What Is A High Handicap? Do You Fit Into This Category of Golfers?

In 2020, the world’s six different handicapping systems collaborated to form the World Handicap System. The purpose was to encourage more people to take up golf by extending the handicap limit to 54 for both men and women. Previously the highest handicap was 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women.

In previous articles, I have focused on low and mid-handicappers. Today it is time to answer the question of what is a high handicap?

Read next: Would a new driver help you lower your handicap? Check out the prices on the best drivers for high handicappers and our full review.

What Is A High Handicap Golfer?

[adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”n04nSt4y” upload-date=”2023-12-13T03:07:50.000Z” name=”What is a High Handicap?” description=”Do you have a high handicap? Let’s unravel cover what a high handicap is, and give you some tips on how to lower it!

So, what really is a high handicap? Golfers playing off of a handicap of 19 or more fall into this bracket.

This means that high handicap golfers tends to shoot 19 strokes or more over the course’s par during a round. So, if a course’s par is 72, a golfer with a 19 handicap would typically score around 91.

But high handicaps can be broken down further into lower-high (19-29), mid-high (30-40), and higher-high (41-54) handicaps. For instance, if you’re in the mid-high category shooting scores around 100 to 110, your aim should be breaking 90 consistently.

You can lower your handicap by focusing on your chipping and putting.

Practicing chipping can lead to the biggest reduction in strokes, since many shots are lost due to simple mistakes.

And prioritize putting practice to improve your green-reading skills and touch to also lower your score faster.

However you can also work on hitting more fairways and greens in regulation. Learn the details to lower your handicap in my full article on golfspan.com/what-is-a-high-handicap” player-type=”default” override-embed=”default”]

In simple terms, a high handicap golfer plays off of a 19 and above. It is the broadest range of handicaps, as it covers golfers playing off anything up to 54. 25% of male golfers and 81% of female golfers fit into the high handicap bracket.

Due to the number of golfers in this category, we can segment them by lower-high, mid-high, and higher-high handicaps.

High Handicap Categories

Lower High Handicap

A lower high handicap plays off of a 19 to 29 handicap. These are the golfers that shoot low 90s to low 100s on average. Golfers with a 19 to 23 handicap have likely shot a few rounds in the high 80s. However, it can be a struggle to consistently achieve.

Golfers with a higher 20 handicap now need to focus their effort on consistently breaking the 100 barrier.

Mid High Handicap

These are higher handicaps than playoff handicaps between 30 and 40. If you are a mid handicapper, you should average scores of early 100s or 110s.

If your handicap sits in the low to mid 30 range, your goal is to start breaking 90 consistently to lower your handicap into the 20s. If your handicap is in the higher 30s or low 40s, set a target of breaking 110 regularly.

Higher High Handicap

Golfers in this bracket play off of handicaps between 41 and 54. Therefore they are shooting rounds of 113 into the high 120s. Your challenge is to reduce the number of triple bogeys on your scorecard.

If you are playing off a low 40 handicap, your aim is to start breaking 110 constantly. Handicaps higher than 45 need to minimize the triple bogeys and set a goal of scoring less than 120 strokes per round.

What Equipment Does A High Handicapper Play With?

When you are starting out in golf, it is best to use equipment that helps you out. At this stage of your golf career, you need all the help you can get, and that help is available.


I never recommend higher handicap players use a driver with less than 10.5 degrees of loft. It is likely that as a high handicapper, you have not mastered the art of striking a golf ball, and therefore need help getting the ball airborne on longer shots. 
Drivers with a higher degree of loft solve this problem. It is also worth fitting your driver with a graphite shaft for additional flex on your backswing.

Read more: Driver Loft Chart


High handicaps should throw a set of oversized irons and wedges in the bag. The larger sweet spot on these clubs provides more forgiveness on heel and toe strikes, giving you a consistent distance. 

Where possible, high handicapped golfers should find irons that offer an enhanced center of gravity. This enables the clubface to easily glide through the turf to connect with the ball. Giving you better loft, carry, and distance with your irons.

If you struggle to generate sufficient swing speed and are losing carry and distance, it is wise to fit your irons with graphite shafts. If you have an average swing speed, a regular flex is sufficient. However, slower swingers should look at a senior or ladies flex shaft.

Read more: Another option is to check out the best hybrid clubs for high handicappers.


Wedges that assist you with getting through the surface and under the ball are advisable. This will reduce your duffs and shots out of the teeth. Helping you land the ball softer and improve your record around the green.

You can review the best wedges for high handicappers to see if one would help your game. 


Mallet putters are the most suitable option for high handicap players. They are designed with an enhanced center of gravity to give you equal performance on off-center strokes. These are the best putters for high handicappers


Your mission as a high handicap is to lose as few balls as possible in 18 holes. Naturally, we all started at this point. That is why my advice is to purchase as many balls for as little as possible. 

You could own a sleeve of the best golf balls in the world, but they are useless when lying at the bottom of a pond.

Read more: These are the best balls for average golfers.

How Do High Handicaps Perform?

High handicaps find the game challenging, from the tee to green. While they show moments of promise, they can be let down by a slice, hook, or club misread. Patience, practice, and a cool head are needed for improvement.

Fairways In Regulation (F.I.R)

The fairways in regulation ratio are on the lower side for high handicaps. More often than not, this stems from an incorrect setup and aim or trying to smash the ball as hard as humanly possible.

Respect your driver, swing easy, keep your head down and follow through. If the driver is not working for you, put it back in the bag and hit a long iron or fairway wood off the tee.

Greens In Regulation (G.I.R)

This is not a strong point for high handicappers, and they often drop shots by missing the green and not getting up or down. My advice to high handicaps is to aim for safer areas of the green. You don’t need to attack every flag. Just get up there for now.

Up and Downs

The short game is a struggle for most high handicaps. Many shots are dropped from elementary mistakes around the green. Instead of trying to drive the ball further, spend the time improving your chipping game. It will give you the confidence to stick it close from anywhere on the green.

Putts Per Round

When high handicaps do get the ball on the green, they struggle to read lines and speed. This can very quickly turn a straightforward 5-footer for par into a double or triple bogey. The stronger your putting game is, the faster your will shave strokes off of your score.

Final Thoughts

After looking into what is a high handicap? It is clear that they are golfers who play off a 19 to 54. These are players shooting anywhere from the low 90s into the high 120 range.

If you are a high handicap player, think about the tips that I provided. Keep on practicing, be patient, and don’t give up on your quest to lower your 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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