How Golf Handicaps Work in 2022: The Definitive Guide

Do you play golf? If so, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a handicap. But do you know how they work? In this article, we will discuss how golf handicaps work and how they can help improve your game. We’ll also provide a comprehensive guide on how to calculate your own handicap. So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced golfer, read on for everything you need to know about how golf handicaps work!

A handicap is simply a number that represents your level of playing ability. Handicaps are used in golf to level the playing field so that players of all abilities can compete against each other equally. In order to have a handicap, you must first be a member of a golf club which is affiliated with the USGA (United States Golf Association) or R&A (Royal and Ancient). Once you’re a member, your handicap will be based on your scoring history at that course.

The higher your handicap, the more strokes you’ll get when playing against someone with a lower handicap. For example, if you have a handicap of 18 and your opponent has a handicap of 12, they will get to subtract six strokes from their score before comparing it to yours.

How Golf Handicaps Work

Why the golf handicap system was created

Although handicaps in golf are nearly as old as the game, we did not administer them in the same way that they are today. It was just a matter of comparing the less skilled player with the more experienced player in the mid-1800s. “Third-one” and “half-one” were terms that meant the lesser player would receive a stroke every three holes or two holes. These “odds” were often assigned at the discretion of competitors or a committee. Courses weren’t yet rated, so this method didn’t travel between courses.

Courses had to be rated in order to allow golf handicaps to travel. This is because not all courses are equal. A course rating simply shows how a scratch player would play on the course. For example, a course rating can be 75 or 76 if it is a tough track. This will play two to three strokes more than par for scratch players.

This system was eventually replaced by the more modern handicap system that we use today. This new system leveled the playing field so that players of all skill levels could compete against each other. It is based on a mathematical formula that considers a player’s average score. The USGA (United States Golf Association) adopted this system in 1911, and it has been used ever since.

Why your golf handicap is important

Imagine this: You’re just finishing a round with your friend. Although he has played the game a few times, he is still relatively new to the sport. You are a regular player, but this is your first time on this specific course. How do you calculate how you both did for the day?

All of these questions will be answered once you can calculate your handicap. It doesn’t matter where or when you play golf; you will know how you did and can use that information to keep the sport competitive.

How is a golf handicap calculated?

Your golf handicap is just like a round of golf. The better your performance, the lower your handicap is.

Most professional or “scratch” golfers play with no handicap. However, even the most skilled amateurs can benefit from knowing exactly their skill level and how it compares to pros.

Since I am an avid golfer, I have been steadily keeping track of my Handicap Index for years. It’s amazing how rewarding it is to see your handicap gradually drop. This also gives you an insight into how you do on different courses.

It is funny how golf handicaps make little sense the first time someone explains them to you. Your eyes glaze over and your headaches from all the math that’s ahead of you. However, once you understand the formula, it all becomes crystal clear and extremely rewarding.

Now let’s talk about how to determine your handicap.

1. Calculate your Score Differential

Step number one to determine your handicap is to subtract your Adjusted Gross Score from the Course Rating.

These stats are normally available on your club scorecard. You can also lookup these stats online through the USGA’s Course and Slope Rating Database.

Multiplying the difference between your Adjusted Gross Score and the Course Rating by 113 will give you a calculated average Slope Rating. This would show how many strokes you had over par but will not acknowledge how difficult the course may have been.

Divide this number by the course’s Slope rating to get the score differential. This should give you a two-digit number, which will need to be rounded up to the tenth decimal.

The score differential will tell you your handicap is given and how you played during the round. It is a useful reference point, but, as we all know that one round doesn’t determine your true skill level as a golfer.

2. Calculate your Average Score Differential

Next, we want to determine your average score differential. Five rounds is the minimum amount of play required to give yourself a handicap index. You should use your lowest (highest score) from the five score differentials.

You will average multiple score differentials as you play more games. To determine your handicap, after you have played ten rounds, you will take the average of three of your lowest score differentials.

The last 20 rounds of your game will be reflected in your average score differential. After you have played over 20, you will take the 10 lowest score differentials to calculate the average. Since the average only considers your last 20 games, it will always reflect how you’re playing now.

3. Multiply your Average by .96

The third and final step in calculating your handicap index is to multiply your average score differential by .96. This fixed number is used often in statistical mathematics to account for the frequency distributions of different outcomes.

Simply put, multiplying your average with .96 will account for any outliers in the game. This is true regardless of whether you are exceptionally good or poor. It gives you an accurate representation of your handicap. After factoring this number in, round your final handicap to the tenth decimal!

How Golf Handicaps Work

Different ways of calculating your handicap

If you are like most players, you want to play and skip doing the math. There are many resources available to help you determine the math behind your handicap. Once you have determined your Handicap Index, the USGA online Handicap Calculator will allow you to plug in your Course Rating and Slope Rating.

You can also try one of the many available golfing apps. These apps not only calculate your handicap but also offer a variety of useful features that will improve your game.

The Grint is my favorite app for playing on the greens. It is free to download. The Grint will calculate your handicap and log it so that you know exactly what level you should play on any course.

How do I calculate my golf handicap if I shoot 100?

You can quickly determine your handicap by subtracting your strokes from the overall Course Rating.

