What is a CONGU Handicap?

A CONGU® Handicap, awarded by a club affiliated to one of the five National Unions/Associations that administer amateur golf in Great Britain and Ireland, is recognised by National golfing authorities and clubs throughout the world as indicative of the golfing capability of the holder. The System is the result of many years development and refinement, relying on stringent checks and balances which enable scores obtained from quite widely differing courses and playing conditions to be compared on a like-for-like basis. The detail of the CONGU® System is Copyrighted and the acronym CONGU is a registered Trademark in connection with all aspects of golf handicaps calculated and administered by the System.

Only Clubs and Organisations affiliated to one of the five National Unions or Associations that govern amateur golf in Great Britain and Ireland (and other approved overseas Organisations) are allowed to issue and maintain CONGU® Handicaps. All this ensures that CONGU® Handicaps reflect, as accurately as possible, the playing standard of the individual golfer at any one time.

How to obtain a handicap

A CONGU handicap may only be allotted to someone who is a member of Penmaenmawr Golf Club as we are affiliated to the Golf Union of Wales, so your first step towards gaining a CONGU handicap is to join our Golf Club.

A Handicap is designed to reflect a your potential ability, so it would probably be helpful to have a few lessons to learn the basics of the game. Once you are comfortable with your game you will need to submit a number of scorecards, which should be signed by another person that currently has a handicap. We can arrange this through the members or Handicap Committee.

You will need to submit sufficient cards to provide scores for 54 holes of golf, which must be  9 hole or 18 hole scores. Once you have submitted these scores the Handicap Committee will allot you a handicap.

Changes to the CONGU UHS System have recently been announced. In view of the proposed introduction of the World Handicap System (WHS) these changes have been kept to a minimum and take into account some of the options likely to be adopted in the WHS, principal of which is to encourage players to submit more scores to their handicap record.
The changes, which come into effect on the 1st of January 2018, are:

Retirement of Club & Disability Handicaps – As a result of their low impact these have been removed and replaced by a new Category 5 for Men and Category 6 for both Men and Women, providing for a maximum handicap of 54.0 for all golfers. Players will be able to maintain a Competition Handicap in all six categories. Upward adjustment for all categories will remain at 0.1 and downward adjustments for Net Differentials below Buffer Zones will be 0.5 for Category 5 and 0.6 for Category 6.

After 1st January 2018 Handicap Committees can increase handicaps above the current limits of 28.0 and 36.0, and they will also increase above those limits automatically as a result of above Buffer Zone returns in Qualifying Competitions and Supplementary Score submissions.

Handicap Categories

Handicaps are divided into different bands called categories. Depending on which category you are in, the amount our handicap can go down varies. Also, the amount you can play over your handicap (called buffer zone) varies before your handicap increases.

Category Handicap Bands Buffer Zone Handicap Decrease for every shot below CSS
1 Plus - 5.4

1 shot above CSS

2 5.5 - 12.4

2 shots above CSS

3 12.5 - 20.4

3 shots above CSS

4 20.5 - 28.4

4 shots above CSS

5 25.5 - 36.4

5 shots above CSS

6 36.5 - 54.0

6 shots above CSS


Everyone’s handicap is calculated to 1 decimal place but their playing handicap is the nearest whole number.
For example, Joe’s exact handicap is 22.1 and his playing handicap is 22. Rajiv’s exact handicap is 10.5 so his playing handicap is 11

Managing Your Handicap

After any qualifying competition or supplementary score your handicap may change. If you play below your handicap, your handicap will be reduced by a certain decimal point for every shot under (see table above). If you play above your handicap, your handicap will be increased by 0.1. You are allowed some leeway (this is your buffer zone – see table above for different buffer zones), but once you are above your buffer zone, your handicap goes up. You may be 1 outside your buffer or 10 outside your buffer, the result is the same: your handicap increases by 0.1.

Competition Play

It is usual that any stroke play competition played off full handicap results in handicap changes. No-one is expected to be able to play to their handicap for every round. There is some flexibility: if you play within your buffer zone your handicap will not alter. In fact, handicaps are so calculated you are likely to play within your buffer zone for only one third of your rounds.
Joe has a handicap of 22 (Cat. 4) and plays 3 shots over his handicap. His handicap does not change.
Jill has a handicap of 3 (Cat. 1) and plays 3 shots over her handicap. Her handicap goes up 0.1.

Standard scratch score (SSS) v competition scratch score (CSS)
Every course has a standard scratch score (SSS). It is a fixed figure and will be printed on your club’s score cards: it may be different from par and it is likely to be different for men and women and from different tees.

For example, at Penmaenmawr Golf Club the par from all tees is 67 for men and 71 for women. However, the SSS for men from the White tees is 66 and from the Yellow is 70 and for women playing from the Red tees the SSS is 69.

After every qualifying competition a competition scratch score (CSS) is calculated. This number can vary because weather conditions may make the game more or less difficult; pin positions may make the course more or less difficult. The CSS takes account of these factors and is calculated on the percentage of players within or below their buffer zone. CSS can range from 1 lower than SSS to 3 higher. On very bad days it might be that a competition becomes ‘reduction only’. That is, no-one’s handicap increases although those below CSS decrease.

On a cold, wet and windy Sunday the men at Penmaenmawr Golf Club played their monthly medal. Only 6 players were within their buffer zone. The CSS moved from 71 to 73. Joe who had done a nett 76 (and thought he was 1 above his buffer) found he was now within buffer.

A month later in the next medal, the sun shone and the greenkeeper had some friendly pin positions. Nearly everyone played well and the CSS came down to 70. In the good conditions Rajiv did a nett 73. However, because the CSS had come down, Rajiv was out of his buffer zone – and his handicap went up 0.1 to 10.6.

Nett double bogey score in medals

If you are playing a medal competition and have a horrendous score on one hole and although this score is counted for the purposes of the competition, it is not for handicap. For handicap, the worst score that is counted is the equivalent of the lowest score that would not give you a point in a stableford competition.

Joe (still playing off 22) scores 9 on the par 4, stroke index 4 hole in the monthly medal. If he were playing a stableford, Joe would get 2 strokes on this hole, so he could make a 7 (nett 5) and still score a point. The lowest score where he does not make a point would be 8. So, for handicap purposes, Joe’s score is reduced to 8.