Golf Handicap Explained -Golf Handicap Calculator

Golf is an exciting game that comes with strict rules and laws, and some of the most complex terms that only a person with golfing experience knows.

One of the terms, that many beginners take time to comprehend is what golf handicap is and how to get it.

In this article, we take you through all that you need to know about the golf handicap and how to calculate it.

What Is A Golf Handicap?

Golf handicaps are as old as the history of golf, which traces its origin to Scotland. The first golf handicap traces back to Thomas Kincaid, a university of Edinburgh medicine student who wrote widely on the handicap in the 17th century. Some of the things that make golf both enticing and complex are that no two games are similar, and no two players have the same type of play.

Golfers have different experiences, abilities, and skills, but golf handicap helps to level the field. A golf handicap is a system that helps to provide golfers with an even playing field depending on the skills and abilities. In a more straightforward explanation, a golf handicap is a numerical value assigned to golfers based on their most recent golfing performances in different golf courses.


The numerical value of handicap equals to the total strokes a player makes over par. The number of handicaps decreases with the increase in a player's skill. Handicaps make golf one of the few sports that allow amateur golfers to compete with confidence against professional or more experienced golfers for even playing field and fair results. Today, technology helps to calculate golf handicaps making it more manageable, more comfortable to follow and free from errors.

How To Calculate A Golf Handicap

Another thing that makes golf enjoyable is that golf handicap calculation differs from one country to the next. For example, USA golf rules base their golf handicap calculation on body rating and slope rating. If we look at the UK golf rules, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) is responsible for setting all the bases of golf handicap calculations on all the golf courses in the country.

Each golf course across the world gets a standard scratch score (SSS) that enables calculating a golf handicap. No two golf courses are similar, which is why the standard scratch score aims to make allowances for more manageable to play or harder than par golf courses. The following factors are crucial when looking for a golf course to play.

A matching par and SSS on any golf course, means it is a hard course to play depending on the ability of the player. If the SSS is lower than the par, it means that the course is a slightly more accessible golf playground. If the SSS is higher than the par, it means that it could be slightly harder to play there.

Golf SSS does not consider the difficulty of playing on any golf course on the day of competition. In the UK, golf handicap calculation uses Competition Scratch Score (CSS) to consider the course's difficulty on any specific day. Because the handicap intends to check the golfer's ability on the greens, reviews take place frequently to ensure their accuracy.

The three central CONGU handicap reviews are:- the annual review, which takes place between October and March, CHR or Continuous Handicap Review that helps to identify golfers struggling with their handicap, and GPA or General Play Adjustment that aims at adjusting a player's handicap during an active golf season.

Golf Handicap Formula


If you are not very good at arithmetic, the golf handicap formulas may take a while before you grasp them. The specific handicap arithmetic formulas help approximate the number of strokes a player can achieve above the par. The process may appear simple to experienced golfers, but it may need patience among beginners and those that golf without caring about their handicaps.

In the United States, course and slope rating are a preserve of the USGA that sets the calculations for each round of golf differential. The formula is handicap differential equals to (score, less the course rating) multiplied by 113 divided by slope rating. In short, handicap differential= (score-course rating) x 113/slope rating. Here is an example.

If the score rating is 85, course rating 81.2, and slope-rating 140, the formula will look like this: - (85-81.2) x 113/140. The calculation is the standard USGA formulated repeated for each round, and the answer is the differential.

Golf Index

The golf index helps determine a player's handicap at any specific course depending on the difficulty of that particular course. The golf index bases its calculation on 20 rounds, but a player can receive an index after only five. A handicap index's main aim is to determine a player's peak ability, which is why it calculates 10 of the best 20 scores instead of all the scores.

Handicap services also differ depending on the services each club subscribes to. Good services that many American golf clubs subscribe to are GolfNet and GHIN, owned by USGA. The two use complex formulas to calculate a golfer's handicap index. According to the handicap formula, a man's maximum handicap index is 36.4, while that of a woman is 40.4.


Course Handicap Calculator

A different USGA formula translates course handicap indexes. Clubs make it easier to calculate the formula by posting charts based on their courses' slope ratings that translate a player's actual handicap ratings based on the specific course. Besides following the carts on particular courses to calculate the formula, USGA also makes it much easier by providing online handicap calculator courses.

The USGA course handicap formula goes like this: - handicap index multiplied by the played tees' slope rating. Divide by 113. The following example will help you to understand more about course handicap rating. If your course's handicap index is 17.7 and the tee slope is 137, the formula will be 18.7 x 137/113 =23. The answer is an indication that the course was hard to play at making the handicap higher than the handicap index. 23 is higher than the average handicap rating of a course.


There are two ways to rate courses, and any golf course with a USGA rating becomes easy to have a player's handicap index to adapt to it. A rating of the course indicates the strokes a zero handicap player takes under normal circumstances. Course ratings vary from 60, which are the highs, to the 70, middle ratings.

