If you are new to the game of golf, you may be wondering what a golf handicap is and how to figure out what yours is.
Golf handicaps can be a bit tricky to figure out, but luckily with the help of a little bit of math, you can determine your golf handicap.
Without golf handicaps, there would be no fair matches or tournaments for amateurs.
Your handicap is a significant number to determine, but you will need a few rounds under your belt before you can figure out the number.
In this guide, we will help you determine what your handicap is, figure out why your handicap is so significant, and some ideas to help you lower it.
Table Of Contents
What Does Handicap Mean In Golf?
Your handicap is essentially how good you are at golf.
If you have a zero handicap, you are considered a scratch golfer, and you would shoot par most times you went out to play.
If you have a twenty handicap, it means you would shoot about 92 each time you go out to play.
Handicaps are important for people of varying levels to be able to play golf against each other.
If you are a two handicap and you want to have a match against your friend that is a twenty handicap, you can do so with the USGA handicapping system.
With this, your match will be fair and equal.
This is one of the things that makes golf such a great sport.
If your handicap is accurate and you play to your handicap, you will be considered tough to beat.
Of course, a golf handicap is only as accurate as the golfer makes it.
If you don’t follow all the rules and give yourself penalty shots when appropriate, your handicap will not be accurate.
Many people think that your handicap is about how many strokes you are over par.
Although this is the shortcut way to figure it out, it isn’t usually entirely accurate.
You will need to understand both slope and rating to determine your handicap accurately.
What is Slope In Golf?
If you look on any scorecard, you will see two additional numbers that are called slope and rating.
These will be in addition to the par and the HDCP on the golf scorecard.
The slope is a numerical value that will tell you about how hard the golf course is for a bogey golfer as compared to a scratch golfer.
There is a slope scale that golf courses are rated on.
The average slope for any golf course is 113.
The highest slope can go is 155.
The lowest slope will be is 55.
If you are wondering why these numbers are so important, you must consider the following example.
Your friend plays a very easy golf course every week; he continues to shoot 80 each time he plays.
Yes, 80 is an excellent score.
However, the next time he goes to play, he plays a much more challenging golf course, and he shoots 90.
This has everything to do with the difficulty of the golf course and not just the skill of the player.
The golf course slope, rating and handicapping system are designed to consider these factors when determining player handicap.
If you determined the handicap only by score alone, it would not be accurate.
What is Rating in Golf?
You will see the rating on the golf scorecard, usually represented as a number with a decimal point.
The rating for the golf course is what a scratch golfer should shoot at the course.
So if the par is 72, but the rating is 74.5, the scratch golfer would probably shoot around 74.5 as opposed to their typical 72.
The higher a golf course rating gets, the more difficult the course is.
How To Calculate Golf Handicap
Now that you have a general idea of the slope and the rating on a golf scorecard, you can start to try and figure out what your handicap is.
The best way to determine your handicap is to use the USGA handicapping system.
This system is referred to as the GHIN system.
GHIN stands for Golf Handicap Information Network.
The GHIN system will calculate the handicap for you, and all you will need to do is enter your scores.
If you want to determine your handicap manually, here are the steps you can follow.
The first step in calculating your golf handicap is to gather your last twenty scorecards.
Choose your first scorecard and determine what your score was.
Then take your score and subtract the course rating from your score.
Once you have this number, you need to multiply it by 113.
If you remember correctly, the number 113 is the average slope of a golf course.
After you have that complete, you will need to divide that sum by the slope of the golf course.
This number that you are left with is your differential.
Do this calculation for all of your scorecards.
(Score-Course Rating) X 113/ Slope Rating
When you have your twenty differential scores, you will need to pull out the lowest ten.
Take the lowest ten differentials and find the average.
Do this by adding all of the differentials up and dividing by ten.
Once you have this average, multiply it by .96.
This is your handicap index.
As you may have noticed, the actual process of determining your handicap index is not complicated, but it is when you are continually adding more rounds.
Your handicap will likely change after every one to three rounds.