If you had 100 strokes on a par-72 course, for example, you would subtract 72 strokes from 100 to get a handicap of 28.

How do I calculate a golf handicap for just 9 holes?

You can still calculate your Course Handicap if you’re serious about keeping track of your handicap, or if you just want to play a quick front or back nine.

First, take your total handicap and divide it by 2. You don’t stop there. Next, find out the slope rating for the tees group you are playing. The club usually provides this information.

To get your actual handicap, multiply your halved handicap by the nine-hole Slope rating and then round this number to the tenth decimal.

What are some benefits of having a golf handicap?

A handicap can help improve your game by giving you a goal to strive for. It also allows you to track your progress over time and see how much you’ve improved. And lastly, it gives you a way to compete against other players of all abilities.

How Golf Handicaps Work

How can you get a golf handicap?

In order to have a golfer’s handicap, you must first be a member of a golf club which is affiliated with the USGA (United States Golf Association) or R&A (Royal and Ancient). Once you’re a member, your handicap will be based on your scoring history at that course.

If you’re not a member of a golf club, you can still get a handicap by joining an online golf community like You’ll just need to input your scores from your recent rounds of golf, and they will calculate your handicap for you.

What's a good golf handicap?

A “good” golf handicap depends on your skill level. For instance, a scratch golfer (someone who shoots par or better) will typically have a handicap of 0-to-plus-three. A beginner golfer may have a handicap of 20 or higher.

Keep in mind that your goal should be to lower your handicap over time. So, even if you’re a beginner golfer with a high handicap, don’t get discouraged! Just keep practicing and working on your game, and you’ll see that number come down.

What is the Average Golf Handicap?

For men, the global average handicap is 16.1. For women, it is 28.9.

These numbers will vary depending on the skill level of the player pool at your golf club. For instance, if you’re a member of a country club where most of the members are scratch golfers, then the average handicap is going to be lower than it would be at a more casual course.

The important thing is to focus on your own handicap and work on lowering it, regardless of what the average is.

What is the difference between a golf course rating and a golf course slope?

A golf course rating is a number that shows how difficult a course is for a scratch golfer. A golf course slope is a number that shows how much harder (or easier) a course is for a bogey golfer than it is for a scratch golfer.

Here’s an example: let’s say there is a golf course with a rating of 75 and a slope of 155. This means that the course is tough for scratch golfers (75 is quite high), but it’s even more difficult for bogey golfers (155 is very high).

How much does a handicap cost?

There is no cost to have a golf handicap. If you’re a member of a golf club that’s affiliated with the USGA or R&A, your handicap will be free. And if you’re not a member of a golf club, you can still get a handicap by joining an online golf community like There is a small fee to join GHIN, but it’s well worth it for the benefits you’ll receive. So don’t let the cost deter you from getting a handicap!

Is there a maximum handicap?

The maximum handicap that a player can have is 54.0. You’ll see a lot of resources online quote that the maximum handicap is 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women. This is no longer accurate and you can always find the latest information at

How does a golf handicap work on a scorecard?

Every hole is ranked from 1 to 18 on the scorecard. 1 is the hardest while 18 is the easiest. The number next to the hole is called the “hole handicap”.

For example, let’s say you’re playing a course with a rating of 72 and a slope of 135. On the scorecard, hole number one has a handicap of 11. This means that if you’re an average golfer, you should be able to take 11 strokes off your score on that hole.

Keep in mind, though, that your handicap is only an estimate. You may find that you do better or worse than the handicap suggests on any given day. That’s all part of the game!

Rules for Submitting Scores to A Golf Handicap

It’s important to know that when submitting your score, there are some rules.

One of the most important rules is that another player must witness your round and score. This is done to prevent cheating and not in the way you might imagine.

Cheating in golf is usually defined as taking fewer shots than you should have. However, golfers soon realized that it is beneficial to take more shots per round when trying to get a handicap in golf. A player who has a higher handicap than they need would find it easier to play and more fun to play since they will perform better than they should.

To combat this, players must sign each scorecard submitted. You and your playing partner must sign it. It is a contract, and both you and your playing partner must agree for it to be valid.

When is your handicap updated?

Your handicap is updated whenever you submit a new score to the USGA or R&A. For most golfers, this happens once a week when they play their weekly round of golf. However, if you play in a tournament or other event, your scores will be submitted and your handicap will be updated more frequently.

You can also update your handicap manually by entering your scores into the USGA or R&A’s online system. This is a good way to keep track of your progress and see how your handicap is changing over time.

How to lower your golf handicap

One way to lower your handicap is by taking lessons from a professional golf instructor. They can help you identify areas of your game that need improvement and give you the tools you need to fix them.

Practicing regularly is also key to lowering your handicap. You can use a home golf simulator to work on your swing or take advantage of online resources like Golf Channel Academy. These platforms offer video lessons from top golf instructors that you can access from the comfort of your own home.

Finally, make sure you’re using the right equipment. Using golf clubs that are fitted specifically for your height, weight, and swing can help you play your best game. Many pro shops offer club fitting services to help you find the perfect clubs for your game.

In Closing

Do you really need to know your handicap in order to play a round of golf? Not at all. However, you will be able to better assess your skills and abilities if you take the time to learn how your golf handicap is calculated and compare it to others.