The global system for persons with disabilities is evolving. Here’s what comes next

In the United States alone, more than 2.86 million golfers now have a disability.

Getty Images

These are divisive times in golf. But the game still had a unifying force.

The handicap system, designed to keep us all on a level playing field.

In January 2020, the USGA and R&A expanded the democratization of the system by transforming the six handicap systems located around the world into one global system for the disabled.

WHS has brought a host of benefits.

Easy to understand, without sacrificing accuracy, it made it easier to identify a disability. The system is also adaptable to all cultures of golf, allowing players of different abilities to compete fairly and squarely on any course, in any format, and anywhere on the planet. (Don’t have one? Head over here to get started.)

Golfers responded in droves.

In the United States alone, more than 2.86 million golfers now have a disability, a jump of nearly 10% since 2020. In 2021, more than 82 million results were published on GHIN, the digital platform that powers WHS. In the past three months, through a joint initiative of the USGA and its 58 state and regional federations, nearly 50,000 golfers have joined the GHIN fold.

A man writes on a scorecard

Handicap Index Myths: 5 Details Most Golfers Misunderstand


Milton’s exhale

Of all the reasons for identifying and maintaining a disability, the most compelling is that it makes the game the most fun. It gives you access to a wide range of events. It also gives you personal goals and benchmarks to help you measure your progress. This doesn’t mean you have to be serious. To facilitate the creation and maintenance of the index, government agencies have raised the maximum disability limit to 54.

“I think the biggest myth about disability is that people think, ‘I’m not good enough to have one,'” says Steve Edmundson, managing director of Handicapping and Course Rating at the USGA. Enjoyment for all.”

More and more golfers have learned this. Since they cause disabilities, the golf world has learned more about them.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the handicap facts and figures, along with a look at newly added disability-related innovations and others that are going down.

The game is more global than ever

Prior to 2020, the six separate disability systems in use around the world included just over 80 countries. There are 119 countries in WHS today.

It takes time to add a country

For a country to be part of a disability system, its courses must be categorized. The governing bodies started working on this long before WHS was launched. In some countries, it took more than 5 years to evaluate the courses. On average, the game’s governing bodies and their state and regional associations evaluate 3,000 to 4,000 courses annually.

average handicap fixed

In recent decades, average disability has not changed much. It has largely held steady since the launch of WHS. Today, the global average is 14.5. In the US, it’s 14.2 for men and 25.7 for women – numbers pretty much on par with those around the world. The USGA will have more comprehensive disability data at the end of this year, thanks to a new centralized disability calculation platform.


Etiquette: An overwhelming number of golfers do not have disabilities. Here’s why they should.


Josh Sens

More men are playing, but more women are joining

Men make up approximately 79 percent of golfers with a disability, and about 21 percent of women. But girls and women are currently the growing part of the game.

Technicians are always working on their games

The move to WHS came with an overhaul of the GHIN platform, which has been greatly simplified for the user even with the addition of a host of cutting edge features. In partnership with GolfLogix, a subsidiary of, greed-reading functionality and GPS technology have been added, allowing golfers to easily access valuable information through their mobile phone – all according to the rules of Golf.

As of this month, the GHIN app is also compatible with the Apple Watch, providing the ability to hold scores and track stats for golfers’ wrists.

Other innovations are on the way, including more advanced stats tracking, as well as a gaming feature that will make it easier for golfers to keep track of friendly competitions. Who gets hits in any holes in a four-ball beer match? Let GHIN handle that. By 2024, the USGA also plans to add features that make it easier for golfers to score 9-hole rounds and other alternate-length rounds.

public profile picture

Josh Sens, a golf, food and travel writer, has been a contributor to GOLF Magazine since 2004 and now contributes across all GOLF platforms. His work has been authored in the best American sports writing. He is also the co-author, with Sami Hager, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: The Cooking and Partying Handbook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.