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.


Major Changes

For information on some of the bigger changes brought in by the World Handicap System, please click on a topic to view an informative video:

Playing Conditions Calculation 

Maximum Hole Score (Net Double Bogey)

Soft and Hard Caps

Exceptional Scores 

Maximum Handicap Index

Acceptable Scores

Playing Handicap

Timely Submission of Scores

Handicap Committee Review


Rules of Handicapping

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.

Rules of Handicapping (Full Publication)


For more information including:

  • Frequently asked questions
  • Official game formats
  • “Ask an expert” contact information

Please visit the Handicapping section of the Golf Canada website HERE


Course Rating

The purpose of the Golf Canada Course Rating System is to measure and rate the relative difficulty of golf courses across Canada so that a player’s Handicap Factor is accurate and transportable from golf course to golf course. The Course Rating System takes into account factors that affect the playing difficulty of a golf course including yardage, effective playing length and number of obstacle factors such as topography, elevation, doglegs, prevailing wind, bunkering, etc.

After a thorough study of the Course and Slope Rating System developed by the United States Golf Association (USGA), Golf Canada approved and adopted the system for Canada in January 1995.

The Golf Canada Course Rating System consists of two basic elements:

Golf Canada 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).

Golf Canada 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.

Every member golf course should have an Golf Canada Course Rating and Slope Rating for each set of tees at the course. These ratings are used in the calculation of the Golf Canada Handicap Factor and for determining a player’s Course Handicap for a given round. Accuracy and consistency are the keys to effective course rating. Alberta Golf rates golf courses in accordance with the system and this ensures that Course Ratings are accurate and uniform from coast to coast. Only an Alberta Golf team of course raters may rate golf courses.