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Quiz Time

How well do you know the World Handicap System? Take our quiz to find out



April 16, 2024

As of Monday (April 15), every state in the U.S. is officially in "posting season" for handicap scores, so now is probably a good time to brush up your knowledge of how the relatively new (since 2020) World Handicap System works. In fact, on Jan. 1, the WHS was updated to reflect all the data that has been captured since its initial roll out. The latest version of the system has been altered to better identify your playing ability and make any events you're competing in more equitable.

Sparked by the pandemic and a resurgence of golf-course construction, you might be interested to learn that there are now more than 3.5 million golfers in the U.S. who have an official Handicap Index. That's a roughly 35-percent increase in three years, so your chances of going head-to-head against another card-carrying member of the Golfers Handicap Information Network (GHIN) are pretty good.

So what do you really know about the WHS and how it is designed? Questions arise from time to time from everyday golfers who are sometimes caught off guard by the upward or downward movement of their Index. With that in mind, we asked Dean Knuth, the prime developer of the USGA's Course Rating and Slope Rating system, and Steve Edmondson, the USGA's current managing director of handicapping and course rating, to come up with a 12-question quiz to test your knowledge—and perhaps help you become more familiar with the system's intricacies.

Up for the challenge? Questions (and answers) below.


1. What is a Handicap Index?

a) A portable value that represents a golfer’s demonstrated playing ability
b) The number of strokes needed to play to par
c) The number of strokes needed to play to the Course Rating
d) A golfer’s average score for an 18-hole round

2. How many scores are used in my handicap record?

a) 10
b) 8
c) 20
d) 5

3. For golfers with a Handicap Index, what is the maximum hole score for handicap purposes?

a) The max is always double par
b) The max is net double bogey
c) There is no max and the gross score must be recorded
d) The max is always an 8 for a par 5, a 7 for a par 4 and a 6 for a par 3

4. For players with a course handicap of 18, if they score a 9 on a par 3, what score would they post for that hole?

a) 5
b) 9
c) 7
d) 6

5. How many 18-hole scores must be posted to establish a Handicap Index?

a) 20
b) 5
c) 3
d) 8

6. On the 10th hole of individual match, you hole out to win the hole, so your opponent scoops up his ball on the putting green as he has lost the hole. What must your opponent record for handicap purposes?

a) Net double bogey
b) Most likely score
c) The score can't be recorded for handicap purposes
d) One more stroke than what his ball lied at the time of the hole out

7. Your Course Handicap for the tees you're playing is 16, and you're playing a match against a player who is a 10 from his tees. Where do you receive strokes?

a) On the 16 hardest holes
b) On holes one through 16
c) On the 10 holes handicapped on the scorecard one through 10
d) On the six holes handicapped on the scoredcard one through six


Reg Charity

8. What is the maximum Handicap Index?

a) 54
b) 36
c) There is no maximum
d) Depends on the golfer's gender

9. You lost a match 4 and 3 and only played 15 holes. What do you post on holes 16, 17 and 18?

a) Nothing. You post your score hole by hole for the 15 holes you played and an expected score will be added automatically for the remaining holes.
b) Par plus any handicap strokes you would have received
c) You can't post match-play scores to determine a Handicap Index
d) Net double bogey

10. What does a Course Rating represent?

a) How hard a course plays for the typical bogey golfer
b) Your expected score if you subtract your Course Handicap from your actual score
c) The playing difficulty of a course for a golfer with a 0 Index
d) What even par should be for that course

11. You only have time to play nine holes, how will that round impact your Index?

a) You have to post it and wait until you play another nine-hole round to post it as an 18-hole score
b) Nine-hole rounds do not factor into your official Handicap Index
c) You post your nine-hole round and a scoring formula determines what your 18-hole score would be
d) You apply a score of net par to the remaining nine holes to determine your 18-hole score

12. On family vacation, you take the kids to play an 18-hole par-3 course (2,250 yards from the tips). Can you post this round?

a) Yes, assuming it has a Course Rating. All rounds played on 18-hole courses of 1,500 yards or longer are eligible
b) No. The minmium length for a course to where handicap rounds are posted is 4,000 yards
c) No. Par-3 courses can't have a Course Rating
d) Yes, but you can't post any score higher than net bogey


1. (a); 2. (c) The latest 20 scores are used and the best eight “differentials” calculate the Handicap Index. Differentials are correct scores for the Course Rating and Slope Rating of the tees that you played; 3. (b); 4. (d) The maximum hole score under Equitable Stroke Control is net double bogey, so record a 6 (5 plus the handicap stroke equals six). Note: Turn-in your actual hole scores in tournaments; 5. (c); 6. (b) But not to exceed net double bogey; 7. (d); 8. (a) This changed in 2020, where previously the max was 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women, but now 54.0 is the max for men and women; 9. (a) Prior to January, net par was used for the remaining holes to allow an 18-hole score to be posted. With the 2024 changes, now when someone plays 10-17 holes, the golfer will post the score hole-by-hole, so the appropriate Score Differential can be calculated from the holes that were played to combine with the expected score for the holes not played; 10. (c) Course rating applies to "expert" golfers while a Slope Rating is computed from the difference between the Bogey Rating (Bogey golfer’s expected score) and the Course Rating. Slope is meant to predict how fast scores go up as the handicap goes up, so that handicaps are portable from course to course. 11. (c) This is one of the new changes to the WHS effective Jan. 1. 12. (a) Also a new change for this year, 18-hole courses 1,500 yards are longer are eligible for a Course Rating. Nine-hole courses only need be 750 yards.