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What is a Handicap in Golf? (And How To Calculate Yours!)

By Chris Moore •  Updated on 04/26/22

Wondering what a golf handicap is?

Or maybe you’re wondering why we need it, or how we can calculate it?

In this post, we’ll help you understand everything you need to know about handicaps!

What is a handicap in golf?

A golf handicap is a number used to measure an amateur golfer’s skill level. In other words, it tells us what score we should be able to achieve on average at the course that we play most often.

To calculate this, we look at our lowest scores recently and what the course is rated at. We then use this information to generate a handicap, which will change each time we play a new round of golf!

We’ll cover exactly how you can calculate your handicap later in the post.

Why do we need golf handicaps?

We need handicaps because they allow us to compare our scores with other people’s and see how good or bad we really are relative to them.

This allows us to compete in tournaments and leagues against people of different skill levels, which makes the game more competitive and fair for everyone!

So even if you’re worse than your friends, you can still have fun playing together as long as there’s a handicap system that allows everyone to compete on equal footing.

What requirements are there to get a golf handicap?

There are quite a few requirements to help you get an accurate golf handicap, so let’s go over all of them.

How to calculate your golf handicap

Once you have your scores and the scorecards from each course ready, you’ll want to calculate your adjusted gross score.

This means adjusting your score for when there are penalty strokes, a player exceeds their maximum strokes, a hole isn’t finished, or a hole isn’t played at all.

Here are the maximum scores you can have on each hole:

While it may seem odd at first, it’s important to adjust your score correctly and trust this.

So after you have your adjusted gross score, you can finally calculate your score using the following formula.

Adjusted Gross Score – Course Rating x 113 / Slope Rating

Example Handicap Calculation

90 – 70.2 x 113 / 126

90 – 70.2 = 19.8

19.8 x 113 = 2,237.4

2,237.4 / 126 = 17.75

The golfer in this example has a 17.75 handicap based on the one round.

So on a typical 18-hole round, they should score bogey on average!

After you played 10 rounds, you’ll want to average out the lowest 3 rounds and multiply them by .96 to calculate your handicap.

And if you played the full 20 rounds, you’ll want to average out the lowest 5 rounds and multiply them by .96 to calculate your handicap.

You can always calculate your handicap using USGA’s official handicap calculator which may be easier!

Final thoughts

Whether you have a high handicap or a low handicap, what matters most is that you have fun playing golf!

But if you’re competitive, then getting an accurate handicap will help make sure everyone is on equal footing when it comes to tournament or competitive play.

So what are you waiting for? Start calculating your handicap and see where you’re at!

Chris Moore

Hi, I'm Chris Moore and I'm the guy behind Golfah.com. As an avid golfer since 2010, I decided to create this blog to share everything I've learned over the years. Whether it's golf equipment, swing tips, or anything in-between, I want to make sure you have everything you need to become a better golfer.

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