In Golf What Is a Handicap

So, in golf what is a handicap, and how exactly is it calculated? Well, if you are new to golf and you ever heard of handicap and you are wondering what it is, then this article is for you.

In this article, everything you need to know about handicap in golf is discussed; you will also learn how golf handicap is calculated for yourself and whoever you play golf with frequently. Unlike several other sports, rookie, amateur, and seasonal golfers can test their limits with the professionals they watch on Sundays. The golf handicap system is mathematically based which makes it a fair and transparent system. A legitimate and appropriate handicap can be used for different tournaments and leisure golf rounds, so endeavor to make each swing mean something.

Now, I believe everyone would want to play this beautiful game of golf equally with every individual in your foursome without feeling intimated especially when you go up against golfers who perform better than you in every hole. If this prospect intrigue you then the time for you to get a better understanding of the golf handicap has arrived.

Once you discover your handicap, it puts you on an equal playing field against any other player with a handicap. Regardless of your golf handicap; whether it is good or average, the handicap system is designed for equality and fairness. This unbiased system allows golf players with different capabilities to put their expected abilities in comparison to each other.

What Is A Golf Handicap?

In golf what is a handicap

A golf handicap is defined as the difference between the average number of strokes a golfer executes in around ten games and the total golf course par.


The number of strokes played over the average strokes for any course you play on is your golf handicap. In other words, a par 4 connotes that it takes you 4 strokes to put the ball.


Some Things To Put Into Consideration About Handicap.


  • If the handicap of a golfer is low, the golfer is considered to be better than one with a higher handicap which means that when your golf handicap is high you are not very good. Golfers with a high handicap require more than the suggested number of par to complete the golf course.


  • Often, you will come across professional golfers with negative handicaps. This happens because they complete the course with fewer strokes than the average golfer.


  • The handicap of scratch golfers is zero. This connotes that they complete the hole or course on par.


Purpose Of Golf Handicap.


The standards and integrity affiliated with golf handicaps have been maintained by the United States Golf Association (USGA) up until 2020. The USGA created a unified system that was the only way conformity is ensured within the golf sport.


The reason for the golf handicap system has always been to try to equalize the playing field for golf players with different abilities and skill levels so that they can all play equally against one another. For instance, imagine a player with an average score of 72 trying to compete against someone with an average score of 92. That cannot be possible without a handicapping system. When the handicap system is used by golfers, they can compete against each other in a match and they will both have real chances of emerging victorious regardless of their abilities.

A handicapping system allows the high handicapper to remove strokes from his or her score on specific holes on the course. This means that on a specific hole, the high handicapper (the weaker player) may be permitted to take a stroke from his or her score for that hole. When the round concludes, the two players of different skill levels can ascertain their “net score” which is their main score minus the strokes they were allowed to remove on the aforementioned specific holes.


The Golf Handicap System.

in golf what is a handicap

Before we proceed to how golf handicaps are calculated, understand that the world had a plethora of handicap systems used by golfers globally. The aforementioned USGA Handicap System was the biggest, and then we had the CONGU system used around Ireland and The United Kingdom. Australia also had its own, and many different handicapping systems were utilized in different parts of the world.


All of these systems had differences which makes it difficult for golfers all from distinct parts of the world to utilize their known handicap ratings when they have to play against one another.



The USGA Golf Handicap System.


Up until 2020, the USGA was the most utilized handicap system in golf. The United States Golf Association (USGA) system states that for the most accurate handicap of a golfer to be found, he or she must have at least 12 established rounds of golf. The best and worst rounds are usually cast aside to find the most suitable representation of your skills. It is worthy of note that the golf rounds have to be played consistently for a certain stipulated time frame.


If you pay constant visits to golf courses that are approved by the USGA for indexing purposes, then you might be able to get a handicap index. The index allows you to regularly measure your handicap annually with around 20 rounds utilized to compute the formula. It is important to note that sandbagging is not a proper method of legitimizing a handicap.


How To Calculate Your Golf Handicap With The USGA System

in golf what is a handicap

Let us take a step by step look at how golf handicap can be calculated:


  • The Basics Of Your Golf Score: Firstly it is important to keep track of all your strokes. That is why oftentimes you find golfers moving on the golf course with a pen and a notepad in hand. Additionally, you have to familiarize yourself with what course pars are.


