What’s Your Handicap? Golf Handicap Explained


If you’ve gone golfing with a group, you’ve probably been asked what your handicap is. We’re here to get the golf handicap explained.

Handicaps are a quick way for golfers to sum each other up, but what do they mean? Today we’ll explain the golf handicap and its use in the game of golf.

Whether you’re a scratch golfer or you’re brand new to the golf course, check out our blog at Our Golf Clubs. We bring you more information all the time to help your playing ability. Check back often for more details. 

The Golf Handicap Explained

Golf Handicap Explained

Your golf handicap essentially tells other golfers how close to par you score, on average. Men and women are both eligible for handicaps. The highest handicap a man can have is 36. The highest for a woman is 40. The better you play, the lower your handicap will be. 

Who Figures Out My Handicap Index?

Handicaps are based on the scores players submit for several games. As golfers play more rounds, they contribute more scores, and their playing handicaps adjust. Each new score is figured into the average, so if you’re a double-bogey golfer and you happen to have a par round, it will not have a big impact on your handicap.

The USGA states to calculate your handicap, you must report scores from twenty rounds. Your best eight games from the twenty most recent scores create your handicap. The system has safeguards built in to keep your handicap from being knocked out of whack by a few unusual scores. 

The USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (the R & A) created the World Handicap System in 2020. Before this collaboration, six different handicap systems were in play. Now golfers can rely on their handicap being consistent throughout 110 countries. 

How Is the Golf Handicap Index Calculated?

The World Handicap System applies a variety of rules to keep handicaps consistent and logical.

The Net Double Bogey Rule. When calculating the handicap, no single hole can be given a higher score than a double bogey. This rule keeps a single bad hole or difficult day from throwing your handicap out of whack.

Keep in mind, while capping your score for handicap reporting is reasonable, you need to count every shot if you’re playing a tournament. 

Adjusting the impact of scores earned during adverse conditions. Conditions such as local weather are factored for each course every day. Scores from these days are compared to scores completed in normal conditions, and the calculation is adjusted. At least eight people need to report scores on an adverse day to do the Playing Conditions Calculation. 

Solos don’t count. You must have at least one other person with you if you want to report your score for handicap calculations. 

Not every course is included.  The golf course you play must have a current course rating and slope rating.  

Follow the rules. You are only allowed to count your round if you follow the rules of golf. 

It has to be golf season. Golfers can only submit scores for rounds played during the active season. The definition of the active season varies by location, but generally, it is any time of year that would not usually be wintery. 

The Exceptional Score Reduction.  Handicap indexes are supposed to reflect the abilities of the player. Occasionally, players may have a round that is considerably better than the ones they’ve reported previously. 

When a golfer reports a score at least seven strokes better than expected, his handicap is lowered by one stroke. If that round was ten strokes below expected, his handicap drops by two. 

The handicap calculation will continue to include their value for the next twenty rounds by giving extra weight to those fantastic games. But if the handicap committee finds that the adjustment doesn’t reflect the player’s ability, they can override it. 

Not All Courses Are Equal

Some courses are more difficult than others. How does your handicap transfer to different locations? 

The Playing Handicap takes the course slope rating into account. Slope ratings tell bogey golfers how challenging the course is. Then any difference between course rating and par is factored in. If you’re playing a par 64 course, the calculation adjusts because the par for this course is four less than the standard 72.

Most clubhouses will provide any necessary information. Some even have apps to help you calculate your handicap index.  

Golf Handicaps Level the Playing Field

Handicaps allow golfers of varying abilities to compete with a roughly equal chance of winning. The more scores you submit, the more accurate your handicap will be. Don’t be concerned about submitting only good or bad scores they all add up to a good time. 

Now, get out there and enjoy a round of golf. When you’re done, check in again at Our Golf Clubs. We’re always adding more information the help you play better and have more fun.  

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