Think you’re a Handicap Expert? Take the WHS Rules of Handicapping Quiz to find out.

Not an expert yet? Read on:

### Beginner

*Photo: Associated Press*

#### What is a Handicap Index?

Your Handicap Index is designed to allow you to compete with golfers of all skill levels. The Handicap Index is used to determine your Course Handicap, which varies depending on the course and set of tees you play from. The Course Handicap is the number of strokes subtracted from your gross score to give a net score. The strokes are allocated on specific holes, based on their difficulty. To learn more about the Handicap Index and how to use it, read our post here.

**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. By using a Handicap Index, you can compete against your own potential scoring ability instead of other golfer’s scores. For example, let’s say you shoot a gross score of 94 with a Course Handicap of 24, and your friend shoots 86 with a Course Handicap of 14. Even though your friend shot a lower gross score (which, based on the handicap differences, they will almost every time), your net score is lower (70 vs. 72).

If that’s not enough, check out the Top 10 Reasons to Have a Handicap.

**What’s a GHIN?**

GHIN stands for “Golf Handicap and Information Network” and is the service established by the United States Golf Association (USGA) to provide handicaps for players that belong to golf clubs affiliated with their regional golf association. For example, if you join a golf club that is affiliated with the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA), one of the benefits you’ll receive as a member is a GHIN number. A GHIN number is the unique ID provided to you to keep your Handicap Index. GHIN is the most widely accepted Handicap Index, and is often the ONLY Handicap Index you can use to enter specific golf tournaments or events.

**How do I get a GHIN Number?**

To get a GHIN number, join a golf club affiliated with your local golf association, like the SCGA.

#### Do I have to join a golf club to get a Handicap Index?

Yes, to maintain a valid GHIN Handicap Index, you must be a member of a certified USGA “golf club”. This is because the Handicap System is founded on the concept of peer review, meaning you need to have an assigned Handicap Chair to ensure the scores you’re posting are correct. Don’t worry! We make the process easy by automating the process of finding a club near you (Associate Membership) or by helping your find a local group that fits your personality, ability level and style of play (Club Finder Tool). You can also start your own golf club if that’s more your style!

**Does my GHIN number make me USGA Member?**

Your GHIN number is tied to your regional association, which has been authorized to provide a GHIN Handicap Index by the USGA. The USGA does offer a separate membership, which does not include a GHIN Handicap Index.

#### What makes a USGA/GHIN different from any other handicap?

While there are different ways to get your Handicap Index, the USGA/GHIN Handicap Index is the most widely trusted and accepted version. Whether you’re trying to qualify for the U.S. Open, play in a local club event, or participate in a charity tournament, a USGA/GHIN Handicap Index will always be accepted (and other handicap providers likely won’t be).

### Intermediate

**What is score posting?**

You’ll need to record your scores to GHIN account, otherwise known as “posting scores”, in order to establish a Handicap Index. To post a score, you’ll need to know your final gross score, the name of the course you played, and the tees from which you played.

#### What kind of rounds can I post?

You can post both 9-hole and 18-hole rounds from any course that has an official Course Rating. You can post any scores you have saved, regardless of when you played. The only requirement is that your round is not played alone so that someone can verify your score.

#### How do I post a score?

You can post a score on the SCGA website, on the USGA’s GHIN mobile app, or posting computer found in the golf shop at your local golf course. For more information and videos, check out our Quick Start Guide. To post, you’ll need to enter the course, set of tees, and your score.

#### How many scores do I need to establish my Handicap Index?

You need to post three 18-holes scores (or six 9-hole scores) in order to establish your handicap.

#### How long does it take to get my Handicap Index?

Your Handicap Index will be issued the morning after you reach the above threshold (three 18-hole scores/six 9-hole scores).

#### Do I have to post every score?

Yes, your Handicap Index is meant to give the most accurate representation of your playing potential. In order to do that, you need to post your all your best and worst rounds.

#### Do I lose my scores if my membership lapsed?

If your membership lapses, your GHIN number and score history will be archived and available for future activation.

#### Who can change my posted scores?

If you need to change an incorrect score on your file, you’ll need to contact your club’s Handicap Chair. It is a best practice to review the information entered before formally choosing the post or post score buttons.

#### Is there a maximum Handicap Index?

The maximum Handicap Index is 54.0.

#### What’s a Course Handicap?

Your Handicap Index is a generic standard that is not tied to any course or tees. In order to get the right value for a particular round, you need to convert the Handicap Index into what is called a Course Handicap for playing purposes each time you play. There are many ways to determine your Course Handicap for the tees you will be playing; you need the Course Rating, Slope Rating and Par for those tees:

• There are often charts near golf course computers used for score posting where you can look up the Course Handicap based on your Handicap Index

• The score posting computers will convert your Index under “My Handicap Information” Section, then choosing Course Handicap

• If you use the GHIN Mobile App, choose the Course Handicap Calculator

• SCGA.org will direct you to ghin.com. After entering your SCGA/GHIN number and last name choose Course Handicap Calculator and search for and pick the tees being played.

In general, a player’s Course Handicap will be equal to or greater than the Handicap Index when playing a tee with a Slope Rating of 113 or more, and less than the Handicap Index when playing a tee with a Slope Rating of less than 113.

#### What’s the difference between gross and net scores?

Your gross score is the total number of strokes you took. Your net score is the total strokes subtracted by the number of handicap strokes you receive according to your Course Handicap. For example, if you shot 82 and have a Course Handicap of 12, your gross score would be 82 and your net score would be 70.