  • Calculating Your Score: Endeavor to add up all strokes or swings and the puts you make. Your handicap is determined by subtracting all your strokes from the course par. Based on that calculation, your golf handicap will either be a scratch, positive number, or negative number, which means equal to par. Most golfers are likely to end up with a positive number. It takes years of skill and consistent practice for a golfer to get a negative handicap.


  • The Winner Of A Golf GameIt is natural for a novice in the world of golf to believe that golfers with high scores for a hole should be declared winner, but that is not the case. The victor is the golfer with the lowest score for that hole.


  • Calculating Your Golf Handicap: To calculate your golf handicap, you are going to need around five golf games with 18 holes per game. It is not advisable to go beyond a total of 20 games when calculating your golf handicap. Endeavor to always keep track of these scores and don’t lose them. Some holes have a score maximum, so if your total strokes go beyond the maximum, then count that maximum instead of your strokes.


  • Handicap TotalAdd up all your strokes. After that, take the course rating and deduct the average. Finally, multiply that number by 113. That may seem like a strange number to you, but that is the number you will always see when you work out your handicap.


  • You Are DoneAfter following the aforementioned steps your handicap will be ascertained. Your handicap is technically called your handicap index. Your handicap index is formulas to determine your handicap for certain courses.


As this text continues, we will expound on what handicap index is all about and what influences it.


The Golf Handicap Index.

in golf what is a handicap

The golf handicap plays a major role in helping golfers determine a golfer’s handicap. The index is derived from a complex formula that players do not have to go through the trouble of deciphering on their own. The golf handicap index takes the slope and course rating’s adjusted gross score to account.


With just around three rounds of golf (a total of 54 holes), a golfer can get a handicap index by joining clubs that have the permission to issue them. Once a player has a handicap, it gives him or her rating of the state of their game. But golf courses vary, some are very hard will others are easy. So before players make use of that handicap against another golfer to compete in a tournament or a friendly match, he or she has to take another step.


That step is the conversion of the index handicap into a course handicap. It is the handicap of the course that gives a golfer an idea of how many strokes they can decrease on a certain golf course. A plethora of golf courses have charts golfers can refer to get their course handicap. Golfers also have the option of using one of the many online course handicap calculators. The slope rating of the course you are playing and your handicap index is all that is needed for your course handicap to be calculated. When you have your golf handicap, you are ready to play on an equal basis with any golfer on the globe.


If you have a handicap index of 14.8, and the golf course you are playing on is a difficult one. Your index is likely to convert into a higher one. If you have a course index of 16 on that difficult course, and your opponent has an index of 7. Being the better golfer, your opponent plays off zero without making any stroke reduction during the round. You on the other hand will have to deduct your opponent’s course handicap of seven from your sixteen handicaps which results in a handicap of nine, That final number is the number of strokes you get in that round, this means you get to remove nine strokes.


How Slope And Course Rating Help Handicap Fit The Golf Course In The USGA System.


The handicapping system of the USGA got a major overhaul in the early 1980s with the introduction of slope rating for golf courses, adding the course rating as ways to rate a golf course’s difficulty. In the World Handicapped system which the golf industry got introduced to in January of 2020, slope rating and course rating went global.


As aforementioned, the course rating is the number of strokes a particular set of tees is expected to be played in by scratch golfers. A course rating of 74.8 connotes that the number is meant to be the average score of the best 50 percent of rounds scratch golfers play on that golf course.

Slope rating on the other hand is the number that represents the relative difficulty of a golf course for bogey golfers as opposed to the course rating. The slope can range from 50 to 150, with the average difficulty of a course being 113.


The par of a golf course has nothing to do with computing handicaps. Only course rating, slope rating, and adjusted gross score come into play. The adjusted gross score is the total stokes of a golfer after allowing for the most per-hole totals allowed by the handicapping system. The World Handicap system’s maximum hole score is a net double bogey on any hole played. Golfers still put the actual numbers of strokes they used together, but when a handicap score is reported, no score beyond a net double bogey can be used.



The Golf Handicap System In 2020.

