What Is A Good Golf Handicap: Data Reveals Where You Stand

A good golf handicap for beginners starts at 28 for men and 36 for women. Most amateur golfers have a handicap between 14 and 20, so they shoot around 90 on most golf courses.

At the same time, the average pro golfer would have a handicap of +5 to +8.

But average golf handicaps vary, so to understand where you stack up, especially in tournaments, you’ll want to read the full post.

When I’m talking about handicaps with my new golfer buddies, most are clueless, so after reading, you might be the smartest guy in your group.

Read on to learn about how handicaps vary by skill level, see a handicap chart, check handicap ranges, and handicap differences by country.

I even share a beautiful putt from a famous scratch golfer you’ll want to check out.

What Is A Good Golf Handicap?

Handicap Percentile Chart image
Here’s a handicap percentile chart from USGA

According to the United States Golf Association (USGA), the average handicap index in the USA is 14 for men and 28 for women. If you’re shooting better than average, that’s good!

But a good handicap for beginner golfers is higher. Here’s the average handicap for beginners:

  • The average handicap index for new male golfers is 15.2.
  • The average handicap index for new female golfers is 31.2.

But I don’t think the average golfer’s handicap is 14 to 15 for men or 28-31 for women. I think that’s way too low, and there’s a good reason why this data isn’t helpful for beginners. According to Golf Digest, the true average is probably a lot higher because of players without an official handicap.

Most new golfers don’t get an official handicap index, and the USGA isn’t counting them.

So, I surveyed my golf buddies and golf instructor friends, and we collectively decided 28 is a good handicap for new male golfers. Women should aim for 36. Most importantly, focus on continuing to lower your scores and handicaps. Progress above all!

Fun Fact: What’s the difference between handicap and handicap index? Most golfers refer to their handicap as their average score regarding par. But your handicap index is an official rating made using the USGA Handicap System. You have to join a club and submit your scores, and it costs money.

Check out this golf handicap beginners guide if you still have questions.

What Are Good Golf Handicap Ranges?

The USGA also gives a wider range of good handicaps based on skill and archetype:

  • Advanced golfers have a handicap of less than 10. They consistently score in the 70s or lower on a par-72 golf course.
  • Intermediate golfers have a handicap between 10 and 29. They consistently score in the 80s or 90s.
  • Beginner golfers have a handicap index of +29. They typically score more than 100.

I’ve found a handicap range more motivating than an average. I can aim for the lower end of the range yet still fall within my skill level range.

I also think this range is more accurate based on what I see at my local course.

Note: What is my handicap if I shoot 90? For anyone who shoots a 90 for 18-hole scores, your handicap would hover at around 18 on 72-par golf courses.

Read more: What Is a High Handicapper?

Comparing Handicaps in Different Countries

Today, the global average handicap sits at around 14.5. Still, golfers in the United States show an average handicap of around 14.2, making them slightly better than the handicap in other countries.

Australia, another major golf-playing country, has an average golf handicap of around 16.9. In England, the golf handicap goes even higher, with the average at 17.2. We should keep in mind the differences in population.

Golf has grown in popularity since the 1990s and the handicap has consistently dropped as more people have gotten serious about the game. For example, men in the United States went from 16.5 in 1991 to 14.4 in the average by 2018.

Women have also gone from 29.9 to 26.4, which shows how, as the game grows in popularity, more have begun to take it more seriously.

Fun Fact: The World Handicap System (WHS) doesn’t have a handicap calculation based on just the number of strokes. It also factors in the difficulty of the courses and slope rating. Each course will have a specific rating according to the difficulty.

Read more: Ranking The Best Public Golf Courses In America

What Is A Scratch Golfer?

Once you achieve a zero handicap, you are considered a scratch golfer. It means you can get around a rated course on handicap, on par, or under par.

It will generally take years of practice, dedication, and effort to achieve a scratch handicap. even a single-digit handicap is a noteworthy achievement.

For instance, you may have checked out Steph Curry’s amazing putt recently on social media. Well, he’s just better than a scratch golfer at +1.6.

Golf Speak: You will sometimes hear an average golfer called a “bogey golfer.” Generally speaking, a bogey golfer will score a bogey on most holes, which means one stroke over par at a hole. Usually, they will score at just slightly over 90 and play at around the 20 handicap range.

Read more: What Is A Mid-Handicap Golfer?


What Is the Official Handicap for the PGA Tour?

The PGA Tour players don’t have an official handicap as they compete at professional levels. However, it’s estimated that most would have a plus handicap, likely between +4 to +6, indicating they consistently shoot below par.

How Much Does It Cost To Have an Official Golf Handicap?

The cost of an official golf handicap varies based on the golf association and region. In the U.S., registering with the USGA through a local golf club or online service typically costs between $20 to $40 annually. This includes access to the GHIN (Golf Handicap and Information Network) system.

What Is the Maximum Handicap?

The maximum handicap allowed by the USGA for men is 36.4, and for women is 40.4. These are used for players competing in 18-hole events. For 9-hole events, the maximums are 18.2 for men and 20.2 for women. However, it’s important to note that while these are the official USGA limits, individual clubs or events may impose their own handicap restrictions for competitions.

What’s My Golf Handicap if I Shoot 100?

If you score around 100 on an 18-hole course, your golf handicap will hover at around 28. This also assumes that you play a par-72 course. You would calculate this by taking 100 subtracted by 72, which equals 28.

Final Thoughts

What is a good golf handicap? A good handicap for a new male golfer is around 28 or lower. For women, it’s around 36.

  • The average golf handicap for men is 14.
  • The average golf handicap for women is 20.

If you can log a handicap index under these numbers, then you can be very proud.

Want more? Check out “What is an average golf score?” to see how it relates to your golf handicap.

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Nick is the founder of GolfSpan and an avid golfer. He's not quite a pro but has over 15 years of experience playing and coaching golfers worldwide. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience when it comes to choosing the right golf gear and finding the right setup for your game.

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