Changes to fourball match play handicap calculations — here’s what you need to know

With major changes set to be made to the fourball match play handicap calculations next month, get clued up on what it all means.

Fourballs are getting an overhaul as part of the changes to the World Handicap System in April.

Not only will competition scores in the fourball betterball format be eligible for your handicap records – if you hit some strict criteria – but the way handicaps are applied in 4BBB and foursomes match play games is also being altered. 

In betterball all four players currently work out their Course Handicap and apply the 90 per cent format allowance to calculate their Playing Handicaps.  

After doing this, they then work out how many shots they receive from the lowest Playing Handicap. 

Now a guidance document to the Rules of Handicapping, produced by the four home unions of England Golf, Scottish Golf, Wales Golf and Golf Ireland and outlining all the upcoming changes to WHS and how they should be implemented, reveals a subtle change to that calculation. 

Players will calculate their Course Handicap and then take shots from the lowest golfer. It’s only at this point, they’ll work out the 90 per cent allowance. 

In foursomes, it is 50 per cent of the difference between each team’s combined Course Handicaps.  

The observant among you might note the new calculations replicate what happened before the introduction of WHS in November 2020.

Fourball match play allowance changes: A more familiar and intuitive calculation

What difference will it make? In a small number of cases the change in calculation may marginally increase or reduce the number of shots a player could receive compared with the previous arrangements. 

But handicap chiefs also say the ‘new’ ways should be more familiar and intuitive to golfers and should make working out shot allocations a far less stressful 1st tee experience. 

James Luke, England Golf’s head of handicapping, reiterated: “Looking at the calculations for a match play fourball betterball, or foursomes, your Playing Handicap is 100 per cent of your Course Handicap and then the 90 per cent allowance is adjusted from the lowest player. 

“That’s essentially exactly how we used to do it previously and the reason for it is because of ease of use for golfers and to remove any confusion.” 

Asked about possible shot differences compared with the previous calculations, Luke added players should not expect to see lots of changes in the numbers. 

“Obviously, it depends on the types of players and the combinations, whether that’s lower players versus higher, or whether a team is quite mixed, and so it might be a shot up or shot down here and there. But, ultimately, people are going to get the shots they require to play the format. 

“What we’re trying to do with these changes is make the game fairer and make it simpler for golfers to use and they can do that using digital technology.” 

With the new rules coming in on April 1, competition organisers whose winter events may be over-running because of delays caused by the winter weather will need to ensure golfers play to the new calculations from that date. 

By GCMA Content Team

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