Golfers can be a proud old lot. Nonchalantly dropping the words, “yes George, I’m still off single figures after all these years,” into a casual blether, for instance, gives them the kind of puffing chest you’d tend to get with a gorilla at the height of the mating season.

“People are passionate about their handicaps,” said David Kernohan, the handicapping and course rating officer at Scottish Golf. Over the last couple of weeks, that particular passion has been stirred across these golfing lands as the new World Handicapping System (WHS) was ushered in on November 2 and got more tongues wagging than a Maori war dance.

If you thought moving 11 council areas into tier four restrictions was contentious, try explaining to Ronnie at the Falkirk Tryst why he’d suddenly gone from 12.5 to 13.1 overnight?

When the WHS came into force at the start of the month, a quick scan through social media, that great medium of, ahem, level-headed middle ground, was awash with polarised opinions. Some club golfers were hailing it as a simple, straightforward transition, others were declaring it a complete affront to human dignity.

For casual readers who have been more occupied with global pandemics than golf mathematics, 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 accurate, equitable and flexible method of calculation.

A golfer’s 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.

Got it? No? Oh well. Just practice what Kernohan preaches. “The important point is just to play golf as you’ve always played golf,” he said. “The game is not changing, so just trust the system. The new index will be more representative of a golfer’s ability. The old system was more about potential ability rather than demonstrated ability. That’s why many played to their handicap maybe once every three or four rounds. That’s the key change, and hopefully they’ll see that when they start submitting scores.”

As ever with such seismic change – “it’s the biggest in amateur golf for a long, long time” - there will be teething problems and creases to iron out and, after just a couple of weeks in operation, it’s unfair to make knee-jerk judgement.

Kernohan, though, is encouraged by the early figures. “We’ve had around 24,000 scores through the system and, in the first week, some 2000 through the general play function,” he noted. “That (general play) is one of the big benefits. Historically, you had to play competitive golf to get a handicap. One thing we have seen an influx of, and will continue to see I’d say, is members submitting casual scores and getting a handicap. It’s less about competitions now and more about making handicaps accessible to everyone on the terms that they want to play golf.”

Gathering up handicap and course data from here, there and everywhere, about this, that and the other and concerning every Tom, Dick and Harriet has been a sizeable task. It was inevitable that some issues would arise.

“In the Central Database of Handicaps (CDH) there was so much data,” gasped Kernohan. “You could have had one golfer with more than one CDH number. If he or she changed clubs, and if they didn’t take that CDH number with them and their new club set them up with a new CDH number, then they will have scores missing. There have been conflicts but we are working hard to rectify those. What we urged clubs to do was ensure members had a CDH number and that their records sync. If you do nothing else, do that and then all your golfers who have a handicap will transition over into the new system.

“We still have a big job to do to make sure golfers understand the system, why it was implemented and the benefits of it. But once they start using it, they will see the benefits. The positive messages I get come from people who go out, submit a score and see how the score affects their index. Then they say, ‘right, I get it now’.”