Every golfer has heard the term ‘golf handicap’ at least once, but how many of us understand what it means? Well, we can help with that! Understanding your handicap is simpler than you may think.
In this post, we’re answering the question on many golfers’ minds: what is a handicap? We’ve also put together some basic tips to explain how you can go about calculating a golf handicap.
Let’s get started.
What Is a Golf Handicap?
A handicap allows golfers of different skill levels to challenge each other using a centralized scoring system. It takes into consideration the total number of strokes you’re able to play either over or under par. It’s based on the scores of your previous golf rounds.
This scoring system evens the playing field. More importantly, it compares your performance against other players.
Knowing your handicap increases competition. It acts as a great equalizer, especially if you’re participating in a tournament or a serious round of golf.
Why Do Golf Players Need to Have a Handicap?
Many new golfers wonder why handicaps are so important. Well, without the use of a handicap, it’s hard to gauge the play of a golfer against the difficulty of the course.
Golf handicaps are the go-to system used in all types of golfing games worldwide. You could be competing in a large tournament or enjoying a friendly game at your local golf club, and still use golf handicaps.
Either way, you’re bound to use the same scoring system to ensure fairness. Having a handicap also improves your game and helps you monitor your progress.
How to Calculate Golf Handicap
A handicap measures your golfing skill level according to your score with respect to a course’s par round. To calculate your golf handicap, you have to know the par of the course you’re playing.
Here’s a quick rundown of how you’d calculate a handicap on an 18-hole course:
Let’s say you and your friend are starting to play. Your friend has a handicap of six, or six over par. In other words, they’d be expected to play 78 strokes in total.
You, on the other hand, have a 12 handicap. This means you’re expected to hit 84 strokes, or 12 over par.
After you’re done playing, your friend shoots an 80 and you shoot an 82. Even though your friend shot the lower round, you’re actually the winner! Why? Because if you add in each of your handicaps, your friend is +2 over their handicap, whereas you’re -2 below yours.
On average, men’s golf handicaps range between 0 and 28, with a maximum of 36.4. For women, their handicap can be between 0 and 36, with a maximum of 40.4.
Many newbies ask, “what is my golf handicap if I shoot 100?” If you’re striking around 100 for 18 holes, then you’d take 72 par from 100, to give you an average handicap of about 28.
How about a handicap for someone who shoots 90? Following the same formula, their average handicap would be 18.
To make things easier on golfers, you can use the golf handicap calculator. You can use it to compute the handicap index of a golfer for any course on any given day.
How to Get a Handicap in Golf?
If you’ve never tried to play golf before in your life, you have no golf handicap. Once you start playing, you can begin creating your handicap. The best way to do this is to keep track of both your 9-hole and 18-hole scores.
You’ll be given a score sheet where you’ll write down your score after each hole. To prevent cheating, you and the person that came with you to the game must sign the sheet.
Play a Couple Dozen Rounds of Golf
Before you get a handicap, you should get at least 15 to 20 rounds of golf, preferably on a variety of courses. After that, you can get your handicap by signing up at your local golf club. They tend to include a fee in the annual membership for handicaps.
Signup Online with USGA
Another way to get a handicap is by signing up online with the USGA. Make sure you’re registering with an association or club that’s affiliated with the Golf Handicap Information Network (GHIN).
Once your application is accepted, you’ll receive a GHIN number unique only to you. This number is like your social security number and stays with you as long as you play golf.
It doesn’t matter if you belong to several clubs or play at different golf courses. Your GHIN will always be the same wherever you go. You can use it to post and save your scores online.
What Is a Handicap Index?
You can easily figure out your handicap on a course you’re used to and play on regularly, but what about those courses you’ve never played on before?
In situations like this, we use what’s known as a ‘traveling’ handicap, or a handicap index. To calculate your handicap index, you have to know two things about the course: its rating and its slope.
Course Difficulty Figures into Handicap
One of the biggest changes that happened to handicap indexes took place in 1979 at the hands of Dean Knuth. His revolutionary idea was to begin factoring in the difficulty of each golf course.
He invented the rating systems for both slopes and courses, which are used to this day. He aimed to make the scoring process fair no matter what course you’re playing on and what your skill level is.
Knuth also wanted to level the playing field according to what tee you’re playing from. Whether it’s the red, white, blue, or gold tees, he wanted everyone to have a fair chance.
This rating specifies the difficulty of a course for a golfer with a 0 handicap. This player is also referred to as a scratch golfer.
Each course is rated by a team of trained experts and re-rated every 10 years. They measure and assess the entire course via lasers, GPS, and on-site inspections.
These ratings run between 67 on the easier courses and 77 on the more difficult ones. With this rating, you can calculate your handicap index and course handicap. You can then post your scores online.
The course slope is designed to give an estimate of the level difficulty for a golfer with an 18 handicap, also known as a bogey golfer. Slope ratings typically range from 55 to 155, with an average difficulty rating of 113.
Knuth came up with the formula to estimate what bogey golfers would get on a particular golf course. Then, he compared that number to that of a scratch golfer. This is how he was able to develop this rating system for each course.
A handicap differential is the difference between your gross score and the course rating.
Take, for example, a score of 82 and a course rating of 72.5. Subtract them, then multiply that by 113. That should give you 1,073. Next, divide that by the course slope rating, we’ll say it’s 128. The answer, 8.4, is your handicap differential for that particular round of golf.
In other words, you’ll strike 8.4 strokes over par in each round on that specific course. For other rounds, you’ll have to use the same formula: ((gross score – course rating) / slope rating) x 113.
If these numbers are getting to be too much, don’t worry about it. The USGA updates your handicap differential and other scores on the 1st and the 15th of each month. You just have to enter your scores as often as possible.
What Is a Course Handicap?
It’s basically the number of strokes required to play to the level of a scratch golfer. This is typically used on a specific course with a specific set of tees.
In general, golfers are expected to play to their course handicap about 20% of the time.
Course Handicap Formula
This is the new formula for calculating the course handicap: handicap index x (slope rating/113) + (course rating – par). Once you’ve calculated the course handicap, round up the answer to a whole number.
According to the new 2020 rules, the course handicap takes into account the course rating and par. It’s designed to assist players who play off various tees.
What Is the World Handicap System?
In 1911, the United States Golf Association (USGA) introduced its first-ever handicap system. This system has stayed the same until it was upgraded in 2020. The new World Handicap System (WHS) is being implemented worldwide.
Examples of Handicap Rules Changed
Here’s a few examples of some of the rules that got updates. In previous years, the average of a player’s round was 5 over par. As of 2020, you can come up with your handicap index based on your recent three scores.
Then, there’s the handicap index. Before 2020, you averaged your best 10 handicap differentials out of your most recent 20 rounds.
Calculating Golf Handicap Index
So, how do you calculate your handicap index in 2021? You compute the average of the best 8 rounds of your final 20. This change allows for improved scores and better responsiveness from the players.
Even the formula for handicap differential has changed. Now, it takes into account Playing Conditions Calculations (PCC) to provide the necessary adjustments. They’re usually added when external factors affect the scores in any way.
Handicap Differential Formula
As of 2020, there’s a new formula for computing an 18-hole score handicap differential. It’s as follows: (113/slope rating) x (adjusted gross score – course rating – PCC adjustment).
Now that you know how to calculate a handicap, you can go out on the green and enjoy golfing to your heart’s content. Keeping tabs on your handicap can help improve your game over time.
So, what are you waiting for? Go out there and start swinging some golf clubs!