Calculating your golf handicap


Knowing your handicap is an important facet of playing golf. In fact, it determines your standard by which you are playing and even where you can play. This puts you in the level of the game you are currently in. Hence, it becomes highly imperative that you know how your handicap is calculated which then tells where you are among the other golfers.

So, how does it work?

Introduced by the USGA (United States Golf Association), this is a universal system adopted in the professional game of golf. It uses certain criteria to calculate the rating of your golf scores which illustrates the ability of the golfer. This is the most accurate representation of how many strokes being allotted to you. In simple terms, the golf handicap indicates the expected score for a certain hole and the round for the player.

Maximum golf handicap

As a rule of thumb, a beginner starting out with a maximum golf handicap. For male golfers, this is at 36.4 while female golfers will have a maximum 40.4 golf handicap. This is indicated by the USGA. However, a world handicap system will be adopted in 2020 where it will be 54.0 maximum golf handicap for both male and female golfers.

What handicap is considered as good?

According to the USGA, the average golf handicap is about 13 to 15. This means that you are about a bogey golfer if you are around this range. Less than 1% of golfers are scratch golfers while about 30% of them will have a handicap of 10 or under. This is actually very good for a new golfer.

Understanding Scratch and Bogey Golfers

One of the terms that might interest you when understanding the golf handicap is what type of golfer are you? You could be:

  • Scratch Golfer – This refers to the type of golfers who are almost there to become like a pro golfer.
  • Bogey Golfer – A golfer whose handicap is usually average. They are far from being able to go pro

What makes this interesting is that these terms are used to help officials in the game to set the ratings for the holes in a course that is set to be completed. To understand better, a scratch golfer will have a handicap of almost zero. Meanwhile, the Bogey golfer is one who averages 1 Bogey for every hole. This means that for an 18 hole course, it would be about 90.

Calculating your handicap

So, the big question now is how is your handicap calculated? The formula is as follow:

  • (Score – Course Rating) x 113 / Slope Rating
  • Note: 113 here refers to the average slope rating used for a typical golf course

So, given that:

  • Score = 80
  • Course Rating = 70
  • Slope Rating = 120
  • It will then be (80-70) x 113/120
  • Total is: 9.41 (Handicap Differential)

You should use at least 5 differentials (and up to 20) to calculate your golf handicap. When using 5 differentials, the lowest one will be used for calculation. This is to determine your handicap index. Using the lowest differential, you will need to multiply it with 0.96. Hence, the example above will then be:

9.41 x 0.96 = 9.03

9.03 will then be your handicap index. This is where you will then benchmark where you are and how you stand among other golfers.

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