USGA Handicap System (pre-2020): There is no restriction on the upward movement of a Handicap Index® built into the calculation.
- The Handicap Committee at a golf club is responsible for monitoring extreme upward movement of any members’ Handicap Index and make modifications where appropriate.
Rule Change for 2020: A “soft cap” and “hard cap” will be included within the Handicap Index calculation.
- The soft cap will suppress the upward movement of a Handicap Index by 50 percent if a 3.0 stroke increase takes place within 12 months.
- The hard cap will restrict upward movement if, after the application of the soft cap, a 5.0 stroke increase takes place within 12 months.
Reasons for Change:
- A new term, “Low Handicap Index™” will be included within the Rules of Handicapping and will be made visible to players. This value will serve as the baseline for the soft cap and hard cap procedures.
- A Low Handicap Index will be established once a player has at least 20 acceptable scores in their scoring record. At this point, the soft cap and hard cap procedures will begin taking effect.
- A newly determined Low Handicap Index will be considered each time an acceptable score is submitted and a Handicap Index is updated.
- There is no limit on the amount by which a player’s Handicap Index can decrease, but the soft cap and hard cap will ensure that a temporary loss of form does not cause a player’s Handicap Index to increase to a level inconsistent with their demonstrated ability.
- The automatic calculation will prevent extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index, as well as assist Handicap Committees as an anti-abuse safeguard.
- When special circumstances exist, such as injury, the Handicap Committee will have the ability to override the soft cap or hard cap.
- This procedure will favor the consistent player, as players who have significant volatility in their scoring history over a 12-month period will be impacted by it more often.