While golf rules are pretty strict, the question of what is a good handicap is somewhat subjective. The truth is, if you have been playing for a bit, and paying attention, you should have a fair idea of where you fit in the big picture. So, what is an average golf handicap?
Most golfers will have a handicap between 14 and 20, and anyone with a score of around 90 on most golf courses will have a handicap around this. The average pro golfer has a handicap of +5.4, while brand-new golfers will start at 28 for men, and 36 for women.
But golf is a complex sport to master, and add to that, every course will be different. Below you’ll learn about the age and numbers of the average handicaps across the range of golfers. If you want to see how you measure up, read on to learn everything you need to know.
Read next: Would a new set of golf clubs help lower your handicap? Read this full review of the best golf clubs this year.
Why Is There a Handicap System?
The idea is to give golfers of different skills, abilities, and experience levels a relatively even playing field. This is not an easy task, but it does work for the most part.
Much is built on the trust and honesty inherent to the game, but the system works for the most part.
It is one of the few, if not the only sport, in which amateur players can compete with more experienced players and have a fair and even result. The rules are relatively complex but consistent and applied equally to all players, whether you have a typical golf handicap or an above-average handicap in golf.
Read more: What Is a High Handicap?
How Many Men & Women Have These Golf Handicaps?
|Handicap Index Range||Average Number of Men with This Golf Handicap||Average Number of Women with This Golf Handicap|
|1.0 or better||20,000||2,100|
|0.9 to 0.0||12,000||500|
|0.1 to 1.0||18,000||750|
|1.1 to 1.9||19,000||750|
|2.0 to 2.9||28,000||850|
|3.0 to 3.9||34,000||1,000|
|4.0 to 4.9||43,000||1,200|
|5.0 to 5.9||51,000||1,900|
|6.0 to 6.9||61,000||1,900|
|7.0 to 7.9||70,000||2,100|
|8.0 to 8.9||79,000||2,200|
|9.0 to 9.9||86,000||2,500|
|10.0 to 10.9||90,000||2,800|
|11.0 to 11.9||94,000||4,000|
|12.0 to 12.9||96,000||4,750|
|13.0 to 13.9||96,000||5,800|
|14.0 to 14.9||94,000||6,200|
|15.0 to 15.9||92,000||7,900|
|16.0 to 16.9||87,000||8,900|
|17.0 to 17.9||73,000||9,000|
|18.0 to 18.9||74,000||10,500|
|19.0 to 19.9||58,000||11,500|
|20.0 to 20.9||41,000||12,800|
|21.0 to 21.9||38,000||13,800|
What Is the Average Handicap of Women?
The average handicap for women is 27.5, with around 18,000 women having this score. The mid-handicap will differ from men to women, however.
To sum up the chart and what you can learn from it:
- Men golf far more than women
- Men tend to have a better handicap index than women
- Most men fall in at around 14.2, whereas women fall in at around 27.5
- There’s a largely uneven number at the top of 1.0 or better for both men and women
How Do Men and Women Handicaps Differ?
Women often get extra shots and play from forward tees, which can frustrate some male golfers. The reason behind this is biology and how women don’t tend to have as much strength as men.
Men hit the ball farther than women, which explains why women are allowed extra shots to even it out.
You also tend to have more men with a lower handicap than women, but this may have more to do with how you have fewer female golfers. Check out this golf handicap beginners guide if you still have questions.
Average Handicaps in Different Countries: How Do They Compare?
They designed the handicap system to keep us all on par with each other. With that in mind, you may wonder how the various countries measure up to each other.
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 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.
How Did The Handicap System Come Into Effect?
Handicaps date back almost to the origins of golf in Scotland. It was first recorded by Thomas Kincaid in the 17th century. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and wrote widely on the subject of golf.
Simply expressed, a handicap is a numerical value assigned to a golfer’s ability from past performance. It typically equals the number of strokes over par a player will make. As the skill of the golfer increases, the number decreases.
A good player that generally makes par or less on a course will have a scratch or zero handicap. This can vary from course to course, so the difficulty of each particular course is accounted for.
The system has evolved over the years and is now highly regulated. Computers have added to the management of handicaps. Obviously, much still depends on the honesty of the golfer, as does the game itself. The truth is, there is no valor in cheating.
Course Rating and Slope
While the handicap system tries to level the playing field for golfers at different levels, the courses range in difficulty. The rating of each course, and the slope, are also taken into consideration.
Each course will have a specific rating according to the difficulty.
Read more: The Best Golf Courses in all 48 States
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.
So, What Is the Average Golf Handicap?
According to the UK site Golf Monthly, Insurers Golf Care did an extensive survey into handicaps. While, as we have said before, many players do not register for an official handicap, it is still the best way to measure skills.
For the professionals to even think of you as good, you at least need to have an official handicap.
What is a good handicap in golf? The survey found golfers with around 16 to 20 handicaps to be the average handicap in golf.
They will sometimes call the average golfer 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.
You may wonder, “What is my handicap if I shoot 90?” For anyone who shoots a 90, your handicap would hover at around 18 on 72-par golf courses.
What is the average golfer’s handicap? According to Golf Digest, the true average is probably a lot higher because of players without an official handicap.
Given that we can only work with what we can measure, it should be fair to say that the average golfer sits somewhere between 15 and 20.
By that logic, players below 15 could be considered good. As much as golf is a competitive sport that you play against other players or teams, the most important aspect is personal development.
All golfers aim to shoot under a specific number or achieve a certain handicap. You will know when you are becoming good, but golf requires constant effort and practice to achieve and advance.
Remember that handicaps are much easier to reduce when the numbers are higher, which is where the average golfer’s handicap sits at. In other words, it is much easier to go from a 23 to a 22 than to go from a 10 handicap in golf to an 8 golf handicap. That is why a player with a handicap of 10 might consider someone with a 5 to be a much better golfer. They have a good golf handicap.
Read more: The Best Drivers for the High Handicapper
What Is the Golf Handicap of an Average Golfer?
Men will usually have a golf handicap of around 14.2 in the United States, and women will have an average handicap of around 27.5. Anywhere from 14 to 20 for men is the average golf handicap, and you will likely find yourself in that range if you just started.
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.
What is a good golf handicap? While there is no clear definition of an average golf handicap, you are pretty much there if you are in the single digits. While not quite a scratch player, you have plenty of experience and get around a course well.
If you are in the 10 to 15 handicap range, you are well above average and would be considered good by the average USGA handicap. That’s a good golf handicap average.
For the rest of the golfers near the middle and above, it is all about practice and experience. Most golfers do not become good without years of dedication and effort to improve their average handicap. If you enjoyed this article, you might check out “What is an average golf score?” to see how it relates to your golf handicap.
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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.