#### Do I just subtract my adjusted strokes from my final gross score or do I apply adjusted strokes on specific holes?

If you’re just playing a normal round of golf, it’s usually enough to just know your final net score. However, there are plenty of times when you’ll need to know exactly on which holes to apply extra strokes, such as match play, stableford, or even just playing for skins with your friends. Also, when playing in a handicapped tournament or event, you may see dots on different holes on your scorecard. Each dot represents how many extra strokes you’ll receive on a given hole.

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. For example, if you have a Course Handicap of 12 score a 5 on a hole numbered 1-12, 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.

#### What is Maximum Score/Net Double Bogey?

The maximum hole score for each player for handicap purposes will be limited to a Net Double Bogey, calculated as follows: Double Bogey + handicap strokes a player receives based on their Course Handicap. A score for handicap purposes should not be overly influenced by one or two bad hole scores that are not reflective of a player’s demonstrated ability.

As an example, a player with a Course Handicap of 16 would have a maximum hole score of triple bogey (double bogey plus one stroke received) on the holes where the handicap allocation/Stroke Index is 1-16 and a double bogey (double bogey and no strokes received) on the holes where the handicap allocation/Stroke Index is 17 or 18.. So if this person scored 102 and had an 11 on the sixth hole (a par 5 with Stroke Index 7) and had a 9 on hole 14 (a par 4 with Stroke Index 18), they would need to deduct three strokes for the sixth hole ((11 – max score of 8 (double bogey plus 1) = 3)) and three on hole 14 ((9 – max score of 6 (double bogey 6 and no strokes received) = 3)) for a total of six strokes deducted from the 102 gross score. This results in an adjusted gross score of 96 (102 – 3 – 3 = 96). The individual would post a 96 for handicap purposes.

#### What do I do if I don’t finish a round?

For handicap purposes, the player must record a score of net par (par plus any handicap strokes normally received for the holes not played or holes not played in accordance with the Rules of Golf). For example, let’s say you’re not able to play holes 16, 17, and 18 due to darkness. Your Course Handicap is 12 and holes 16, 17, 18 are a par 5, 3, 4, and are allocated as the number 4, 16, 10 handicap holes, respectively. That means you receive one handicap stroke on holes 16 and 18 and no strokes on hole 17. Therefore, you will record a 6, 3, 5 on holes 16, 17, and 18, respectively.

### Advanced

**What is Adjusted Gross Score?**

An “adjusted gross score” is a player’s gross score adjusted under the World Handicap System procedures for unfinished holes, conceded strokes, holes not played or not played under the Rules of Golf, or Maximum Hole Score/Net Double Bogey.

**What is differential?**

The score differential determines which of your scores are actually the best scores, taking into account the course difficulty (Course Rating and Slope Rating are both important).The formula is: Score Differential = (Adjusted Gross score –Course Rating-Playing Conditions Calculation adjustment) x 113 / Slope Rating Example: Adjusted Gross Score was 95 at a course with 73.5/130 (USGA Course Rating/Slope Rating)

• Adjusted Gross Score (95)

Minus the course rating (73.5)

• Result = 21.5

• Take the standard Slope (113) of a golf course and divide by the Slope Rating of the tees played 113 x 130 = .869

Multiply the two results together and round to the nearest tenth: 21.5 x .869 =18.683 rounded to 18.7

**How is a Handicap Index calculated?**

For each score posted, a score differential is calculated. This is to determine which scores are the best scores, considering the course difficulty (Course Rating and Slope Rating are both important). The formula is:

Score Differential = (Adjusted Gross score –Course Rating-Playing Conditions Calculation adjustment) x 113 / Slope Rating

Once your score file consists of 20 scores, your eight lowest differentials are added together and averaged then rounded to the nearest tenth, the result being your Handicap Index.. Your eight lowest score differentials are used, not necessarily the eight lowest scores in your score file.

A player needs a minimum of three scores to calculate a Handicap Index. If a player has at least three but fewer than 20 score differentials available, the Handicap Index will be computed as follows:

Scores Posted |
Differentials Used |

3 | Lowest 1, then -2 adjustment |

4 | Lowest 1, then -1 adjustment |

5 | Lowest 1 |

6 | Average of lowest 2, then -1 adjustment |

7-8 | Average of lowest 2 |

9-11 | Average of lowest 3 |

12-14 | Average of lowest 4 |

15-16 | Average of lowest 5 |

17-18 | Average of lowest 6 |

19 | Average of lowest 7 |

20 | Average of lowest 8 |

#### Are all my scores used to calculate my Handicap Index?

Only your 20 most recent scores are considered when calculating your Handicap Index, with the 8 lowest differentials of those 20 scores being used. If you have less than 20 scores posted, the number of differentials used varies (see table in “How is a Handicap Index calculated?”)

**I have an exclamation point within a circle next to my Handicap Index? What does that mean?**

This usually means that you have an Exceptional Score impacting the calculation of your Handicap Index. If you look in your scoring record you will likely see a score denoted with the letter E. This means that the score differential for that round was at least 7.0 strokes better than the Handicap Index in effect at the time the round was played. The differential with the E, as well as the other 19 (if a full scoring record of 20 scores) score differentials in place at that time have been adjusted. As additional scores are posted the new scores do not have their score differentials adjusted.

#### What is the Low Handicap Index (Low H.I.) and how is it calculated?

The Low Handicap Index is the lowest Handicap Index value that an individual has had in the last 12 months. It is not calculated; it just looks at each of the issued Handicap Index values that a golfer has on record during the time period.

Pingback: 9 Reasons Why Every Woman Should Have A Handicap Index | SCGA Blog()