Rules, Ratings and Handicaps

British Columbia Golf administers the Rules of Golf and handicap system as developed by the world governing bodies of golf and administered in Canada by Golf Canada. We offer workshops, publications and on-the-job training to volunteers who are interested in assisting with tournaments and events around British Columbia.

Questions on Rules or Handicap? Any Questions on Course Ratings? Email 


The R&A and USGA Announce 2023 Rules of Golf Update

Via Golf Canada

The R&A and the USGA have unveiled a regular update to the Rules of Golf as they continue to make the Rules easier to understand and apply. The new Rules will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

The 2023 edition continues the modernization process, with an emphasis on both inclusion and sustainability. For the first time, the modified Rules for players with disabilities have been fully incorporated into the playing rules without the need to adopt a local rule.

The governing bodies, supported by longstanding partner Rolex, will also promote digital and mobile app access to the Rules while significantly reducing the production and distribution of more than four million printed books.

Several penalties have been relaxed and language has been clarified to help golfers at all levels of play.

Key changes include:

  • Modifications for Players with Disabilities: The modifications to the Rules for players with disabilities have been made part of the Rules and are in effect for all players who are classified in the categories covered in Rule 25
  • Handicap Usage in Stroke Play: With the continued growth of score-posting technology following the adoption of the World Handicap System™, players are no longer penalized for failing to put their handicap on their scorecard in stroke play. The committee will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy of each player’s handicap
  • Club Damaged During Round: The Rule has been amended to allow a player to replace a club that is damaged during a round, provided the player did not damage it through abuse
  • Ball Moved by Natural Forces: A new exception provides that a ball at rest must be replaced if it moves to another area of the course or comes to rest out of bounds after being dropped, placed or replaced
  • Back-on-the-Line Relief Procedure: The back-on-the-line relief procedure, often used for penalty area and unplayable ball relief, has been simplified so that the player now drops their ball on the line, and the ball must come to rest within one club-length of where it is dropped

Golfers will be able to learn more about the major changes and review the official 2023 Rules of Golf by visiting and Full updates to the official Rules of Golf digital applications will be available starting on 1 January.

Grant Moir, Director of Rules at The R&A, said, “We are continuing to improve and adapt the Rules of Golf to ensure they are in line with the way the modern game is played. That means making the Rules easier to understand and access for all golfers and making the sport more inclusive and welcoming for golfers with disabilities. We are also working to ensure golf has a sustainable long-term future and making more resources available digitally is key to achieving that goal.”

“The growing popularity of golf continues to guide our decision-making and modernizing the Rules to promote inclusivity and accessibility is clearly a great step in the right direction,” said Thomas Pagel, USGA Chief Governance Officer. “This latest evolution is especially important to the community of golfers with disabilities, and we hope it will encourage more people to play and enjoy the game.”

Players are reminded that the current edition of the Rules of Golf (2019) still applies when playing or posting scores for the remainder of 2022.

As an extension of its support of the Rules of Golf worldwide, Rolex has made a commitment to support The R&A and the USGA’s efforts to modernize golf’s Rules. The Swiss watchmaker’s contribution to excellence in golf is based on a rich heritage stretching back more than 50 years, forged through pivotal partnerships at every level of the game, from the sport’s leading professional and amateur competitions and organizations, to players at the pinnacle of their sport worldwide.


World Handicap System

The World Handicap System was implemented starting in January of 2020. You can click HERE for details on the WHS and how it came about. Also, below are the components of the WHS along with accompanying videos to help explain how it will work. 

Click HERE to read John Gordon's column on the WHS for Golf Canada.

9 Things You Need to Know

1. Rules of Handicapping 

Handicapping has been compressed into 7 rules that cover the fundamentals, determining appropriate scores to post, handicap computation and administration. This way the Rules of Handicapping simulates the Rules of Golf. 

2. Handicap Factor is changing to Handicap Index

Long time ago Canada parted ways with the U.S. in using Handicap Factor instead of Index. But now we’re sort of going back home and WHS will use Handicap Index. 

3. Your Handicap Index may change 

Handicap Index will average your eight best scores out of your most recent 20 (currently, it’s 10 out of 20 with a .96 multiplier). In most cases for golfers in Canada, it will change less than one stroke and most likely downward. 

4. You need to know your Course Handicap 

Course Handicap will be the number of strokes needed to play to par. This will result in greater variance in that number and presents a change, as historically it has represented the number of strokes needed to play to the Course Rating. It is important that an accurate par be established for each hole on a golf course for both men and women. British Columbia Golf will be the final adjudicator of par. 

