# What is a Handicap in Golf?

A handicap is a numerical measure of a golfer’s potential ability. It is used to level the playing field for players of all abilities so that anyone is able to play and compete against anyone else. In simple terms, a handicap would be calculated by taking someone’s average score over a number of rounds of golf and then subtracting the course rating for the course.

For example, if a golfer had an average score of 80 on an 18-hole course, and the rating of the course was 72, then their handicap would be 8. Knowing your handicap is important, as it allows you to gauge how well you are likely to do in a competition against other golfers. It also allows you to set yourself realistic goals, and track your progress over time.

## How Do You Calculate Your Golf Handicap?

Up until recently, there used to be several different systems employed in different parts of the world. These days everyone is part of the World Handicap System (WHS). This is based primarily on the old United States Golf Association (USGA) handicap system.

To calculate your handicap under the WHS you look at the most recent 20 scores and select the best eight relative to the course rating.

Adjustments are then made to allow for extreme weather conditions or particularly bad scores on individual holes. You can then calculate average strokes over the course rating taken by the player (their handicap differential). This number becomes their handicap index.

When someone is going to play golf they use their handicap index as the basis to determine how many strokes they will receive. Depending upon the course and the tees that you decide to play from your course handicap may be higher or lower than your index to account for the different difficulty compared with the course you normally play at.

There will then usually be one final calculation to perform converting your course handicap into a playing handicap. This would the format of the competition that you are playing in.

Golf Monthly on the WHS

## Why Does the Handicap System Exist?

Handicapping exists in order to make the game of golf more fair and enjoyable for all players. It allows players of different skill levels to compete against each other on a more even playing field. Without such a system, it would be very difficult for newer or less experienced golfers to enjoy the game, as they would constantly be at a disadvantage when playing against those with more experience.

Essentially, the system works by giving each player a certain number of strokes that they can subtract from their score. This is based on the hos or her average score over a period of time. The better the golfer, the lower their handicap will be. This ensures that everyone has a fair chance of winning, regardless of their skill level.

## How Many Scores Are Needed To Calculate My Handicap Index?

You need to submit a minimum of three 18-hole scores. Or you could do six 9-hole rounds or a combination of 18 and 9-hole scores to make up a total of 54 holes.

You will then be assigned a handicap index by your golf club handicap authority.

Every time you enter new scores your index will be adjusted based on how well you perform.

## How Does A New Golfer Get A Handicap Index?

Most handicaps are awarded by golf clubs that are affiliated to the regional or national association. In order for a new golfer to obtain a handicap, they would usually need to join a club that is affiliated with the relevant golfing body.

Once they hand in the requisite minimum of three scorecards they would be given their handicap based on the rules of the WHS.

## What Is The World Handicap System?

The World Handicap System (WHS) is a set of procedures that enables players of all abilities to play on a level field. It is administered by The R&A and the United States Golf Association in conjunction with the respective national governing bodies around the world.

The WHS replaces the various systems that were in place globally and provides a much more consistent measure of a golfer’s potential. It also makes it much easier for everyone to obtain and maintain a handicap, as well as to calculate their Handicap Index.

Under the WHS, every player will have a Handicap Index which is calculated using the best 8 out of 20 scores (or rounds) played. This index can then be used at any golf club that uses the WHS, regardless of where in the world it is located.

The WHS is designed to make the game of golf more enjoyable for everyone, by leveling the playing field and making it easier for golfers to track their progress.

It should make handicaps more portable and comparable worldwide since everyone is now using the same handicap calculation.

## Why Do We Need Golf Handicaps?

A golf handicap is just a measure of someone’s ability. The purpose of a golf handicap is to allow players of differing abilities to compete against each other on an equal basis. It does this by providing a way to adjust each player’s score to reflect their relative abilities.

At an amateur level, golf competitions are usually run on a handicap basis which gives everyone the ability to enter and win tournaments. If handicaps didn’t exist for amateurs then players with less ability would never have a chance of winning a prize.

## What Is A Good Golf Handicap?

Generally speaking, the lower a player’s handicap, the better their potential ability.

Most experienced players would probably consider single-figure handicaps as good golf handicaps. Anyone with a handicap of less than 10 is generally considered to have a good handicap fifth.

## Average Handicap Index

When looking at members of clubs the average handicap index for all players in the United States is currently around 14. If you were to expand that to include everyone that plays then you would probably looking at nearer 20.

In other parts of the world such as the UK and Australia, the average handicaps for men are broadly similar, being in the high teens.

In the United States, the average index for women is 27.5. One reason for the large discrepancy might be the maximum handicap for ladies jumping from 36 to 54 with the roll-out of the new system. Allowing new golfers to get much higher handicaps is likely to skew any averages higher.

## WHS Important Terms To Know

### Scratch Golfer

A scratch golfer is someone with a handicap of 0. That is they have any shots deducted from their score when playing in a competition. They are good enough to be able to play different courses without the need for handicap shots.

### Bogey Golfer

A “bogey golfer” is someone who typically scores one stroke above par on a hole. Their handicap is usually around 18. In terms of handicapping it is defined as a golfer that hits the ball around 200 yards with their driver who would have a handicap of 20. A female bogey golfer would be someone with a handicap of 24.

### Course Rating

Every golf course is rated by the local golf authority with the rating based on course length and difficulty. A course rating is calculated for each teeing area.

### Slope Rating

This is a measure of the relative difficulty of a course for a bogey player compared with a scratch player. The neutral value would be 113 The slope rating can run from 55 to 155. This figure is used to calculate your course handicap.

### Course Handicap

The number of shots you will receive is based on the course and set of tees. If the course is deemed more difficult than the one you normally play the more shots and vice versa.

### Playing Handicap

The number of shots you actually receive is based on the competition format. For a normal strokeplay competition, you would expect to receive 90% of your course handicap.

## What is a Handicap in Golf: Conclusion

A handicap is just a way of allowing different standards of golfer to play against one another in varying types of competition while giving everyone a more even chance of success.

The best way to get an index is to join a golf club.