What Is A Handicap In Golf?

Golf handicapping is a system used to adjust the scores of golfers playing against each other by awarding points for their relative playing abilities. When two golfers tee off, their handicaps are compared and the golfer with the lower handicap starts with a “plus” score. The opponent subtracts his or her handicap from the plus score to arrive at the first hole’s net score. From there, play proceeds as normal. At the end of 18 holes, the player with the lowest net score wins. Golfers use all sorts of methods to calculate handicaps, but most professional golf organizations use a system developed by the United States Golf Association (USGA).

This post will explore what a golf handicap is and how it is used in competition. It will also provide examples of how average golfers can utilize a handicap to improve their game. Finally, this post will offer some tips on how you can set your own personal handicap number. So if you’re looking to level up your game, keep reading!

How Do Golf Handicaps Work?


A golf handicap is a numerical measure of a golfer’s potential ability. It is used to adjust the odds between golfers of different abilities, allowing players of different skill levels to compete against each other on an even playing field.

Handicap measures how good you are at the game, it is a number that represents the golfer’s ability based on their previous golf round’s scores. This is used to even out the playing field in golf competitions, so golfers with higher handicaps are given a stroke advantage on certain holes.

Handicaps are calculated using a formula that takes into account multiple golf scores, with more emphasis placed on the golfer’s recent performances. This is to ensure that a golf handicap is an accurate reflection of the player’s current ability.

To maintain and update their golf handicap, a golfer must submit their scores from approved golf courses to their local golf club or the USGA (United States Golf Association). From there, their handicap index will be regularly adjusted as new scores are added.

Having a golf handicap can also open up opportunities for golfers to participate in tournaments and competitions at all skill levels. So if you’re looking to improve your game and compete with other players, obtaining a golf handicap is a great place to start.

How To Calculate Golf Handicaps?


Calculate your golf handicap by first determining your “handicap differential” for each round of golf you play. This is calculated by subtracting the course rating from your score, and then multiplying that number by 113, divided by the course’s slope rating. Then, take your 10 best differentials (out of your last 20 rounds) and average them to get your handicap. It is important to note that all rounds used in calculation must have been played on a USGA-certified course.

Additionally, it is recommended to keep track of all scores and differentials in a handicap tracking system or app to ensure accuracy. By regularly calculating and adjusting your handicap, you can more accurately compete with players of various skill levels on different courses.

  1. First, you need to determine your “home course.” This is the golf course where you will consistently play and record your scores.
  2. Next, pick out your best 10 out of your last 20 scored rounds at your home course.
  3. Use the USGA handicap formula to calculate your handicap: Handicap = (the sum of the best 10 rounds’ adjusted scores / the number of adjusted scores) x 0.96
  4. Adjust each round’s score using the USGA’s slope system, which takes into account the difficulty level of a particular course.
  5. Repeat this process every time you have completed 20 rounds at your home course in order to track any changes in your handicap.
  6. Remember to also record any scores from rounds played at courses other than your home course, as these can also be used in the calculation of your handicap.

Following these steps will help you accurately track and calculate your golf handicap, allowing for more fair competition on the green. Good luck!

How To Establish An Official Golf Handicap?

One of the most important elements in the game of golf is establishing an official handicap. This number, represented as a whole or decimal, helps players fairly compete against each other by factoring in their skill level and adjusting for any discrepancies on the course.

To obtain a handicap, players must first join a Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN) through their local golf club or association. Then, they must record and submit at least five 18-hole scores from different courses to the GHIN system. The system will then calculate the player’s handicap using a specific formula.

It is important to note that players must continue submitting scores regularly in order to maintain an accurate handicap and properly adjust for improvements or declines in their game. Golfers can also only use scores from courses with a Course and Slope Rating, as these factors play a significant role in the handicap calculation.

Overall, establishing a handicap may seem like a daunting task but is crucial for fair and competitive gameplay on the golf course.

What is the world handicap system?


There is currently only one recognized worldwide golf handicap system, the Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN). However, some countries have their own national handicap systems in addition to GHIN. These include CONGU in England, the South African Golf Association Handicap System, and Golf Canada’s Golf Handicap and Ability System.

Players may also use online platforms or apps to track their handicaps independently. While these are not recognized by official governing bodies, they can still be useful for personal improvement and keeping track of scores.

It is important to note that a player’s handicap may differ slightly depending on the system used, as each one has its own formula for calculation. However, they should generally be in the same range and serve the same purpose of helping players compete fairly against each other.

Amateur golf handicap systems are in place to create a level playing field and allow for fair competition among players of varying skill levels. It is important to regularly update and maintain your handicap, as it provides a helpful gauge for measuring improvement and setting future goals. As you work towards a lower handicap, remember to have fun and enjoy the game along the way.

Overall, there is currently only one recognized worldwide golf handicap system, but players may also use national or independent systems for tracking their progress.

It is important to note that a player’s handicap may differ slightly depending on the system used, but all serve the same purpose of helping players compete fairly against each other.

In any case, regularly recording and submitting scores is crucial for maintaining an accurate and up-to-date handicap.

How Does A New Golfer Get A Handicap Index?

