Understanding Golf’s Handicap System a Beginner’s Guide

Are you interested in playing golf equally with everyone in your foursome? Do you ever feel out of place when competing against golfers who outscore you every hole? If you answered yes to these questions, it is time to start understanding golf handicaps for beginners.

Once you have found your handicap, you will be on an equal playing field against everyone who also has a handicap.

Whether you have a good golf handicap or an average golf handicap, the system is designed for fairness and equality. This handicapping system allows golfers of all abilities to compare their expected abilities.

You will learn how to calculate golf handicap for yourself and anyone who you golf with on a regular basis. Unlike many other sports, amateurs can test their limits with the professionals who they watch on Sunday. The system is mathematically based, so it is as fair a system as there can be in the world of sports.

A proper and legitimate handicap can be used for a variety of tournaments and fun rounds of golf, so make each stroke count.

Need help lowering your handicap? Check out the in-depth review of the best drivers for high-handicappers.

Finding Your Handicap

The great thing about the system is that you can calculate a handicap no matter which golf course you play on a daily basis. It is important to note that the most accurate handicaps will come from playing the same course.

Once the handicap is established, you’ll be able to travel to many different courses and use your regular handicap. You could even travel across the pond and play St. Andrews and use your handicap to challenge the locals.

In most cases, the handicap is like the sport in general. The lower the score, the better you play. A good golf handicap is usually below 10. This would mean that a player with a handicap of 10 typically shoots around 82 for 18-holes. The average golf handicap for men and women golfers is around 15. This would mean that this golfer shoots around 90.

A Generic Handicap

There are general golf handicaps and official handicaps created by the United States Golf Association(USGA). The more general way to find a not-so-reliable handicap is by simply counting the number of strokes you are over par on a course. If you shot a 100 on a course that was a par of 72, your handicap would be 28.

The USGA Handicap System

The USGA dictates that in order to find the most accurate handicap of a golfer is to have a minimum of 12 established rounds of golf. The best and worst rounds are typically discarded to find the most adequate representation of your skills. It should also be noted that these rounds must be consistently played during a set period of time.

If you frequent golf courses that are USGA approved for indexing purposes, you may be able to establish a handicap index. This allows you to consistently measure your handicap year-to-year with no more than 20 rounds being used to compute the formula. By the way, sandbagging is not an acceptable way of legitimizing a handicap.

Understanding Golf Handicaps for Beginners

Hit the Links

To determine your handicap, this is a methodical procedure. It is imperative to follow the steps accurately to determine a legitimate handicap.

1. Get Swinging

Go play some golf and keep track of your scores. You should keep an accurate record of your total number of shots played during the rounds. It is a wise decision to have between 12 and 20 rounds played for accurate handicapping, but you can figure it with five rounds. Most courses require a minimum of ten rounds.

2. Find Your Adjusted Scores

The USGA has a set of scores for basic handicapping that are part of the overall system. These numbers are the maximum amount that you should score any one-hole of golf during the round. If this is the first time to establish your handicap, the magic number is 10. That means that for every shot you take over ten, you subtract from your final score.

Once the handicap has been established, it can be adjusted accordingly. Instead of using ten, you would now use:

  • A handicap of 40 or above the maximum score is 10
  • A handicap of 30-39 is a maximum score of 9
  • A handicap of 20-29 is a maximum score of 8
  • A handicap of 10-19 is a maximum score of 7
  • A handicap of 0-9 is a maximum score of double-bogey

3. Find the Slope

Most golf scorecards will have the course slope rating listed on them. If there isn’t one on the card, you should ask the person at the pro shop for the information to keep your information legit.

The course slope should not be confused with the course rating.

The rating is a number telling how difficult the course is for a scratch golfer. The slope is based upon people who play bogey golf.

In Lehman’s terms, you typically score 18 strokes above par. So, a par-70 course would give a bogey golfer an average score of 88.

4. Your Handicap is…

The last step is to do the math, so get your calculator handy. First, use your adjusted score from Step 2 above and subtract the course rating.

Take that difference and multiply by 113. Finally, divide that number by the slope rating from Step 3. This will be your handicap.

Here is an example for Gary Golfer.

Gary found that his adjusted score is 95.
The course rating is 71.4.
The course slope rating is 120.

Adjusted Score – Course Rating x 113 / Slope Rating

95 – 71.4 x 113 /120 = Handicap
95 – 71.4 = 23.6
23.6 x 113 = 2666.8
2666.8/120 = 22.2

After doing the math, Gary Golfer comes out with a 22.2 handicap differential.

You can expect this number to increase or decrease as you continue to play more golf. Better scores will lower your handicap and higher scores will raise it.

Now that you know how to calculate golf handicap, it’s time to tee it up and see what the Golf Gods have in store for you.

Did you enjoy this tutorial? I enjoyed teaching you how to find and manage your handicap. You can use this information to compete more fairly with everyone you play with.

Read More: Could better clubs help you lower your handicap? These are the best golf clubs this year.

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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.

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