UNLESS you have been living under a massive boulder for the last few months – and, let’s face it, life under a huge rock would probably be quite a pleasant existence of escapism in the current tumult – you will no doubt be aware that the World Handicapping System is coming in tomorrow.

Then again? Given the general mind-mangling concerns in this pandemic-pummelled year of restrictions, closures, lockdowns and limitations, golf clubs have had a lot to contend with.

“I’ll have to be honest and say the new handicapping system was quite far from my own thoughts,” admitted Simon Payne, the professional and secretary at Cowglen in Glasgow’s southside. “Everything has been geared to getting back to golf and keeping people safe. Those were the pressing concerns.

“In recent months, people have been more worried about the club actually being open. You look at Ireland, for instance. Courses are closed again for six weeks. Simply getting out to play golf has been the biggest concern. People were probably having discussions more about that than the handicapping side of things.

“We knew the new handicapping system was looming but we probably put it on the back burner given everything that was going on. We’ve certainly sat up and taken much more notice in recent weeks, though.”

The World Handicapping System (WHS) has been talked about for ages – initial discussions were held by the game’s high heid yins in 2011 – and is already working in other parts of the golfing globe. Here in Britain and Ireland, meanwhile, the transition to a new method of calculation was held off until November 2 so  elaborate computation software could be built and rolled out.

Come Monday, if you hear the sound of various pistons, pulleys and crankshafts spluttering and clanking amid great billowing chuff-chuffs of steam as you hover over a tricky five-footer, then don’t worry. It’s just your new handicap being spewed out by some extravagant, number-crunching contraption. Or something like that.

The WHS has been devised to marry up the six different handicapping systems that have been in operation for some 15 million golfers around the world to spawn, in theory, a more equitable and flexible method of calculation. Of course, it doesn’t make for what you would call light reading but, then, this is an exacting, complex subject which can’t be simply worked out on the back of a dog-eared strokesaver.

There is a 46-page online toolkit to absorb which outlines all the complex methods and mathematics involved, but despite the formulae and daunting data, the system is well-intentioned and, in a global game for all the ages and abilities, probably long overdue.

For regular golfers, the handicap index, as it is now known, is calculated from the best eight rounds from your last 20 scores, whether in competition or just general play. New golfers will have to submit cards totalling 54 holes. That will then translate into a course handicap, depending on the tees you are playing from and the venue.

This more nuanced approach, aided by a new slope rating of course difficulty, will allow the handicap to travel and adapt more freely wherever the golfer is playing and make adjustments where necessary. So, a nine-handicapper at a relatively straight forward inland course may get a few shots when he or she plays, for example, a more rigorous, championship links.

“A handicap at one course is very different to another,” added Payne. “Course playability and difficulty varies from venue to venue so now there will be more fairness.

“The really good thing will be the gender neutral tees and getting away from this sense of gents tees and ladies tee and just having tees. Our white tees are now rated for ladies and men as are the yellows and the reds. People are enjoying the experience of playing from different tees.”

Payne got his first handicap as at Blairbeth in 1985. “It was always a feeling of great pride and everything you did in golf was to improve and keep it coming down,” he reflected of this cherished tool which allows for fair and competitive golfing combat among players of all abilities.

As ever with a major overhaul, there will no doubt be a few teething problems as handicaps are re-evaluated and re-calculated. As Payne calmly reasoned, though, “it will all come out in the wash”.