The slope rating measurements are comparable to a bogey play, and they measure the course's difficulty. 55 is the lowest slope rating, and courses with that index rating are easy to play. The highest is 155, while the average rating is 113. A good example to go with is -the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links in California, whose course rating is 75.5, with a slope rating of 145.

Improving a Handicap

The best way to improve your golf handicap is to better your golfing skills. The following golf management practices can help you to achieve the skills you need to improve your handicap.

Strong Mental Play

Irrespective of how hood or skilled you think you are at golf, you need to have vital mental freedom before hitting the greens. Be honest with your abilities, confidence, yourself, and visualize what you want to happen before hitting your first shot.

Being thoughtful and optimistic about a fair play helps to lower your handicap. In addition, playing within your limitations is another way of reducing your handicap. If your mission is to drive the ball into the fairway, focus on doing just that by using the appropriate golf club to help you out.

Patience and Thoughtfulness While Putting

You require thoughtfulness and lots of patience when you are putting. Some players will try to each putt on every green, but that never ends so well, especially for non-skilled. Start by trying a two-putt and progress slowly from there.

Use the Appropriate Golf Clubs

Do not use golf clubs simply because they are trending, and you want to keep up with the times. Instead, always use clubs that are right for the game at hand. Hitting the ball with the wrong clubs decreases the chances of ball flexibility from the tee to the fairway, affecting your handicap.

Use the Appropriate Golf Ball

Do not assume that one golf ball fits them all. Golf balls come in varying features that include different compressions and dimples. Players with higher swings will do well with a ball with a compression of 100, while a slow swinger does better by using a ball with a compression of 80. To help you further with the golf ball, you can also draw arrows or straight lines on it to help you with your aim at the hole. Some of the balls come with guide arrows, but you can improvise if yours does not have it.

Wear a Glove for a Firmer Grip

Sing a golf glove on your less dominant hand also helps to improve your golf handicap. Golf gloves help you better grasp the golf club, especially if you have sweaty hands or during the cold weather.

Keep the Ball Low

Always use golf clubs that will get the ball off the ground quickly when putting or chipping. You can do this by practicing with different clubs until you find the right ones for your hits. One way to ensure that you hit a low ball is to use the bump-and-run method, which will have your ball land off the bunker to the greens with a softer landing.

Abide By the Golf Rules

You may not think abiding by the rules is an essential factor if you are trying to improve your handicap, but it is. Without knowing the rules, you may be playing a futile tame that will make you keep losing. One good example is if there is a sprinkler on the greens, you do not have to hit a shot on its heads. Standing water on the course can also provide you with relief when taking a shot.

The Swing Balance

How you take a swing at the ball is another way of improving your golf handicap. You can attain this by ensuring that you put your body on the right balance for a comfortable swing that will provide you with a precise hit on the greens. Before taking the swing, put more weight on the back foot and less on the front foot for the perfect swing.

Keep your back straight, legs flexed, and always follow the golf ball's flight across the greens after making a hit. Many professional players align their front foot with the ball for the perfect swing.


If I Start A Hole And Do Not Complete It, Do I Post My Score?

If you start a hole and fail to complete it, your handicap score will equal the hole's strokes. If you incur any penalties during the strike, they will also add to your golf handicap score. The guidelines that you should follow to determine your score are-

Add one stroke if the ball is not more than five feet from the hole on the putting green.  If the ball is between five and twenty yards from the hole, add an extra two or three strokes depending on your ability, difficulty of the course, and ball position on the greens. If the ball is more than twenty yards from the hole, add an extra three or four strokes depending on your ability, the course difficulty, and the ball's position.

Is There A Specific Length Of The Course That Determines Slope And Course Rating?

Yes, a course has to have a particular length or the determination of the golf course and slope rating. For an 18-hole golf course, a tee must be at least 3,000 yards, while for a 9-hole course; it has to be 1,500 yards.

If I Do Not Have An Official Handicap, Can I Play In A Golf Tournament?

If you are a recreational or amateur golf player and you want to play in a major golf tournament, you may need to have a handicap index only if the game requires you to do so. You may not need to have the handicap number in many cases, which means you can play. The handicap number depends on the tournament and the association running it.

Charity tournaments, for example, do not require handicaps in most instances, while city championships will require you to provide a handicap number. Before you enter into any competitive tournament, it is wise to find out what the requirements are first.

Wrapping It Up

Golf is as impressive as it is complicated. A beginner may find it hard to understand everything there is to know about golf handicaps but with practice and more knowledge, calculating the indexes becomes easy. Practice also helps to reduce handicaps and join the ranks of more professional golfers on the greens.

Do not also forget that using the proper equipment, which includes golf balls, golf clubs, and golf attire, helps in maintaining and improving a good handicap. Today, you can also find online courses that provide you with guidelines on how to grip better and perfect your swing to improve your golf handicap.

Perseverance, the right mindset, more practice, and the correct golf equipment are all that you need if you want to perfect your golfing skills for a better golf handicap, and I hope that answers all your questions regarding golf handicaps.

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