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Inactive Handicap Vs Active Golf Handicap – Importance and Explanation of the Golf Handicap Seasons

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Active and inactive golf handicap season is not talked about enough. But without a doubt, handicapping is vital to the equitability of amateur golfers. Simply put, it enables players across various skill levels. It is also crucial to note that each golf-playing country has an authorized body responsible for implementing and administering these handicap rules. These authorized bodies do this in conjunction with each country’s provincial golf associations.

Active Golf Handicap Season Overview

A golf handicap is defined as the numerical measure of a golfer’s potential to enable each player of varying abilities to further compete against each other. Players with low handicaps are better golfers.

Active and inactive handicaps have been around since January 2010. The WHS (World Handicap System) was launched in 2020 and provided golfers with a more unified and inclusive handicapping system. Before this new system was in place, players were required to return three qualifying scores a year.

The sole purpose of the WHS is to make golf more enjoyable for its players by basically providing consistent means of measuring their progress and performances to enable them to compete equally. The measuring index is calculated using the lowest of the player’s most recent score differentials. The handicap is also updated with every new round played. Many golf-playing countries have adopted the system, but we believe it will eventually go live in other countries.

Active and Inactive Golf Handicap Season

Why do you need to understand so much about handicaps?

It is very important to understand how the handicap is calculated into your score. An active season is when players submit eligible scores for handicap purposes. It is referred to as the period during which scores recorded by players in an area will be accepted and determined by the authorized golf association in each given area.

Also, any non-member of an authorized golf association will be required to observe all established inactive seasons by the golf association saddled with the responsibility of managing golf-related events in each region.

Your score could possibly not count

scorecard x out

An active handicap identifies a player that has returned a minimum of three qualifying scores per year. In contrast, an inactive handicap, on the other hand, identifies a player that has returned less than three qualifying scores. In fact, according to the rules of handicapping, every golf player is responsible for submitting valid scores into one’s record for each golf round played on courses during the active season.

It is the responsibility of all golf playing nations’ associations to declare active and inactive seasons, with golf players required to note these different dates for score posting purposes. Most national golf federations consider the active seasons of the golf course when scores are posted and whether it should be considered when calculating players’ handicap indexes.

The Active and inactive golf handicap Season Schedule in the United States

Just like the evolution of the golf ball, handicap scoring has come a long way. Countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia have unique handicap active and inactive seasons schedules.

Inactive golf handicap Season – The Overview

Scores recorded at any golf course on the inactive season aren’t valid and can’t be recorded for handicap calculation purposes. The reason is that the course conditions during this season are often inconsistent with how the course and slope ratings are determined. As a result, the rating process can impact the overall accuracy of a golf player’s handicap index (for better and worse).

Most of the time, this is in very cold weathered states. In that case, you need to check out one of these best golf beanies before you hit the links. 

Meanwhile, the scores made at a course in a specific area observing an active season must be posted, even if the club has active members observing an inactive season. But here’s the catch, the club’s handicap committee must provide an enabling environment for players to post their away scores at the beginning of every active season.

But note, that it is crucial to recognize that you should first confirm your active seasons before traveling to other regions. It ensures all acceptable scores are recorded and posted. Also, your club needs all acceptable scores to ensure that your index is perfectly recorded and reflects your ability.

Traditionally, a club doesn’t have to impose restrictions regarding inactive handicaps coupled with entry into golf club competitions. So, if a club prefers to include restrictions on inactive handicaps, it may do one of the following:

  • Allow entry into all competitions, which also include open days. Meanwhile, this restricts them from getting a prize. Also, the entry fee is often charged, and the subsidiary prizes may still be won by the player with the lowest handicap score.
  • Prohibiting players from entering competitions should be adopted, especially as a blanket condition for many golf competitions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an active and inactive handicap?

Reiteratively, an active identifies a golf player has made a turnover of at least three qualifying scores per annum. Meanwhile, an inactive handicap identifies players with a turnover that’s less than three qualifying scores.

  • How can I get an Active handicap as a category one golfer?

If you are a category one golfer, you aren’t permitted to return supplementary or 9-hole qualifying scores for handicap–related purposes. And to have this handicap, you are required to submit the required scores in qualifying competitions.

  • Does an inactive handicap mean a player’s handicap has lapsed?

No! an inactive handicap is still an official USGA or CONGU handicap. Therefore, you’ll still be able to receive a handicap certificate and gain access to events that don’t require an active handicap. Just look out for such events, which will help while you wait for the active season.

  • When does an active or an inactive handicap start?

As highlighted earlier, the handicap system was launched in January 2010. During this period, the active members were required to turn over three qualifying scores a year prior. Therefore, these members needed this score to get an active handicap at the beginning of 2010.

  • When I submit my score, will I get a new handicap?

No, you won’t. Having an active handicap doesn’t mean you’ve lost your real handicap. Instead, each qualifying score will synchronize with your current handicap – giving you an updated handicap score. Meanwhile, the club is prohibited from issuing a new handicap to return the qualifying scores.

golf season active
  • What do I need to do to have an active handicap?

To gain access to the active handicap perks, members must return certain qualifying scores achieved in the previous calendar year. Often includes turnover scores in club qualifying competitions, 9-hole qualifying competitions, and supplementary scores. Unfortunately, the scores returned by each active member in non-qualifying golf tournaments and social golf aren’t valid.

Learn more on how to calculate golf handicap here. 

  • Why is my index not reflecting the changes made?

There are various reasons why your handicap index may not change, even after making changes. But the common reason is that the differential of the score you posted isn’t among the lowest eight of your recent 20. And if that’s not the case with you, then chances are, it could be a result of a soft/hard cap. Both soft and hard caps are applied to one’s handicap index calculation.

This procedure was first introduced with the WHS to help limit an index’s extreme upward movement and ensure that a series of bad scores don’t impact your overall index.   

  • What if I can’t return enough qualifying handicap scores?

Well, the answer to that is not farfetched. But, first, note that the following circumstances  exclude a player from getting an active handicap:

  • Active golf members who cannot play on the weekends or do not wish to return the qualifying scores will not be exempted from receiving active handicaps.
  • Players with injuries or illnesses that last over a lengthy period prevent you from having sufficient time to return the qualifying scores.
  • Lastly, if you are new to the game, especially if you are in the region that offers CONGU handicap, the handicap has been awarded the member will be active for 12 months from the date of allocation.

About the Author


How we got onto 16 with a 5 minute wait at the WM Phoenix Open!

How I got on hole 16 (The Stadium hole) at the Waste Management Phoenix Open with little to no wait!! I also have tips and tricks on what to do once you are inside the gate and inside the stadium hole. Check this out if you ever plan to make a trip out! If you ever have the chance, it is definitely worth the trip.

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