Site icon Golfers Tribe

What is a Golf Handicap | Best Handicap Guide 2023

A Golf handicap is a numerical measure of a golfers skill level used to level the playing field in golf competitions. What is a golf handicap and why we use it in game?

What is a Golf Handicap

The handicap is based on a system that considers a golfer’s past performance and adjusts their score accordingly allowing players of different skill levels to compete against each other fairly.

The basic idea behind the handicap system is that a golfer with a higher handicap will be given strokes to add to their score while a golfer with a lower handicap will have strokes deducted from their score. This means that a golfer with a higher handicap has an advantage over a golfer with a lower handicap as they will be able to compete on an equal footing.

Handicaps are calculated using a complex mathematical formula that takes into account a player’s scores from their recent rounds of golf as well as the difficulty of the courses they have played on. A result is a single number that represents a player’s handicap and this number is used to determine how many strokes they will receive or give up in a competition.

How Does a Golf Handicap Work?

A golf handicap is a measure of the golfer’s playing ability calculated based on the scores they have achieved in previous rounds of golf. The handicap system allows golfers of different skill levels to compete on an equal footing by adjusting their scores according to their handicap.

To calculate a golf handicap a golfer’s scores are adjusted based on the difficulty of the course they played on. This adjustment is made using the course rating and slope rating which are two numbers that indicate the difficulty of a golf course. The course rating measures the difficulty of a course for a scratch golfer. In contrast the slope rating indicates the relative difficulty of the course for a bogey golfer (i.e. a golfer who typically shoots a score of 20 strokes over par).

The golfer’s adjusted scores are then used to calculate their handicap which is expressed as a number. The lower the handicap the better the golfer’s playing ability. The handicap system is designed so that a golfer’s handicap reflects their potential ability on an “average” day. This means that a golfer’s handicap is not necessarily the score they will shoot in every round of golf but rather an indication of their specific playing ability.

When playing in a competition a golfer’s handicap is used to calculate their net score which is their actual score minus their handicap. This allows golfers of different abilities to compete on a level playing field. For example if a golfer with a handicap of 18 scores 90 in a competition their net score would be 72 (90 18 = 72). This net score would be compared to the net scores of other golfers in the competition and the golfer with the lowest net score would be declared the winner.

Why Should We Get a Handicap?

There are several reasons why golfers should get a handicap including the following:

Fair Competition: One of the primary reasons to get a handicap is to ensure fair competition. When playing against other golfers of different abilities a handicap allows players to compete on an even playing field. A handicap provides a way to adjust scores based on the difficulty of the course so that players of different abilities can compete fairly against one another.

Improvement Tracking: A handicap can also help golfers track their improvement over time. As golfer improves their game their handicap will decrease providing a measurable way to see progress. This can be a motivating factor for golfers to continue practising and improving their game.

Course Difficulty Awareness: Handicaps provide golfers with a way to assess the difficulty of a golf course before they play it. By looking at a course’s rating and slope golfers can understand how challenging the course is likely to be and adjust their expectations and strategy accordingly.

Course Access: Some golf courses require golfers to have a handicap. This is because a handicap assures that a golfer has a basic level of skill and knowledge of the game which is vital for safety and course maintenance.

Social Aspect: Handicaps are also an essential part of the social aspect of the game of golf. Many beginners golf clubs and communities have events and competitions that require golfers to have a handicap. Being part of a club or community and playing in these events can provide a sense of camaraderie and belonging and opportunities to meet and socialize with other golfers.

Overall getting a handicap is an essential part of being a golfer providing a way to level the playing field track progress assess course difficulty access specific courses and be part of the social community of the game.

Number of Scores we need to Obtain Handicap Index

To obtain a handicap index a golfer must submit a minimum of five 18 hole scores (or ten 9 hole scores) to a golf club or organization authorized to issue handicaps.

These scores can be from any golf course with a valid course rating and slope rating and they must be played following the rules of golf.

Once the minimum number of scores has been submitted the handicap index can be calculated by taking the average of the best differentials (i.e. the difference between a player’s adjusted gross score and the course rating/slope rating) from the scores submitted. The exact formula for calculating a handicap index is quite complex. Still it is based on the average of the best differentials and takes into account any adjustments for abnormal scores such as “blow up” holes.

After a handicap index has been established golfers must continue submitting scores regularly to maintain their handicap. Golfers must typically submit a minimum number of scores yearly to keep their handicap active. This ensures that the handicap index stays current and accurately reflects a golfer’s playing ability.

how to Calculating Course Handicap

Calculating a course handicap is vital in determining a golfer’s net score for a given round of golf. The course handicap is based on a golfer’s handicap index and the course’s difficulty. Here’s how to calculate it:

Determine the Slope Rating: The first step is determining the course’s slope rating. This number can be found on the scorecard or by asking the pro shop.

Calculate the Handicap Differential: Using the golfer’s handicap index and the course rating calculate the handicap differential. The formula is:
(handicap index) x (slope rating) / 113

For example: if a golfer has a handicap index of 10.0 and the slope rating of the course is 120 the calculation would be:
10.0 x 120 / 113 = 10.57
Round to the Nearest Tenth: Round the handicap differential to the nearest tenth.

Course Handicap: Finally use the following formula to determine the course handicap for the course being played:
(handicap differential) + (course rating par)
For example: if the course rating is 72 and the par is 72 the formula would be:
10.6 + (72 72) = 10.6
So the golfer’s course handicap for this course would be 11.

It’s important to note that different tees on the same course can have different course ratings and slope ratings so a golfer’s course handicap may vary depending on which tee they play from. Also calculating the course handicap is the first step in determining a golfer’s net score. The actual net score will be the golfer’s total score for the round minus their course handicap.


A golf handicap can level the playing field for golfers of different abilities and ensure fair competition. Golfers need to submit a minimum of five scores (or ten scores for 9 hole rounds) to establish a handicap index which calculates the course handicap for a given course. The course handicap considers the golfer’s handicap index and the difficulty of the course being played and is used to determine the golfer’s net score for the round. Having a handicap allows golfers to track their progress over time assess the difficulty of a course before playing it and gain access to specific courses and events. It’s an essential part of the game’s social aspect and can motivate golfers to continue practising and improving their game.

Exit mobile version