You should always enter all of your scores into the GHIN system and the way the system is developed it will eliminate the outliers that shouldn’t count towards your score.
So the next time someone tells you that they always shoot around 90 so they are an 18 handicap, now you know there is a bit more to it than that.
Making sure your handicap is entirely accurate is the only way to have a genuinely fair match.
Walk into any locker room or grill room, and you will hear lots of chatter about handicaps and whether or not they are accurate.
What Is A Golf Handicap For A Beginner?
A beginner golfer will need about 5-10 rounds under their belt to get a real handicap index.
It is hard for beginner golfers to get an accurate handicap because they are usually pretty erratic.
A beginner can have a great round one day and a terrible round the next.
Most beginner golfers cannot shoot lower than one hundred.
Most golfers, in general, cannot shoot lower than one hundred if they kept score accurately.
As a beginner, you may want to focus more on the quality of the shots than the overall score of your round.
It takes time to start shooting lower in golf.
It can be stressful and make the game less fun, and that’s the last thing you want as a new player.
What Is My Golf Handicap If I Know My Scores?
After reading our advice on how to calculate your handicap, you now understand that the difficulty of the golf course has an impact on how your handicap is determined.
If you are looking for a basic idea of what your handicap would be based on your score, we will give you a general idea.
Remember, the type of golf course will impact these numbers.
What Is My Golf Handicap If I Shoot 100?
If you play a par 72 course and shoot 100, you are probably around a 28 handicap.
What Is My Golf Handicap If I Shoot 95?
If you play a par 72 course and shoot 95, you are probably around a 23 handicap.
What Is My Golf Handicap If I Shoot 90?
If you play a par 72 course and shoot 90, you are probably around an 18 handicap.
What Is My Golf Handicap If I Shoot 85?
If you play a par 72 course and shoot 85, you are probably around a 13 handicap.
What Is My Golf Handicap If I Shoot 80?
If you play a par 72 course and shoot 80, you are probably around an eight handicap. At this point, you would be referred to as a single-digit handicap.
What Is My Golf Handicap If I Shoot 75?
If you play a par 72 course and shoot 75, you are probably around three handicaps.
What Is The Most Common Golf Handicap?
The most common golf handicap in America is right around sixteen.
On a typical golf course, a sixteen handicap golfer would shoot anywhere from 86-92.
This is considered to be an average golfer.
As we mentioned earlier, handicaps are only useful if the players who are recording them are doing so accurately.
If you don’t know the proper rules of the game, you should learn them to make sure your handicap is accurate.
Many golfers want to have a low handicap, but that does you no good if it is not accurate.
The most common golf handicap for a female golfer is a 28.
There are fewer female golfers overall, and that does have an impact on this number.
What Is The Maximum Golf Handicap For A Woman?
The highest index that a female golfer can have is a 40.4, and the highest that a male golfer can have is a 36.4.
These numbers are put in place to keep the system fair.
If a handicap is higher than this, the number of strokes allocated in a match would not be fair.
For some beginner women golfers, getting your handicap to the 40.4 is an accomplishment.
Once you have it to this point, you can start to compete in and play tournaments and matches.
How To Become A Plus Handicap Golfer?
So far, we have only mentioned the scratch golfer, who shoots par almost every time they go to play.
What about the player that shoots less than par?
These players are plus handicap golfers.
If you continually shoot below par, your handicap will likely end up as a plus handicap.
If you are a plus-two handicap, then you would be expected to shoot a 70 on a par 72 golf course.
Remember that the handicap determinations are coming from the slope and rating, not just your score.
So if you are shooting par on a challenging golf course, your handicap will likely show that you are a plus handicap player.
What Handicap Do You Need To Be A Pro Golfer?
To become a professional golfer, you need to shoot better than par continually.
You also need to shoot better than the rest of the field continually.
There are no handicaps used in professional tournaments.
Each player competes against each other and the golf course.
If the entire field of golfers shoots 68, but you shoot 66, that is the score you needed to shoot that day.
Golf handicaps are much more for amateur golf than they are for professional golf.
