Handicapping in Canada

Handicapping is at the core of equitable competition in amateur golf, with few other sports enabling players to compete equitably across different skill levels the way that golf does.

Golf Canada is the Authorized National body that is responsible for implementing and administering the Rules of Handicapping in Canada in co-operation with the provincial golf associations.

The purpose of the World Handicap System (WHS) is to make the game of golf more enjoyable for golfers by providing a consistent means of measuring one’s performance and progress and to enable golfers of differing abilities to compete, or play a casual round, with anyone else on a fair and equal basis.

Through the WHS, each golfer establishes a “Handicap Index” which is the measure of a player’s demonstrated ability on a course of standard playing difficulty.

The Handicap Index is calculated using the lowest 8 of the player’s most recent 20 Score Differentials and updated with each new round played. The Handicap Index travels worldwide with the golfer from course to course (and tee to tee) and is used to calculate a “Course Handicap”. The Course Handicap is the number of strokes a golfer receives from the specific set of tees at the course. The more difficult the golf course, the more strokes the golfer receives and vice versa.

The relative difficulty of a golf course is determined jointly by Golf Canada and the provincial golf association using the WHS Course Rating System as administered by Golf Canada. Specially trained Course Rating Teams evaluate the difficulty of a golf course based on such variables as length and a number of obstacle factors (e.g. topography, bunkers, lateral & crossing obstacles, severity of rough, etc).

Only Golf Canada member golf clubs are permitted to use the World Handicap System and Course Rating System (as administered by Golf Canada) including related trademarks and service marks. Member golf clubs must do so in a manner that preserves the integrity and reliability of these systems. All rights to use these systems and related trademarks and service marks terminate should the golf club cease to be a member in good standing with Golf Canada

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Golf Canada is pleased to offer the Rules of Handicapping! This is the complete book of information and instruction about the World Handicap System (WHS). It has been redesigned to follow a similar template to the Rules of Golf; using simple, plain language to outline the principles and procedures of Handicapping </p>

The Rules of Handicapping consists of revised definitions, seven (7) rules – each of which are prefaced with a Principle Statement (setting out the philosophy behind the Rule), and Appendices which contain further, more detailed information. Interpretations, examples and illustrations have also been included to highlight and explain key principles. The Rules of Handicapping are divided into five sections:

1) Fundamentals of Handicapping (Rule 1)

2) Scores for Handicap Purposes (Rules 2-4)

3) Handicap Calculation and Updating a Handicap Index (Rules 5-6)

4) Administration of a Handicap Index (Rule 7)

5) Appendices (A-G)

Use the Rules of Handicapping whenever a question arises about the World Handicap System. Knowing the proper procedure will help provide a framework for equitable and enjoyable games.As the owner of the term Golf Canada and a Licensee of USGA and The R&A trademarks and service marks included in the Rules of Handicapping, Golf Canada has the sole right to authorize the use of those marks by others.

As the governing body of golf in Canada, Golf Canada requires that all member clubs have at least one certified Handicap Official, as well as have a Handicap Committee in place.

Handicap Certification can be achieved either through the Golf Canada online seminar and certification test, or through Handicap Seminars conducted by your Provincial Golf Association.

The Online Rules of Handicapping Certification consist of a series of videos that will guide you through the Rules of Handicapping, providing the knowledge necessary to achieve certification and successfully oversee handicap duties at your club.

Your local Provincial Association may also be presenting Rules of Handicapping education opportunities throughout the season. These sessions are an opportunity for club representatives, volunteers and any member interested to improve their knowledge in Handicapping. These sessions offer the chance to interact with others, share ideas, and ask questions.

For more information regarding additional dates, venues and registration please follow the link below for your respective Province:

The following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding handicapping and course rating. Please read carefully to see if any questions you may have are answered in this section. If you do not receive the answer you are looking for in the FAQ’s, feel free to “Ask a Handicap Expert”

  • Can a person obtain a Handicap Index without being a member of a golf club?

    In order to obtain a Handicap Index, a player must be a member of a golf club that is affiliated with Golf Canada.Golf Canada also has a “Public Player” program that provides golfers the opportunity to play golf at different courses and still have the opportunity to obtain an official Handicap Index and be a member of Golf Canada and your provincial golf association. To find out more about membership, click here.