A handicap index is a numerical representation of a golfer’s potential ability on the course, and is used in handicap systems to fairly match players of different skill levels.

To get a handicap index, a new golfer must first join a golf club or association that uses the USGA handicap system. The golfer will then need to record and submit at least 5 18-hole scores from different courses, with the recommendation being to submit additional scores over time for greater accuracy.

The golf club or association will then use the submitted scores to calculate the golfer’s handicap index, which can be adjusted as the player’s skills improve or decline. It is important to note that a handicap index does not guarantee a certain score on any given day, as other factors such as course difficulty and weather can also affect the outcome of a round. However, it does provide a measurable benchmark for a golfer’s skill level and can help in creating fair and competitive matches.

What Is A ‘Good’ Golf Handicap?

There is no set answer to what constitutes a “good” golf handicap, as it ultimately depends on the individual player and their personal goals. Generally speaking, a lower handicap indicates that a player consistently scores better than their designated handicap number. However, some players may be satisfied with maintaining a higher handicap if their main focus is simply enjoying the game rather than competing at a high level.

Ultimately, the most important aspect of determining a good golf handicap is self-evaluation and setting realistic goals for improvement. As long as a player is consistently working towards lowering their handicap and reaching their own personal benchmark, they can consider themselves to have a good handicap.

Rankings scores college national amateur tournaments can also be used as a reference for determining a good handicap. A player with a handicap under 10 would typically be considered skilled and competitive, while a handicap over 20 would generally be considered an average or beginner level. However, it is important to remember that these numbers are just rough guidelines and do not necessarily reflect the individual player’s personal goals and progress.

Overall, as long as a player is satisfied with their handicap and actively working towards improvement, they can consider it to be “good” for them.

How To Improve Your Golf Handicap?

Golfer’s handicap can be improved by a few ways, including:

1) Practicing regularly and consistently: Golf is a game that requires constant practice and honing of skills. By practicing regularly, golfers can improve their technique and performance on the course.

2) Seeking professional instruction: Golf professionals can provide valuable advice and guidance to help improve a golfer’s technique and overall gameplay.

3) Playing on different courses: Golf courses vary in difficulty, so playing on a variety of courses can challenge a golfer and ultimately improve their handicap.

4) Keeping track of scores: By frequently recording scores and analyzing them, golfers can identify areas for improvement and work towards lowering their handicap.

5) Maintaining proper physical fitness: Golf is a physically demanding sport, so maintaining good physical fitness can greatly improve a golfer’s performance on the course.

Overall, commitment and determination are important factors in improving a golf handicap. With dedication and effort, golfers can work towards lowering their handicaps and becoming better players.

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FAQs About Golf Handicaps:

Can a golf handicap go above 36?

The maximum handicap index allowed by the USGA and Golf Canada is 36 for men and 40 for women. However, a golfer’s course handicap (used for determining the number of strokes given on a specific course) can exceed these limits if the course has a higher degree of difficulty.

Can non-members have a golf handicap?

Golfers do not need to be members of a club or association in order to have a handicap index. Golfers can join online services or apps that calculate and track their handicaps.

How often should I submit scores for my handicap calculation?

It is recommended that golfers submit scores at least once every 2-3 weeks in order to keep their handicap index up to date. However, the frequency of submitting scores may vary depending on individual preference and playing habits.

Can my handicap change during a round?

A golfer’s handicap index is only used for determining starting strokes on a course and does not change during a round of golf. A golfer’s course handicap, however, can change mid-round if they have a particularly good or bad hole compared to their average performance.

Can multiple players use the same golf handicap?

Each golfer has their own individual handicap index that reflects their personal skill level and performance. Handicaps cannot be shared or transferred between players.

Can a golf handicap go down to zero?

A golfer’s handicap index can potentially reach zero if they consistently have very low scores, but it is unlikely for most players as it would require a high level of skill and consistent performance on the course.

How do tournaments factor into my handicap calculation?

Many tournaments have a designated tournament handicap allowance that differs from a player’s regular handicap index. Golfers should check with their tournament organizer to determine how their handicap will be factored in during competition.

Can a golf handicap be suspended or revoked?

In certain cases, such as cheating or providing false information, a golfer’s handicap can be suspended or revoked by their club or association. Golfers should always adhere to the rules and regulations of the game in order to maintain a valid handicap.

Do all countries use the same system for calculating golf handicaps?

While many countries utilize the USGA handicap system, there are some variations and adjustments in calculation methods between different regions and associations. It is important for golfers to familiarize themselves with the specific guidelines and calculations used by their club or association.

How does the weather affect my golf handicap?

Weather conditions can impact a golfer’s performance on the course, but they are not directly factored into handicap calculations. Golfers should always be prepared to adapt their strategy and play according to the current weather conditions.

Remember, your handicap is just a number and it shouldn’t define you as a golfer. Keep practicing, improving your skills, and enjoying the game! Happy golfing!


Golf handicaps can vary in maximum limits, calculation frequency, and use in tournaments. They should be unique to each individual golfer and maintained with fair play. However, they should not overshadow the true enjoyment of the game. Golfers should always strive to improve their skills and have fun on the course.

We hope this article provided some useful information about golf handicaps. Happy golfing!

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