As if it is a password to unlock each game, no game (or simple meeting of 2 golfers, even at the airport) can get started without the question being asked –
“What’s your handicap?”
And yet, for someone unfamiliar with the game of golf and its terminology, this question can be quite confusing. What is a handicap and why is it important? How do you calculate your golf handicap? Those are the questions we will be answering in this article.
What is a Handicap in Golf?
In simple terms, your handicap, or handicap index as it is officially called, is a numerical measure of your potential ability.
The United States Golf Association (USGA) introduced the handicap system in 1911 to level the playing field for everyone. It is a way of ensuring fairness in play by giving each player a different “net score” based on their skill and experience.
Therefore, an inexperienced player can play a more experienced player in a fair match.
When you’re new to golf, you start off without a handicap. You’ll need to play at least 10 rounds before you’re eligible for a handicap. This is probably because to calculate your handicap, you need to have a number of scores under your belt.
How to Calculate Your Golf Handicap
Before learning how to calculate your golf handicap, there are a few terms you will need to understand as they are a part of the “handicap calculation formula”.
The course rating is a measure of the playing difficulty for scratch players of a course under normal conditions. It takes into account the yardage and other hazards found on the course. The course rating is expressed as the number of strokes taken to one decimal place. Each course has its own rating and this is usually found on the course’s scorecard.
A slope rating is a measure of the playing difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch. The lowest slope rating of a course can have is 55, while the highest is 155. However, the standard slope rating is 113. This is also found on the scorecard, so no need to scratch your head about the slope rating of the course you’re playing on.
Now let’s get you a handicap in 6 easy steps.
Calculate Your Handicap Differential
Handicap Differential = (Score - Course Rating) X 113 ÷ Slope Rating
Always round off the differential to the nearest tenth.
Select Lowest Handicap Differentials
The second step in calculating your Handicap is to select the lowest Handicap Differentials, these are deemed as your best. If you have entered more than 20 scores, select the 10 best differentials for your handicap calculation.
Calculate the Average of Your Lowest Handicap Differentials
Depending on how many scores you have recorded, calculate the average of your lowest differentials. If you registered 15 scores, for example, get the lowest 6 and calculate their average.
Multiply Average the Average of Your Handicap Differentials by 0.96 or 96%
After getting your handicap differential average, the next step to arrive at your handicap is to multiply your handicap differential average by 0.96, or, 96%, according to the USGA calculation regulations.
Delete Numbers to the Right of Tenths
You’re nearly a handicapped golfer, only one simple step left to get your handicap.
After multiplying your average handicap differentials by 0.96, cross out the numbers after the tenths. Very important – do not round off, simply cross out the numbers after the tenths. If your answer is 17. 55 (for the sake of illustration), your Handicap Index is 17.5, not 18.
According to the USGA, the maximum Handicap Index on an 18-hole golf course is 36.4 for males and 40.4 for females. On a nine-hole golf course, the maximum Handicap Index is 18.2 for males and 20.2 for females. The maximum ceiling can be increased though.
Welcome to the Club!
Not only have you shown consistency in playing the required minimum rounds of your new found favorite sport, but you have joined the ranks of the elite few in the world who have a golf handicap.
Now you can confidently walk the green and have an answer for the customary question, “What’s your handicap?”
Not only that, knowing your handicap enables you to play a fair game with anyone and know what to subtract at the end of the game to get your net score.
Now that you know how to calculate your golf handicap, it’s time to hit the green for an informed round. Happy golfing.