5. Net Double Bogey 

The maximum hole score (currently Equitable Stroke Control or ESC) for each player will be a Net Double Bogey. Net Double Bogey is Par + 2 + any handicap strokes the player receives. 

6. Safeguards in the new system 

The new system will limit extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index. WHS introduces two new concepts, Soft Cap and Hard Cap to take effect only once a player has at least 20 

acceptable scores in their scoring record. There is no such cap on the amount by which a player’s Handicap Index can decrease. There will also be an automatic adjustment to the Handicap Index when an exceptional score of at least 7 strokes better is posted. The exceptional score reduction will be applied whether the score is a tournament or regular play. 

7. Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) 

PCC determines whether playing conditions on the day differed from normal conditions to the extent that an adjustment is needed to compensate. It is a daily statistical procedure that compares the scores submitted by players on the day against expected scoring patterns. PCC accounts for abnormal course or weather conditions to ensure that scores reflect when a course plays significantly different than its established Course Rating and Slope Rating. 

If a PCC adjustment is necessary, an adjustment of -1.0, 0.0, +1.0, +2.0 or +3.0 may be applied to score differentials for that day. 

8. Maximum Handicap Index 

The maximum Handicap Index that can be issued to a player is 54.0 (currently it is 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women). But the Committee in charge of a competition may set a maximum limit for entry into a competition. 

9. Stroke Index Allocation 

There is a new procedure to calculate the order of holes at which handicap strokes are to be given or received. Stroke index allocation are to be applied over 18-holes, split into six triads with each hole ranked on its playing difficulty relative to par. The difficulty of each hole can be determined objectively using hole-by-hole data provided from the Course Rating. 

In the past, Course Rating has had no bearing on stroke index allocation. 


Some Terms Explained

1. Basis of Calculation of Handicap Index
The 8 best of most recent 20 score differentials, which includes a Playing Conditions Calculation to account for any abnormal course or weather conditions.

2. Frequency of Revisions
A player’s Handicap Index will update daily, provided the player submitted a score the day before. Otherwise, no update will take place.

3. Handicap Formula
A general overview of the philosophy of and elements contributing to the Handicap Formula.

4. Course Handicap Calculation
Determining the number of strokes a player receives in relation the Par of the tees being played, including a Course Rating minus Par element. This is the number that is used to determine the maximum holes score for handicap purposes.

5. Playing Handicap
The handicap used that maximizes equity when competing by applying a handicap allowance for a specific format.

6. Net Double Bogey
The maximum hole score for handicap purposes. This maximum is double bogey plus any handicap strokes a player receives based on their Course Handicap.

7. Maximum Handicap Index
The maximum Handicap Index for all golfers is 54.0, regardless of gender.

8. Minimum Scores to Obtain a Handicap Index
The minimum is 54 holes worth of scores, most often via three 18-hole scores (including nine-hole scores that are combined into 18-hole scores).

9. Acceptable Scores
Determining which scores are acceptable for handicap purposes, focusing on playing by the Rules of Golf and playing one’s own ball.

10. Treatment of Nine-Hole Scores
Nine-holes scores are combined in the order that they are submitted and then used to produce an 18-hole Score Differential.

11. Playing Conditions Calculation
When abnormal course or weather conditions cause scores to be unusually high or low on a given day, a “Playing Conditions Calculation” will adjust Score Differentials to better reflect a player’s actual performance.

12. Exceptional Score Reduction
A score that produces a Score Differential of 7.0 strokes or more below the Handicap Index will result in an Exceptional Score Reduction that changes the Handicap Index. This reduction is in addition to the normal 8 of 20 calculation and depends on how much better the Score Differential is in comparison to the Handicap Index used during the round.

13. Handicap Index Caps
A Soft Cap and Hard Cap will be included in the calculation to limit the extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index within a 12-month period. These caps are in relation to the player’s “Low Handicap Index.”

14. Handicap Review
An audit-like procedure by a Handicap Committee reviewing the Handicap Index of member(s) of a club to assure that the Handicap Index is reflective of demonstrated ability and scoring potential.

15. Course Rating System
The basis for the World Handicap System. It is also an indication of the difficulty of a golf course for the scratch player under normal course and weather conditions.

16. Certification Resources
Golf Clubs are required to complete a certification process in order to use the World Handicap System. Participation in a certification seminar and passing a test exhibiting knowledge about the World Handicap System is required.