Getting a handicap in Malaysia and Formula to calculate Handicap


A golf handicap is the most important measurement of the playing ability of any golfer. Taken from the player’s past performances, handicaps are crucial to gauge the level of the golfer. It also allows the player to compete on a more level playing field when competing with other golfers whether in formal competition or informally.

Through Malaysia Golf Association

To obtain a handicap in Malaysia, you must go through the MGA or Malaysian Golf Association. The process is a straightforward one where you must first be a member of a golf club affiliated with the MGA.

From there, you will then need to fulfil the requirements and certain regulations in the process to gaining your handicap.

The process to obtain your handicap

Being a member of an MGA-affiliated club is the first step.
After that, you need to submit your scores from your rounds of golf. This can either be:

  • At least 5 rounds of 18-hole golf course or
  • A minimum of 10 rounds in a 9-hole golf course.

After that, the MGA will calculate your handicap index and that will be your level to play.

What happens after that?

Once you have obtained your handicap, you can then compete as a golfer without needing to be affiliated with any club.

As a rule of thumb, you are considered to be reasonably good if you fall under the 10-15 handicap range. What you want to do from here is to improve your handicap and that can only come through practice and participation in competitions.

Applying for handicap

There are regulations and conditions that you must fulfil when applying for a handicap. This includes the number of games you have played, your attendance in golf lessons and such which will all be taken into consideration by the National Handicapping System before your scores are official.

Course Handicap – All you need to know and Slope Ratings

The term handicap is the most important rule in the game of golf. It is to measure the potential playing ability of the golfer. This is derived based on the tees that the golfer had played in a particular golf course.

The handicap measures the net score from the number of strokes played during a game which will then determine the proficiency of the player against his or her competitors. In this context, the higher the handicap, it is regarded that the player is poorer as compared to other golfers with handicaps which are lower. Such an indication makes a lot of difference especially in competitions as it can influence the outcome of the competition in many ways.

Formula to calculate Handicap

In national or international golf associations, there are official handicaps which will relate to the standings of the golfer. A certain formula is used in calculating the handicap of a player. This is related in terms of the number of strokes above or below par of the player’s ability. In most situations, this depends on the 10 best scores that were recorded it the 20 rounds previously.

It cannot be assumed that a golfer’s handicap reveals that average score of his game as this measurement actually shows the player’s potential more accurately.

In cases like these, it can be seen that a 3 handicapper has better potential than a 9 handicapper. A golfer who averages 19-over-par might not necessarily have a 19 handicap game as it is usually a few strokes lesser than that.

A handicap index is usually the official handicap used by golf associations. A golfer will need to establish a minimum of 5 of his most recent scores together with the course and slope rating of the courses he played in before obtaining his official handicap. From there, the course handicap is determined. This will indicate how many strokes the golfer is allowed to take on that particular green. This simply means that a golfer is allowed to deduct 12 strokes from his score throughout the round if it has been determined that the course has a 12 course handicap, knowing fair well that the lower the handicap, the better it is for the golfer.

A ‘scratch golfer’ is one with a zero handicap. On the other end, a bogey golfer is one with approximately 18 handicaps. In certain situations, a handicap below 0 is possible which is known as a plus handicap.

More about Course Handicap

Every golfer will need to know what a ‘course handicap’ is. It is the shortened version used to imply the USGA Course Handicap. This refers to the number that shows how many strokes you get in a handicap at a particular golf course.

Indicates the level of gameplay

Generally, the course handicap will let you know how you can approach your game at the golf course. It is where you can make adjustments taking into account the difficulty level of the course. If you are part of this system, you will convert your handicap index into the golf course’s handicap. That will be the basis that will determine the handicap strokes for your game.

The way you earn your handicap index differs among every golfer. You could have earned your handicap index playing on an easy course and now that you are going to play on a harder course, it might not do you much good. Hence, the handicap index would not be enough where you need to use the course handicap to derive a proper calculation. This will make adjustments either up or down to your handicap index which will then reflect better the difficulty level of the golf course.

Calculating the Course Handicap

Finding the course handicap means you are adding the ‘course rating’ to the ‘slope rating’ which is what the USGA Handicapping System adopts. This has been done since the 1980s and has been used to the present day. In the USGA, the average slope rating is 113. You will then use the formula:

(Handicap index x Slope Rating of Tees played / Slope Rating. 

For instance, if you are handicap index is 13.2 and you are playing on a course with a slope rating of 128, then you will calculate this through:

13.2 x 128 / 113 = 14.95

Here, you round it up or down which means the course handicap for you is 15.

You will notice here that your handicap index has since been increased from 13.2 to 15 which means you get more strokes.

Now you know your handicap index, so what’s next?

The course handicap is used to indicate how many handicap strokes you can get when you play a certain course. This will be used to get your net score which is converted from your gross score. You will be applying the handicap strokes in the holes on the course. If you have a course handicap of 3, it means you get 1 handicap stroke on the 3 handicap holes with the highest ratings. On the other hand, you can use this during stroke play where you subtract the course handicap from your gross score at the end of the round. Let’s say your course handicap is 3 and your gross score for that round was 80, then your net score is 80-3=77.

In short, the course handicap is the one that tells you the number of handicap strokes you will have. If you are part of this USGA Handicap System, you can get the course handicap by taking your handicap index and the slope rating of the course you are planning to play in.

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.

More calculation examples

Formula 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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