now play
    with a hcp of 36 This means some of them would have rounds in excess
    of 120 I have been the handicapper of our social golf club Carramar
    40s + and we are not changing from the old system the members feel
    the way we are doing it suits us fine it gives everyone a chance in
    the winners circle
    Lyndsay Copeman Carramar 40s +

  2. Peter Fahl  October 22, 2011

    I think the old system was best as everyone new what the result was of a person breaking the CCR of the day together with the severity if you were in C Grade.At the moment I have seen a C Grade player shoot 46 Stableford points and loose one shot.When the new system came in I was altered from 10.4 to 8.6 and the C Grade player lost one shot from 29 to 28.

  3. ed douglass  December 21, 2011

    our club in the last three years has beenn inundated with rain ..as a result holes have been closed. many balls lost in the mud..the run has been nil and scores have been abysmal…this new system does not allow for these conditions being based on a theoretical scratch and eighteen marker playing the perfect game whereas the ccr system reflected the conditions of the day…my handicap went from 25 to 34 because of these
    conditions ..there has to be a compromise

  4. ed douglass  December 21, 2011

    further to my previous comment…it refers of course to the new course ratings which will determine the indexes and ratings of holes…and in addition one could theorise that my twenty flagged games could have been played in perfect conditions whereas my oppopnents twenty flagged games were recorded on just the opposite days…where is the balance

  5. michael gane  May 12, 2012

    hi i hope you can help me out can you please tell me how to calculate my handicap based on the last 13 game. i.ve calculated a handicap using the best of 20 game taking my best 8 games out of 13 games is there any diiferent for lesser games played.


    Michael gane

  6. Bruce Lott  February 3, 2013

    Hi. I have just taken on a new roll in my club as handicapper because know one new how to do it is there a program on a disk that i can buy for the social club that can help me were I can leave there names in it an just add there score each month.

    Thanks Regards.

  7. Pingback: How to Figure Out Your Golf Handicap in 5 Minutes | Talking Golf Online

  8. Pingback: How to Figure Out Your Golf Handicap in 5 Minutes | How to break 100 in golf | Best golf swing tips for beginners

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