  • What scores are acceptable for posting purposes?

    With the goal of making Handicapping inclusive and accessible, scores from a variety of playing formats are acceptable, providing golfers with an accurate record of their demonstrated ability. A score is acceptable for handicap purposes if the round has been played:

    • Over at least the minimum number of holes required. To post an 18-hole score, 14 or more holes must be played. To post a 9-hole score, 7-13 holes must be played.
    • On a golf course with a valid Course and Slope Rating, whether at your home course, away course, or out of country
    • On a golf course during its active season
    • In the company of at least one other person
    • In an authorized format of play
    • By the Rules of Golf

    Want to know more about acceptable scores? Watch this short video

  • What score do I post if I am conceded a stroke in match play?

    If a player starts but does not complete a hole or is conceded a stroke, that player shall record (for handicap purposes) their most likely score. The most likely score consists of the number of strokes already taken (including any penalty strokes incurred during play of the hole) plus the number of strokes the player would most likely require to complete the hole from that position.

    Most Likely Scores should be determined on any hole in accordance with the following guidelines:

  • What score do I post for a hole not played?

    If a player does not play a hole or plays it other than under the Rules of Golf (except for preferred lies), their score for that hole for handicap purposes shall be “Net Par”. Net Par is calculated as the Par of the hole plus any strokes that the golfer gives/receives.

    Example: A player with a Course Handicap of 10 receives a handicap stroke on the first 10 allocated handicap-stroke holes. If the player does not play the sixth allocated stroke hole (a par 4) because of construction on the green, the player shall record a Net Par of 5 for handicap purposes.

  • What do we do if we’ve made changes to our course or have questions about the accuracy of our Course Ratings?

    All Course Ratings are determined and issued by your provincial golf association. A club may never rate its own course or make adjustments to the course rating you have been issued. If you have made temporary (e.g. temporary tees/greens) or permanent changes to your golf course your club should notify the provincial golf association.

    In the case of temporary changes, the association will decide whether scores made under those conditions will be accepted for handicap purposes and whether the Course or Slope rating should be modified temporarily.

    If you have made permanent changes to your course, the course will be re-rated by the provincial association.

    Watch this short video to learn more about Course & Slope Rating

  • Does Golf Canada provide handicap calculation software?

    Yes, all member clubs are entitled to utilize the internet-based Golf Canada Score Centre as a member service.

  • How can I learn more about the Rules of Handicapping?

    The Rules of Handicapping is the complete book that outlines all aspects of Handicapping. It has been redesigned using easy to understand language as well as examples and illustrations to highlight key principles. You can view the Rules of Handicapping online for free, or can purchase a hard copy here.

    Golf Canada offers online presentations to help you understand the Rules of Handicapping better. If you would like to learn about what has changed with the launch of the World Handicap System, then this presentation is for you!

    For a more in depth understanding, our Rules of Handicapping Certification seminar is available for free online. If you’d like to become Handicap Certified, you can also take the certification test.

    Additionally, you can “Ask an Expert” for any other questions that you might have.

  • Should I post the scores from my winter vacation?

    If the round(s) played were in an area observing an Active Handicap Season then you must post the score(s). Most of the southern United States observe a year-round Active Season, but you can confirm the Active Season for where you are playing by calling the State golf association for that area or by visiting the USGA Handicap Active and Inactive Season Schedule.

  • What are the Active Handicap Seasons for posting rounds played in Canada?

    BC = Mar.1 – Nov.15
    AB = Mar.1 – Oct.31
    SK = Apr.15 – Oct.31
    MB = Apr.15 – Oct.31
    ON = Apr.15 – Oct.31
    QC = Apr.15 – Oct.31
    NS = Apr.15 – Oct.31
    NB = May.1 – Oct.31
    PE = Apr.16 – Nov.14
    NL = Apr.1 – Nov. 30

  • How soon after playing do I have to post my score for handicap purposes?

    A player should submit their score as soon as possible on the day of play and before midnight local time. This ensures that your Handicap Index is updated for the following day and that your score is included in the analysis for the Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC).

  • How do I post a Tournament Score?

