What is golf handicap? (Everything You Should Know)

Golf handicap is a numerical measure (0123456789) of a golfer’s potential that is used to enable Golfers of varying abilities to compete against one another. Better Golfers are those with the lowest handicaps (Below 10). It means that good Golfers with a low handicap can play those with a higher handicap and the game can still remain competitive.

The handicap system can seem confusing, which is why it is so important to keep your scores on a scorecard so you can work it all out at the end of your round. Only highly skilled Golfers reach zero, also known as “scratch”. A select few even get so good they enter positive figures – which means they have to add strokes to their total. In reality, most golfers who reach that standard are good enough to turn professional. All professional tournaments are played off scratch without handicaps.

From country to country Rules relating to handicaps vary with many different systems in force around the world. Because of incompatibilities and difficulties in translating between systems the sports governing bodies, the USGA and The R&A, working with the various existing handicapping authorities, devised a new World Handicap System (WHS) which is set to be introduced globally starting in 2020.

What is a golf handicap for a beginner?

A good golf handicap is usually below 10. That means a player with a handicap of 10 typically shoots around 82 for 18-holes. The average golf handicap for men and women golfers is around 15.

Hit the Links

To determine your handicap, this is a methodical procedure. It is imperative to follow the steps accurately to determine a legitimate handicap.

1. Get Swinging

Go play some golf and keep track of your scores. You should keep an accurate record of your total number of shots played during the rounds. It is a wise decision to have between 12 and 20 rounds played for accurate handicapping, but you can figure it with five rounds. Most courses require a minimum of ten rounds.

2. Find Your Adjusted Scores

The USGA has a set of scores for basic handicapping that are part of the overall system. These numbers are the maximum amount that you should score any one-hole of golf during the round. If this is the first time to establish your handicap, the magic number is 10. That means that for every shot you take over ten, you subtract from your final score.

Once the handicap has been established, it can be adjusted accordingly. Instead of using ten, you would now use:

  • A handicap of 40 or above the maximum score is 10
  • A handicap of 30-39 is a maximum score of 9
  • A handicap of 20-29 is a maximum score of 8
  • A handicap of 10-19 is a maximum score of 7
  • A handicap of 0-9 is a maximum score of double-bogey

3. Find the Slope

Most golf scorecards will have the course slope rating listed on them. If there isn’t one on the card, you should ask the person at the pro shop for the information to keep your information legit.

The course slope should not be confused with the course rating.

The rating is a number telling how difficult the course is for a scratch golfer. The slope is based upon people who play bogey golf.

In Lehman’s terms, you typically score 18 strokes above par. So, a par-70 course would give a bogey golfer an average score of 88.

4. Your Handicap is…

The last step is to do the math, so get your calculator handy. First, use your adjusted score from Step 2 above and subtract the course rating.

Take that difference and multiply by 113. Finally, divide that number by the slope rating from Step 3. This will be your handicap.

Read also – What is a golf slice?

How do you figure out your golf handicap?

You will need to find the course rating and slope of the golf property you played on. Subtract the course rating from your score and multiple by 113. Divide the product by the slope listed on your scorecard (115 in the example) to obtain your handicap differential.

The first step to finding out your handicap starts with getting some rounds in and collecting data from those performances. Generally, a range of 5-20 of your most current rounds will suffice as enough reps to accurately calculate your handicap. You will need to find the course rating and slope of the golf property you played on. Subtract the course rating from your score and multiple by 113. Divide the product by the slope listed on your scorecard (115 in the example) to obtain your handicap differential.

The reason why course rating and slope have a major role with the handicap differential calculation is because both figures indicate course difficulty. For example, let’s say that Arnold and Jack averaged 100 strokes over 18 holes, but Jack played a more difficult course than Arnold. As an alternative to using averaged scores to determine the handicap index, distinct skill level is factored into the comparisons. Thus, Jack would be more skilled than Arnold on the average golf course.

Six Round Sample

Number of Rounds Differential Calculation
5-10 Lowest Differential x .96
11-19 Average Lowest 3-5 Differentials x .96
20 Average Lowest 10 Differentials x .96

Complete this calculation for each of your rounds played. In our sample, we used calculations for six rounds. Next, multiply the lowest differential by .96. You are now finally able to respond to your golfing chums when they ask about your handicap. In the event that you have a less than impressive handicap, just remember that the most impressive feat in the realm of golf handicaps is the ability to calculate your handicap correctly!

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