Rules and Rants

Changes to Golf Canada’s Handicap System for 2016 released

(Chuck Russell/ Golf Canada)

The 2016 golf season will see the implementation of a new Handicap cycle. This two-year cycle is effective March 1, 2016 – February 28, 2018. Below you will find information regarding the changes that have been made in the Golf Canada Handicap Manual for a quick reference Six significant changes are seen in the upcoming edition of the Golf Canada Handicap Manual, which will impact approximately 3.3 million golfers who hold a Handicap Factor® issued throughout Canada and 10 provincial associations. Those highlighted changes include:

Definition of a tournament score: Additional guidance is provided to Committees conducting competitions regarding the definition of a tournament score, placing greater emphasis on “significant events.” The definition excludes fundraising events and regular league play, in favor of designated competitions such as a member/guest or club championship, local amateur tournament or national qualifying and competition. (Section 2: Definitions)

Adjusting hole scores: A revised decision provides clarity for acceptable scores in limited situations where the player has not played a hole(s) under the Rules of Golf, but his or her score would be sufficiently accurate for handicap posting purposes. Three areas covered under the examples include: 1) where the Local Rule is not in effect, but a player chooses to use a Distance Measuring Device or preferred lies; 2) where a player does not wish to cause undue delay; or 3) where the situation is outside of the player’s control, such as an incorrectly marked golf course.  (Section 4: Adjusting Hole Scores)

Posting scores when a player is disqualified: To improve alignment with the Rules of Golf, the revised Handicap System is clearer about what scores are acceptable when a player is disqualified. In general, a score is acceptable for handicap purposes even when a player fails to hole out, or apply a Rule that affects the rights of another player. If the disqualification breach is determined to provide an advantage for the player, the score is deemed unacceptable for handicap purposes. (Section 5-1: Acceptability of Scores)

Anchoring and posting: A new reference concerns a player who anchors the club while making a stroke during a round and fails to apply the appropriate penalty or an adjusted hole score (Section 4-2). Since the score would not be reflected as playing under the Rules of Golf, it would be unacceptable for handicap purposes. (Section 5-1: Acceptability of Scores)

Playing alone and necessary peer review: To further support the key System premise of peer review, scores made while playing alone will no longer be acceptable for handicap purposes. This change underscores the importance of providing full and accurate information regarding a player’s potential scoring ability, and the ability of other players to form a reasonable basis for supporting or disputing a posted score. (Section 5-1: Acceptability of Scores). Playing alone means completely by yourself with no others in the group at all (one-some). If you play with three strangers, that is acceptable and the score would be post-able for handicap purposes. Even if a walking witness/attester (not playing) such as a family member or caddie was present, that score would still count for handicap purposes (if played under the Rules of Golf). Player names need not be supplied with your scores, that is simply an option that exists in the Golf Canada Score Centre for those that wish to provide them, and is not a requirement for a score to be posted/accepted for handicap purposes.

This decision was also made in an effort for Canada to to be more in alignment with the rest of the world’s handicapping policy on unaccompanied rounds, for the possible formation of a World Handicap System.

Committee responsibilities: In an effort to assist the Handicap Committee with its responsibilities, this revision addresses a player with a temporary disability or permanent disability who has a Handicap Factor that is no longer reflective of his/her current potential ability. In the particular instance cited, the Committee will no longer assign a local handicap (denoted with the letter “L” for local use only), but instead will issue a (temporary) modified Handicap Factor (denoted by the letter “M”). This change supports the portability of a disabled player’s handicap, so that it can be used outside the player’s home club. (Section 8-4c: Handicap Factor Adjustment by Handicap Committee)

An overview of these changes with more detailed information can be found here. The complete Golf Canada Handicap System Manual will be posted to, and it will be available for purchase on the Golf Canada e-store before the start of our cycle.

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