    Under the World Handicap System, Tournament Scores will not be weighted the same way as they previously were. Now, any exceptional score (regardless of if it was made in a competitive or recreational round) could impact your Handicap Index to ensure that your Index is accurate based on your demonstrated playing ability.

  • Should only a percentage of a player’s Course Handicap be used in competition?

    Handicap Allowances are designed to provide equity for players of all levels of ability in each format of play (over both 9 Holes and 18 Holes). Handicap Allowances are applied to the Course Handicap, with the resulting number reflecting your “Playing Handicap”. The full list of recommended Handicap Allowances is available in Appendix C of the Rules of Handicapping.

  • Does my club have to have a Handicap Committee?

    Yes. As per the Golf Canada Member Club Handicap License Agreement, in order to issue Handicap Indexes to its members, a club must have a Handicap Committee.

  • How is a Course Handicap calculated?

    The way that a Course Handicap is calculated has changed with the WHS. A player’s Course Handicap is calculated as:(Handicap Index) x (Slope Rating of the tee played / 113) + (Course Rating – Par). The resulting figure is rounded off to the nearest whole number (.5 or more is rounded upward).

  • In a match between a man and a woman, if a hole is a par-5 for women and a par-4 for men and both players score a 4 on the hole, who wins the hole?

    In match play, par is irrelevant. The player who scores the lowest on the hole wins the hole.

  • What is the maximum handicap a person can have?

    The maximum Handicap Index has changed. Where previously there were different values for men and women, now there is one maximum Handicap Index regardless of gender. The maximum Handicap Index is 54.0.

    Note: A maximum Handicap Factor will convert to a Course Handicap that exceeds the maximum on golf courses with a Slope Rating greater than 113.

  • I’ve just played golf abroad. Can I post the scores for handicap purposes?

    Only scores from courses with a Course and Slope Rating are eligible for handicap purposes. With the alignment of national golf associations/federations abroad, we will see more and more courses with valid Course and Slope ratings. Please note that depending on the WHS launch date in each country, some courses may be delayed in being issued a Course and Slope Rating.

  • How are 9-hole scores combined to create an 18-hole score?

    9-hole scores are combined regardless of where they were played, i.e. a front nine score from one course will be combined with a front nine score from another course. The 18-hole combined score is the sum of the nine-hole Course Ratings and the average of the nine-hole Slope Ratings (.5 rounded up).

  • How do I post a score for a hole with a temporary green?

    If the hole’s character and playing length have not been altered and you can play the hole under the Rules of Golf, then you can post your actual score on the hole. Otherwise, you must post a Net Par for the hole.

  • Can I post a score if I play alone?

    No, a golfer cannot post a score for Handicap purposes if you are unaccompanied during a round.

  • Can I post a score if I have played two balls?

    No. A score made with either ball must not be posted as such scores are not made in accordance with the Rules of Golf.

  • How can I become Handicap Certified?

    Handicap Certification can be achieved either through the Golf Canada online seminar and certification test, or through Handicap Seminars conducted by your Provincial Golf Association. If you have any additional questions, please “Ask a Handicap Expert

The Course Rating System is an integral aspect of the World Handicap System, working together with the Rules of Handicapping to allow for enjoyable and equitable play between golfers.The purpose of the Course Rating System is to measure and rate the relative difficulty of golf courses so that a player’s Handicap Index is accurate and transportable from golf course to golf course, and tee to tee. The Course Rating System takes into account factors that affect the playing difficulty of a golf course including measured length, effective playing length and a number of obstacle factors such as topography, bunkering, recoverability from rough, crossing & lateral obstacles, trees, etc.

The Course Rating System consists of two basic elements:

Course Rating – the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers under normal course and weather conditions expressed as number of strokes (e.g. 72.5).

Slope Rating – the evaluation of the relative difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers compared to the difficulty of the course for scratch golfers. The lowest Slope Rating is 55 and the highest 155. A course of standard playing difficulty will have a Slope Rating of 113.

Accuracy and consistency are the keys to effective course rating. Golf Canada and the provincial golf associations work together to rate golf courses and ensure that Course Ratings are accurate and uniform from coast to coast. Only Golf Canada authorized provincial golf associations may rate golf courses. If a club disagrees with its ratings, it may request that the provincial golf association review the ratings.