The Golf Handicap 

Do you enjoy playing golf, but feel like a lot of times you are competing against people who outscore you on every hole? Do you get frustrated with the amount of times you play a good game, but others playing with you do better? Would you like it if you and the other players in your foursome could play equally? Well, this is where a handicap comes into play.

Once you figure out what your handicap is, you will be able to play with others who have the same or similar handicaps and be on more even playing ground. The system is designed for fairness and quality when playing golf with others. It allows everyone to enjoy the game as they are playing against others who are around their same skill level.

Not sure what a handicap is? Don’t know how to calculate your handicap so that you can find others to play golf with? Keep reading and we will teach you about handicaps - what they are, how they are calculated, and understand more about how the system works. Let’s take a look. 

What is a Handicap in Golf? 

A golf handicap is a golfer’s potential, or skill, put into a numerical measure. Simply put, it is a number that shows where on the scale of golfing skills you are. The best players have the lowest handicaps (based on the lower amount of strokes it takes to get the ball into the hole).

According to Golf Span, the average handicap for men and women golfers is around 15. This means that they would shoot around a 90 on a typical 18-hole course. 

A golfer with a very good handicap would probably have less than a 10. A golfer with that low of a handicap would average around 82 strokes on an 18-hole course. When you know your handicap, you are able to play with other players who have similar handicaps. This can be very rewarding and make you feel like you are playing a much better game when you aren’t playing with others who have better handicaps and a higher skill level than you. 

How Do You Calculate Your Handicap? 

There are different ways to calculate a golf handicap. There is a generic way that is easier, but less accurate, and then there is the official way that was created by the United States Golf Association. Let’s take a look at both ways and you can figure yours out whichever way you prefer.

The Generic Handicap

This calculation is easier, but not always quite as accurate as the official way. Without further ado, here’s how to calculate your generic golf handicap. You simply count the number of strokes you are over on a par. For example, if you shot a 100 on a par 72, then your handicap is a 28. Again, this is not the most reliable way to calculate a par, but it is easier if you are just trying to get a general idea of where you are.

The Official Handicap

This handicap, created by the USGA, is a much more accurate way of calculating your handicap so that you can play with others around the same level as you. The USGA states that in order to accurately calculate a handicap, a player must have a minimum of 12 established rounds of golf. Usually, the best and worst rounds are discounted. This allows you to find a more accurate representation of your golfing skills. Also, these rounds cannot be played over a long period of time. They must be played consistently over a set amount of time in order for the calculation to be accurate.

In Order to Determine Your Handicap, You Must:
  • Have the scores from at least 12 rounds of golf played. Though you can figure it out with as little as 5 rounds, it is more accurate when you have at least 12.
  • Find your adjusted score. The USGA has set a maximum amount that you should score on any given hole. If it is the first time you are calculating your handicap, then the score is 10. What does this mean? Well, it means that for every shot that you make over 10, you subtract from your final score. After the handicap is established, you can adjust it accordingly. Now you won’t use 10, but you will use:
    • A handicap of 40 or above the maximum score is 10
    • A handicap between 0-39 is a maximum score of 9
    • Between 20-29 is a maximum score of 8
    • Between 10-19 is a maximum score of 7
    • A handicap between 0-9 is a maximum score of double-bogey
  • Find the slope. Keep in mind that the slope and the rating are different. The rating is a number that tells you how difficult the course is for a scratch golfer. Essentially, the term slope in golf is based on the amount of people that play bogey. Most scorecards will have the slope rating listed on them, or you can find out in the Pro Shop. Let’s say you usually score 18 above par and the par is 70. This would give a bogey player an average score of 88.
  • Finally, we do the math. Take your adjusted score from step 2 and subtract the course rating. You will then take that number and divide it by 113. Finally, you will divide that number by the slope rating from step 3, now you should be able to answer what's my handicap?


As you can see, the generic way is much easier to calculate. However, as you might think, it is not nearly as accurate as the official handicap score created by the USGA. If you find out your official handicap, you are much more likely to be able to find other golfers to play with who are around your same level. 

This can be so much more fun than playing with people on different levels than you, because it evens the playing ground. No one has the advantage and it is a fair game.  If you want to know how to level up your game, see how we can help today!