Golf Advisor reader 'Frank' wrote to us and asked: "My US handicap index is 15, and my home course handicap is 17. What handicap do I use when playing in Ireland, where they do not have course ratings?"
Fortunately for you, courses in Ireland - along with Scotland and Wales - already are rated with the United States Golf Association Course Rating system, according to Steven Edmondson, the USGA's managing director of Handicapping & Course Rating.
"It is important that anyone traveling use their Handicap Index, which is the number taken to one decimal place – i.e. 15.2," Edmondson wrote in an e-mail. "The Handicap Index is the number that is portable, taken to almost any golf course around the world. This includes golf courses in Ireland as they have rated their courses using the USGA Course Rating System and have a USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating for use when playing abroad. Yes, all golf courses have been rated in Ireland, and most are available on scorecards, etc. when you play over there, or if you ask at the golf shop. Some are available on the www.usga.org website."
For example, typing the word "Portrush" into the search engine on the USGA page linked above brought up the rating and slope for the Dunluce course at Royal Portrush, this year's venue for The Open. The same goes for Lahinch, host of this year's Irish Open.
England is currently in the process of rating its courses within the USGA system, according to Edmondson, in preparation for the launch of the World Handicap System, which will be implemented in 2020 as a joint venture between the USGA and the R&A, the two major governing bodies in golf. As for what to expect from the new World Handicap System, here is further explanation from the USGA:
• Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability.
• A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with some discretion available for national or regional associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction.
• A consistent handicap that is portable from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA Course and Slope Rating System, already successfully used in more than 80 countries.
• An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control.
• A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day.
• Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation.
• A limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only). Example: A Course Handicap of 18 receives one stroke per hole for 18 holes; the player’s max score is triple bogey on any hole, which equals a Net Double Bogey.
• A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game.
For the record, it's been a great season of firsts for links golf on TV this summer - Lahinch hosting its first Irish Open, The Renaissance Club hosting its first Scottish Open and, of course, Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland hosting its first Open Championship since 1951. Bernhard Langer won last week's Senior Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and the AIG Women's British Open at Woburn Golf Club in England will be televised on Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday before handing off to NBC on the weekend after 11 a.m. EST.