How does Golf Handicap Works? [For Beginners]

One of the very fair things about golf is that you can perfectly compete with PGA tour pros as an amateur. With a Golf handicap, competition between an amateur and a pro can be balanced, thereby making it a fair competition.

For other sports like football, table tennis, baseball, and basketball, there nothing like handicap like it is with golf. So, unlike golf, it is very difficult for amateurs to compete with professionals in other sports.

Let us take a slight look into how golf handicapping was brought into play.

The History of Golf Handicaps

Golf handicapping has been on for a very long time, as its earliest record could be traced back to the 17th century, but became in use in the 19th century. Golf handicap has first discovered in a diary that was kept by Thomas Kincaid, a then student in Edinburgh, Scotland.

When it was finally put into play, the number of strokes to be given, as well as holes that would be in effect was discussed between golfers before the game begins.

Now, some people on here aren’t too familiar with what golf handicap means, don’t worry, we’ve got you!

What is the Golf handicap?

A golf handicap is a numerical measure of a golfer’s ability that was devised to help players of different potentials and levels to be able to compete against each other. With golf handicap, the better players are given the lowest handicap, while amateurs get the highest handicap.

How to Calculate Your Golf Handicap in 2021

Get this clearly; you do not have a golf handicap if you have never played a game of golf before. For amateurs who are ready to create a golf handicap, you can start by tracking the scores for your 9 and 18-hole. Be sure that the scores are recorded in a scorecard, and must be signed by the two players that are competing against each other. The need for the signature is to try as much as possible to make sure both players are on the same term, thereby helping to minimize corruption and make every score real and valid.

To calculate a golf course handicap, clubs will either provide a conversion table for calculating handicap or the player will be directed to his/her golf union’s website. At the golf union website, a list of all slope rating is there, and a calculation is provided on the site as well.

Other than this, you can also calculate your golf course handicap on your own. You can calculate your golf handicap manually by multiplying your handicap index by your course slope rating, and then divide by the constant neutral slope of 113. However, some changes have been made to this calculation formula and will be discussed later in this same piece.

113 are considered by the USGA as the standard for neutral slope. But for England Golf, the average GB&I rating is 125.

Number of Scores Needed to Obtain Handicap Index

A golf handicap index is being revised at every beginning and mid of a month (1st and 15th). The current number of scores needed to obtain a handicap index is that a player must first submit three 18-holes scores in other to obtain a handicap index. This can be gotten from a combination of 9-holes and 18-hole rounds.

Due to the constant changes and revisions, a player is required to submit only three 18-hole, as the revision to a player’s handicap is done on daily basis as long as the player constantly updates his/her third 18-hole scores before midnight.

Golf Handicap Calculation Changes for 2021

Before now, course handicap calculation was done with the formula: Handicap Index X Slope rating / 113, as was earlier discussed.

The new and current formula for calculating the golf handicap is: Handicap Index X (Slope rating/113) + (Course Rating-Par)

If you observe, you will see the changes made includes course rating minus par, which was formally not included in the former formula. These changes were made in other to accommodate players that play from different tees. There is a need to have a fairer handicapping because players from various tees are playing from different benchmarks.

New rules of handicapping that represent the strokes players get in competitions have also been introduced. Due to these new rules, the formula for playing handicap is now: course handicap X handicap allowance.

There have also been changes made to these new rules, and they are:

A player will be allowed to adjust his/her scores with the use of course handicaps.

Secondly, playing handicaps will be used for net competitions.

The Formula for Calculating Course Handicap

There are a lot of online programs and apps that you can sign into to help you calculate your course handicap. But for some persons who’d prefer to do it their way, I have carefully broken down the various steps to calculate your handicap by yourself.

Some of the factors and elements to look out for while calculating handicap are; slope rating, course handicap, adjusted gross scores, handicap index of the game, course rating, as well as its associated differential.

Below are steps to follow while calculating your course handicap:

Step 1- You will have to change the gross scores into the adjusted total score

You will have to make use of the USGA’s equitable stroke control to get the adjusted gross scores. You will then use the ESC downwards while adjusting each of the individual 18-hole to create a handicap.

Note that using the ESC, you are restricted to the maximum number of strokes that you can enter in a given hole, and the maximum number of strokes to enter is given in the table below:

Course HandicapMaximum Score
0-9Double bogey

Step 2- Calculate the differential in the handicap for each score.

Here is the best and most recommended formula for calculating the handicap differential:

Handicap differentia = (Adjusted Gross Score-rating of the course) X 113/ the course slope ratings.

The course rating is regarded as the scores gotten by a new golfer on a normal course, playing under a normal condition. Based on the standard difficulty, the slope rating for a course is 113.

Step 3- Be sure to select the lowest handicap differential.

You should select the lowest handicap differential. This is because the top 10 differentials of your 20 most current scores will be used for calculation in case you have entered more than 20 scores.

Step 4- Calculate the average of the smallest value from the differentials

Be sure to calculate the average for the lowest 3HDs if you have 10 differentials available. Then, calculate the average for the lowest 6 for 15HDs.

Note: Always make use of the 10 best scores from the most recent 20 scores.

Step 5– Multiply the average handicap differentials by 96%

This step has to do with determining the average handicap differentials from the net handicap differentials by multiplying the average differential by 0.96.

Step 6- decreasing, deleting the number to the value of the right of tenths

You should not of any figure in the scores. According to the USGA, the default maximum number from any handicap when playing a golf match should be 40.4 and 36.4 for women and men respectively, if played on an 18-hole course. And should be 18.2 and 20.2 for men and women respectively if played on a 9-hole course

For example, if the handicap differential average is 13.196, the truncated value will become 13.1 after it has been multiplied by 0.96.

Step 7- Finally calculate the course handicap.

As already known, a course handicap is the number of strokes a player receives on a particular course.

Having already known the formula for course handicap is = Handicap Index X Slope Rating/113 + (Course Rating-Par)

Here is an example of how to calculate the course handicap:

Let’s say that a course handicap is 12.7 and 115 for a course slope.

Course Handicap = 12.7 x 115 / 113 = 12.92 = 13

How You Can Improve Your Handicap

  • Having known your golf handicap, here are things you should check out if you are determined to improve it:
  • Improve your swing with constant practices. You check out personal golf lessons in case you need professional help.
  • Make sure you have the perfect equipment as bad equipment could affect your game performance and may even increase the risk of getting injured.
  • Always challenge yourself to beat your old records and set new ones each time you play.

How to lookup Handicap

The legit and official golf handicap is issued through the United States Golf Association.

To look up your golf handicap, you have to first submit scores through a USGA-licensed golf club.

Some courses provide an online database or post handicap charts that players can easily check from. You can also decide to check it out yourself using the USGA formula:

  • Firstly, collect as many golf courses as you have, and also collect the USGA slope and course ratings for the courses on which you’ve played. Make sure to have this information on your scorecards as well.
  • Secondly, subtract the rating from your score, and then multiply by 113 (USAGA standard difficulty) to get the handicap differential.

Divide the answer you got by the course slope rating and round the number  to the nearest tenth.

  • Thirdly, select the lowest 10 differentials of your last 20 rounds.
  • 4th step- multiply the average of your differentials by 0.96, then delete all the numbers after the tenth digit to get your handicap index.
  • Final step- check out the course handicap conversion chart to convert your handicap index to your handicap for that particular course.

You can also convert it by multiplying your handicap index by the slope rating of the course you played, divided by 113, and round the resulting figure to the nearest whole number.

Note that .5 is rounded upward.

Handicap Average score

The general average handicap index for men is 14.7, which is approximately lower with one stroke compared to how it was back in 1990.

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