how to calculate golf handicap

Understanding your golf handicap is essential whether you are new to golf or are beginning to take your rounds more seriously. Golf handicaps are a number that represents the golfer’s ability based on their previous golf round’s scores. It allows you to compare your performance to that of other golfers. For men, your golf handicap is generally between zero and twenty-eight, and, for women, between zero and thirty-six.

When participating in tournament-style settings, knowing your handicap is essential. Your handicap is a powerful equalizer. Many tournaments set up play in such a way that a player’s handicap is utilized to score a round. This improves competitiveness and gives competitors who may not be the best golfers a chance to win. However, this raises a few key issues. What is your handicap, and more importantly, how do you figure it out?

In 2020, new handicap calculation modifications were implemented, therefore we’ll go through what a handicap is, how to calculate your handicap, and what regulations changed.

History of Golf Handicaps

Golf handicapping started almost a century ago and has been in use ever since. In the previous years, it was known as a hands-on cap, involving three parties: the referee and two players. In 1850, they changed the name to handicap.

Your handicap is now used to assess your ability level by comparing your score to a course’s par round. Handicaps are utilized in both major and local competitions. From a friendly scramble through club championships.

What Your Handicap Means

Essentially, the lesser your golf handicap, the better your skills. A handicap of 5 indicates that the average of this player’s previous rounds was 5 over par (criteria changed from 5 rounds to 3 rounds starting in 2020). Handicaps are often used to evaluate a player’s performance to their typical level of play rather than a pure head-to-head clash. Handicaps enable players to compete and win against more gifted golfers depending on how they performed on that particular day.

Assume you and a buddy are planning to play an 18-hole course with a par of 72. Your pal, who has a six-score handicap, is projected to play 78 strokes, or six strokes over par. While you and your twelve handicap are anticipated to score 84 shots, 12 more over par. In a nutshell, your handicap is the amount of strokes over par you should take over the course of an 18-hole round. Let’s assume you shoot an 82 and your buddy shoots an 80 in this situation. Your buddy technically shot the lower round, but since you factored in handicaps (you are -2 and your friend is +2), you are the winner!

How to Calculate Your Golf Handicap in 2020

Your golf handicap does not exist if you have never played. When you are ready to create your golf handicap, start by tracking your 9 and 18-hole scores. The scores should be recorded in a scorecard and must be signed by two people: you and the partner accompanying you to the golf game. Signatures are required to reduce corruption and ensure that your scores are genuine and authentic.

Number of Scores Needed to Obtain Handicap Index

To get a handicap index, you must submit three 18-hole scores by January 2020. This can be made from a combination of 9-hole and 18-hole rounds; the handicap index will be revised at the beginning and mid of every month (1st and 15th). This adjustment requires only three 18-hole scores. The revision to your handicap will be done daily as long as you update your third 18-hole scores before midnight.

Golf Handicap Calculation Changes for 2020

Before 2020, the calculation of course handicap was done using this formula: 113 Handicap Index X Slope Rating

The 2020 calculation is done using this new formula: (Slope rating/113) + Handicap Index X (Course Rating-Par)

Take note of the modifications; the new calculation incorporates course rating minus par. These modifications were made to suit players who use alternative tees. Because they are competing against various criteria, handicapping must be more equitable.

The 2020 revisions include new handicapping regulations, which reflect the strokes competitors get in a tournament. As a result, the new playing handicap formula is the course handicap X handicap allowance. This new change introduces two new rules for handicapping that are: you will be allowed to use course handicaps to adjust your scores, and secondly, playing handicaps will be used for net competition purposes.

Course Handicap Calculation Formula

There are various applications or programs available that will calculate your handicap for you, but if you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, here is a detailed guide to determining your own course handicap.

The handicap computation is based on numerous factors. The slope rating, course handicap, and adjusted gross scores are some of these factors. Other factors that can be considered include the handicap index of the game, its associated handicap differential as well as the course rating.

Step 1 – You need to change the gross scores into adjusted total score

To get adjusted gross scores, use theUSGA’s equitable stroke controlTo generate a golf handicap, use the ESC key while changing the individual 18-hole scores. According to ESC, you are restricted to the maximum number of strokes you can enter in a given hole. The maximum may be found in the table below.

Course Handicap

Maximum Score

Nine or less

Double bogey







40 and above


Step 2: Calculate the differential in handicap for each score

You should use this formula to compute the handicap difference.

Handicap difference = (Adjusted Gross Score of the Course) X 113 / Course slope ratings.

The course rating is simply the scores of a new golfer on a normal course under a normal playing condition. Slope rating is a course rating of 113 based on standard difficulty.

Step 3: Select the lowest handicap differential

Choose the best or lowest handicap differential. In case you have entered more than 20 scores, the top 10 differentials of your 20 most current scores will be used for the calculation.

Step 4: Calculating the average of the smallest value from the differentials

Calculate the average of the lowest three handicap differentials if you have ten available. Calculate the average for the lowest 6 of 15 HDs. When you have at least 20 scores, always use the top ten from the most recent 20.

Step 5: Multiplying the average of handicap differentials by 96%

In the fifth step, multiply the average difference by 0.96 to get the average from net handicap differentials.

Step 6: Truncating, deleting the number to the value of right of tenths

No figures in the scores should be rounded off. USGA states that the default maximum number from any handicap index in a golf match should be 40.4 for women and 36.4 for men if played on an 18-hole course. It should be 18.2 for men and 20.2 for women on the 9-hole course. For example, if the handicap differential average is 13.196 after multiplication by 0.96, the truncated value will be 13.1.

Step 7: Calculate the course handicap

A course handicap is the amount of strokes a golfer gets while playing on a certain course.

Handicap Index X Slope Rating/113 + Course handicap (Course Rating-Par)

This course handicap computation assumes a 12.7 and a 115 course slope.

Course Handicap = 12.7 x 115 / 113 = 12.92 = 13

How to Improve Your Handicap

Now that you know your golf handicap, and are determined to improve it, what do you need? Here are some pointers to help you increase your score:

  • Improve your swing – Improve your swing by practicing early and often. If you want expert assistance, check into personalgolf lessons at Golf Club of the Everglades
  • Make sure your equipment is in top shape – improperly suited equipment may have an impact on your game and increase your risk of injury.
  • Push yourself – Always strive to break records each time you play.

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