Learning Center


USGA eliminates “bonus for excellence” on 1/1/2020


When the USGA introduced the World Handicap System on 1/1/2020, a number of items in the Handicap Index calculation changed including the elimination of the 96% bonus for excellence. Prior to the change the 10 lowest Score Differentials out of the most recent 20 scores were used in the Handicap Index calculation. After the change, the 8 lowest Score Differentials from the most recent 20 scores are used for Handicap Index calculation. In addition, the Score Differential calculation now includes a Playing Condition Calculation (PCC) to take into consideration any out of the ordinary course or weather conditions. In eliminating the bonus for excellence, the USGA stated that...

Moving to an 8 of 20 system allows for greater responsiveness to good scores and eliminates the need for a bonus for excellence – which was often difficult to explain. Since players with a higher Handicap Index tend to have more fluctuation within their scoring records, using 8 of 20 allows their better scores to weigh more heavily and create more equity across all Handicap Index ranges. Including a Playing Conditions Calculation ensures that each Score Differential is reflective of a player’s performance in a given round.


The 96% “bonus for excellence” multiplier prior to 1/1/2020


Someone arrived at our website using the search question, "why is a handicap multiplied by .96?" at Google. The searcher arrived through our golf handicap formula in plain English page. Indeed, why are handicap differentials multiplied by .96, or 96%? This is what it says in the USGA Handicap Manual:

Bonus for Excellence is the incentive for players to improve their golf games that is built into the USGA Handicap System. It is the term used to describe the small percentage below perfect equity that is used to calculate a Handicap Index (96 percent). As a Handicap Index improves (gets lower), the player has a slightly better chance of placing high or winning a handicap event.

In another article entitled, How well should you play, at the USGA website, the remark is made that, "your golf club or association then will multiply by a 96-percent 'bonus for excellence' factor that slightly favors the lower-handicapped player." So the 96% is an incentive to improve your handicap and a "slight" advantage to lower handicapped players in a handicapped competition. In one of the other mentions of "bonus for excellence" on the USGA site, it is stated that a "limberback" lower handicapper will have a "very slight" advantage over a series of matches with a weekend warrior. That would mean that most non-professional golfers could play against an internationally known golfer with only a slight edge going to the pro. That's what the USGA Handicap System does...