The World Handicap System (WHS) was first unveiled about two years ago and took effect in 2020. The United States is one of the many nations to adopt the WHS. The WHS was formed by the R & A and The USGA in conjunction with all the handicapping authorities that exist worldwide. While the system became official in the United States in January, the WHS roll out will continue to proceed throughout 2020 after the world is fully recovered from the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic.


The rules of golfing handicap have changed significantly for North American golfers. Here is what you should know about the new way to calculate a handicap:


Streamlined Calculations: Before the emergence of the WHS, there were six handicapping systems used the world over. The WHS is a unifying singular system that allows golfers from all over the world to effectively compare their skills and go with an appropriate handicap when they visit courses around the globe.


Slope And Course Ratings: Under the WHS, course rating which is a key principle of previous handicap systems are expanded and serves as the foundation for handicap index calculators. The primary factors in handicap math are the slope rating which expresses the difficulty differences between a bogey and scratch golfer and the course rating, which shows the score expected from a scratch player from a given set of tees.


Optimistic Evaluation: While most of the previous handicap systems count a golfer’s 10 best scores out of their most recent golf rounds, the World Handicap System will count just the best eight of the scores in 20 rounds. What this means is that your number can shift by some decimals without any extra scores, as good rounds have more weight and the handicap of a golfer will reflect more of your skills on a good day.


Weather Impact: Any frequent golfer knows that a good score in tough weather conditions can be a better score than a lower score on an atmospherically serene day. Adding to the standard slope and course ratings, a “playing conditions calculation” has been included by the WHS to adjust scores based on unfavorable weather conditions. The range of this calculation is from -1.0 to +3.


System SafeguardsThe WHS has features that delineate a player’s handicap from growing too fast. A memory of a previous performance is factored into future maths, this means that a golfer’s low handicap within one year will be utilized as a factor to stall a handicap to keep it from growing too fast because of a period of poor form. The system adjusts automatically if a single low score is beyond seven shots below a golfer’s handicap index, initiating an “exceptional score reduction” that reduces a handicap to a more appropriate reflect ability.


ScoringThe maximum handicap for men and women under the World Handicapping System has been raised to 54.0, a major increase from previous ones. The highest score on any stipulated hole is a net double bogey.


Final Thoughts.


Handicap is not compulsory in the game of golf, but it is essential and performs as a guiding tool for golfers to ascertain their game progress and also allow golfers of different skill sets to compete against one another on a level playing field.

Most pro golfers don’t have handicaps but most starters and amateurs have.

4 thoughts on “In Golf What Is a Handicap

  • June 11, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    I like your article. There is a lot of information to learn from. I am not a golfer but have always wanted to try. I have always wondered what a handicap is when it came to golf. Now that I know, Even if I never play golf I will be able to interact in a conversation about it. I am going to have to read more of your articles to learn more about golf. I have never been Interested in any sports except golf. I have learned how to swing a golf club and the funny thing about that is I am left handed and it is easier for me to swing a golf club right handed. If I really want to understand how a handicap works in golf I will have to read your article a few more times. I do understand how it is helpful in golf but don’t understand exactly how it is used. I would think not knowing the game of golf its self very well would have a part in not understanding a handicap after reading about it for the first time. I will look at your site more to learn more about the game. Thank you

    • June 11, 2020 at 7:35 pm

      Hello Jason,

      Thanks for dropping by and I am inviting you to visit again to learn more about golf and golf clubs.

  • June 12, 2020 at 12:00 am

    Thanks a lot for this very informative and educative article on Handicap in golf… Personally I really don’t know how to play golf but I have folks who love the game and have often heard them talk about stuffs and used terms such as handicap and forgiving and so many other words that sound familiar but seem totally different from the conventional usage I am familiar with.

    Thanks so much for taking your time to drop this here.

    Just a quick one here, I am thinking of getting involved in golf, do you think someone over 30 years can still learn and perfect the game, having never ever played golf before?

    • June 12, 2020 at 8:32 am

      Helo Aboribo, hope I spelled your name correctly, yes, anyone can get started with golf no matter their age. Even if you are not going to go professional, at least for recreational purposes. I actually started playing golf when I couldn’t play soccer professionally and that was when I was well over 25years.

      So, go get your first set of golf clubs for beginners and step on the course and enjoy your swing.

      I am glad you found this article helpful.


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