Every golfer that plays on a regular basis gets asked at some point: “What’s your handicap?” If you’re done with answering “What’s that mean?” or “I don’t know”, we’ve got your covered:
What is a Handicap Index?
A Handicap Index is a number used to represent your potential scoring ability, which is always expressed as a number taken to one decimal place (e.g. 10.4). This number is used to calculate how many strokes are needed to adjust your score back to par. However, your number of strokes will vary depending on the rating of the course and set of tees that you play.
How do I determine my Course Handicap?
Most courses will provide a handy table where you can simply find the range that your Handicap Index falls in and it will provide you with your Course Handicap. The USGA also has an online Course Handicap Calculator where you can find it using your Handicap Index and the Slope Rating from the set of tees you’re playing (which can be found on the scorecard). If you prefer the old-school method of calculating by hand, take your Handicap Index, multiply it by the Slope Rating, divide by 113, and round to the nearest whole number. For example, a Handicap Index of 11.6 on a course with a 130 Slope Rating would give you a Course Handicap of 13 (11.6 x 130 = 1508/113 = 13.3, rounded to 13).
How do I apply the adjusted strokes?
Each hole on the course is given a number based on the difficulty, with 1 being the most difficult hole and 18 being the easiest. For each hole with a number less than or equal to your Course Handicap, you’ll subtract a stroke from your net score for that hole. Using the example above, if you score a 5 on a hole numbered 1-13, your net score will be 4. If your Course Handicap is greater than 18, you’ll subtract 1 stroke for every hole, then continue to subtract additional strokes restarting with 1 until you reach your Course Handicap. For example, a Course Handicap of 20 would subtract 2 strokes on holes rated 1 and 2, and 1 stroke on every other hole. You can find the rating for each hole on the course scorecard.
How do I get a Handicap Index?
Join a golf club! Any club that meets the USGA’s guidelines of supervising golf activities, providing for peer review, and maintaining the integrity of the USGA Handicap System, provides a USGA Handicap Index to all members. In order to establish your Handicap Index, you’ll need to post your score from at least five 18-hole rounds. However, this isn’t limited to rounds played with your club; you can post rounds from any time and any course (as long as someone can attest your score).
Why do I need a Handicap Index?
By playing with a Handicap Index, you can compete with golfers of any skill level without having to give out strokes arbitrarily. If that’s not enough, check out the Top 10 Reasons to Have a Handicap.