What is golf handicap

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Luke is an avid weekend-warrior golfer from the East Coast who plays golf more than he cares to admit.

Answer: What is golf handicap? A Golf Handicap is a numerical measure of your golfing ability. It’s based off the USGA formula that takes into account the scores you’ve posted in recent rounds of golf and assigns you a number between 0-36 (for men) or 0-45 (for women). The lower your handicap, the better your playing skills are considered to be – meaning those with higher handicaps should give those with lower handicaps more strokes on the course. Handicapping is used to even out the playing field since not all courses are created equal; it allows players of all skill levels to compete and enjoy the game of golf.

The story behind the golf handicap

The history of golf handicapping dates back to the mid-1700s, when a system was devised to level the playing field between members of the Scottish golf club, Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. The original system was based on the principle that good play should be rewarded with fewer strokes and bad play should be punished with more strokes.

This system was later adopted by other clubs in Scotland and eventually spread throughout the British Isles in 1824. In 1911, the United States Golf Association created a formal handicap system for all courses across America.

Today, this handicap system is still used worldwide and has helped make golf accessible to players of all skill levels.

Most recent update to the handicap

Recently, the USGA has made changes to the handicap formula in order to simplify the process. The most notable change is the new Handicap Index, which uses a more modern calculation based on par ratings and course slope ratings.

This adjustment makes it easier for players to track their progress and compare their scores against others on different courses. Other updates include revised tee box ratings, trackable hole-by-hole scores, and average score tracking. Together, these changes have helped improve golfers’ understanding of their skills so they can better compete with others in competitive play.

World Handicap System (WHS)

At the start of 2020, the WHS™ unified six different handicap systems that allows golfers of all levels to now play in any format and course, anywhere across the globe—all with a level playing field. This preserves scoring accuracy and just makes calculating your handicap well, simple.

What does my handicap score mean?

It helps you identify what areas of your game need work and shows you how many strokes you should give to more experienced players in order to stay competitive.

Handicapping also provides you with the opportunity to keep track of your improvement over time, allowing you to see just how much you have improved since starting out. Your golf handicap is a powerful tool for helping you gain insight into your skill levels and strive for continued improvement on the course.


Calculating your golf handicap is relatively simple and can be done by keeping track of your scores on different courses over time. First, you will need to record your scores from at least five 18-hole rounds, or 10 nine-hole rounds.

You then add up all the scores and divide that number by the number of total holes played. This gives you your average score per hole.

Finally, take this number and subtract it from the course rating for each of the courses you played, and then come up with an average of all these numbers. The result is your golf handicap index which you can use to compare yourself against other players on any course!

Doing the handicap math

An example of calculating a golf handicap score would be as follows: If you have completed five 18-hole rounds, each with a score of 72, your total is 360.

We then divide 360 by the total number of holes played (90) to get an average of 4 per hole. Next, we subtract the course rating from this average to get our handicap index.

So if the course rating is 71, the handicap index is 4 – 71 = -67. Your final handicap index is -67.

Numbers needed for the math

In order to calculate your golf handicap, you will need to have recorded at least five 18-hole rounds, or 10 nine-hole rounds. Once these scores are accumulated, you can begin the calculation process.

You will add up all the scores and divide that number by the total number of holes played in order to get an average score per hole.

Then you subtract this average from the course rating for each of the courses you played in order to get your handicap index.

What about the slope rating?

The slope rating of a course is an indication of the level of difficulty of playing that particular course in relation to a standard USGA golf course.

The higher the number, the more difficult it is to play. Slope rating is used in conjunction with course rating when calculating a handicap index.

Course rating is an indication of the score you would expect to obtain on a standard golf course, whereas a slope rating reflects how much more difficult or easier it is compared to a standard golf course.

Your handicap index is determined by taking the average of your scores from different courses and then subtracting the course ratings from each one which will give you your handicap index for those courses.

Max handicap index

Leaning on the USGA, the maximum handicap index for any player is 54.

Score differential

As per the USGA, the Score Differential measures the performance of a round in relation to the relative difficulty of the course that was played, measured by the Course Rating™, Slope Rating®, and playing conditions calculation (PCC in the equation and is adjustment for weather conditions).

With all of that said, the score differential is calculated like so:

(113 / Slope Rating) x (Adjusted Gross Score – Course Rating – PCC adjustment)

What is a good handicap to have?

The average handicap for a recreational golfer is around 16. The lower your handicap, the better you are at the game. If you have a handicap of 0-7, you would generally be considered an expert golfer.

A handicap between 8-15 is seen as above average and higher than 16 is considered an average player. To improve your handicap, it is important to continue working on your golf technique and practice regularly, keeping track of your scores over time.

Big question: How do I lower my handicap score?

1) Practice your fundamentals and make sure they are being used consistently in your swing.

2) Improve your short game and learn to hit more accurate approach shots.

3) Track your practice sessions and record the areas that need improvement.

4) Play golf courses with a low slope rating and course rating in order to get a lower handicap index.

5) Take regular lessons from a teaching pro, as they will be able to focus on specific aspects of your game that you could work on in order to lower your score.

Practice 3 drills to lower your handicap

Lowering your handicap is important because it can give you a better chance at winning tournaments and placing higher in competitions. It also reflects the amount of effort and improvements you have made to your game.

Improving your handicap is also beneficial for other reasons such as increased confidence and satisfaction with ever-improving scores.

Additionally, having a lower handicap can give you access to golf courses with stricter eligibility requirements that may offer better playing experiences due to the more challenging layout of holes.

1) Pitch Shot Drill

This drill involves hitting a series of chip shots to an identified target. The goal is to be able to control your trajectory and distance, so you can drop your clubs for different distances and land the ball at a specific target. This helps improve touch and accuracy on approach shots, which will help lower scores.

2) Chipping Drill

The chipping drill involves hitting chips off of the ground, rather than taking a full swing from the tee. This helps to practice controlling course from various lies, improving precision and shot making ability.

3) Short Game Practice

Practicing in the short game area is important in order to hone skills like pitching, chipping and putting. Working closely with a teaching pro who can show you how to make small adjustments can be especially beneficial in terms of lowering your score.

Pay attention to your handicap score!

A golf handicap is a numerical representation that measures a golfer’s potential ability in the game. It is calculated by taking into consideration various elements such as course difficulty, scores, and player performance.

Lowering your handicap is important because it can give you a better chance at winning tournaments and placing higher in competitions. A lower handicap can also give you access to golf courses with stricter eligibility requirements that may offer better playing experiences due to their more challenging layout of holes.

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