Do Golf Pros Have Handicaps?
The answer to this question is both yes and no.
If you are talking about a club professional that plays golf with his or her membership, they will always carry a golf handicap.
The handicap is used when they try and play a match with the members.
To make it fair, they will likely need to give up a few strokes. (We will get more into this in the next section).
If that same golf professional decides to try and qualify for the US Open, his handicap will not matter.
At this point, he will be playing against the rest of the field, and the handicap won’t matter.
If you watch any of the professional golfers play on television, they never use handicaps.
If they did use handicaps, they would probably be +6 or +8.
How To Determine Handicaps For A Match?
Now that you understand the USGA Handicap System and you have determined your handicap, you may be ready to try this out in a match.
There are a few things you need to know before doing this.
In this example, we will give you everything you need to know to have a fair match with a friend on the golf course.
Let’s say you are an 18 handicap, and your friend is a ten handicap.
The first thing you will need to do is subtract the lower handicap from the higher handicap.
For this example, there would be a difference of ten strokes between the two handicaps.
The person that is the lower handicap will “get” ten strokes.
Look at your scorecard and look for the row that says HDCP or Handicap.
This is the way the holes on the golf course are rated.
The most challenging hole on the golf course is the number one handicap hole.
The easiest hole on the golf course is the 18 handicap hole.
You will need to find the top ten handicap holes because the difference between the two handicaps is ten.
Mark each one of these holes.
On each of these holes, the better player will have to give the higher handicap player a shot.
Let’s say you get to one of the top ten handicap holes, and you score a five.
If your friend who is the better player also shoots a 5, you would win the hole.
Technically because of your handicap, your score would be considered to be a four on this hole.
This may seem a little confusing at first, but over time it will get easier.
If the difference between the player’s two handicaps is more than eighteen, you can give a player two shots on a hole.
So if the difference between to players’ handicaps is twenty, the better player will give the higher handicap player a shot on each hole and two shots on the two highest handicap holes.
These matches are most fun when people have been recording their scores accurately.
Both players will have to play very close to their handicap for this to work out.
Most country club championships and tournaments are figured out using handicaps to make it the fairest.
This system is also an excellent way for men to play golf against women.
Since women are typically not capable of generating as much power in their golf swings, they won’t hit the ball as far.
However, if they score honestly and keep an accurate handicap, they will easily be able to compete in a match.
How Can I Lower My Golf Handicap?
Lowering your golf handicap is every golfer’s ultimate goal.
Golf is such a challenging game, and getting better at it takes both time and patience.
If you want to start lowering your handicap and getting better at the game of golf, there are several things you can do to speed up the process.
- Work On Your Short Game: the more time you spend practicing around the greens, the lower your scores will go.
- Play A Variety Of Courses: your game will improve, and your scoring capabilities will improve if you expose yourself to other golf courses.
- Play With Good Golfers: playing with golfers who are better than you will help you learn tips and tricks that will help you lower your golf score in time.
- Take Lessons: some people don’t enjoy golf lessons, but if you want to improve, you may need to have an outsider take a look at your swing and your abilities to score.
- Learn The Techniques: not every tee box requires a driver, sometimes laying up means hitting a nine iron, you need to learn scoring techniques to start lowering your scores.
- Make Each Shot Count: the best way to start making each shot count is to play a little match when the shot matters; you will put your best swing on it.
- Watch The Professionals: take some time to see how professionals get themselves out of bunkers, where they layup, how they lag putt, all of these things will help you lower your score.
- Be Honest: the final and most important way to lower your handicap is to remain honest, let your handicap be a true reflection of how you are progressing as a golfer.
Without golf handicaps, the game of golf would be a much less friendly game.
Golf handicaps make it possible for all player types to enjoy the game together.
In addition to playing in a match, the golf handicap system lets you know as a player how your game is progressing.
Did you spend money on a new set of irons?
Wouldn’t it be nice to know if they helped lower your handicap index at all?
If you keep an accurate and fair handicap, you can quickly tell if your game is improving or if you need to put some more time in to get to the level you want.