What’s a Golf Handicap? | Golf Handicap Defined

At its easiest, a golf handicap is a measure of your skill as a golfer. Virtually uniquely in sport, the handicapping system lets gamers of all ranges and talents compete in opposition to one another on equal phrases. It is usually a way by which decrease handicap (ie higher) golfers cant moan concerning the unfairness of the system, however extra of that later.

Think about going onto a tennis courtroom to play Novak Djokovic, attempting to dribble your well past Virgil Van Dijk at Anfield or bowl to Jos Buttler when he’s acquired his eye in. In all three situations you’ll be in for a humiliating lesson. However you might play a spherical of golf in opposition to Rory McIlroy and stand at the very least an opportunity of beating him, so long as you play to, or higher than, your handicap (whereas assuming that he performs at his typical stellar degree).

How does a Handicap Work?

Your golf handicap is an allowance of strokes and is represented by a quantity, comparable to 19.0, which you add to the par of the course you might be taking part in, to find out what your rating ought to be, all different issues being equal. So a 19-handicap golfer taking part in a par 72 course, is predicted to shoot 91 (19+72). A four-handicap participant on the identical course ought to go spherical in 76; it’s so simple as that – effectively, virtually. Your handicap is probably not a complete quantity and will embrace a decimal level, comparable to 19.3, and regardless of the quantity is, you seek the advice of the handicap board on the course you might be about to play to see what your taking part in handicap shall be for that structure. That is needed as a result of, though two neighbouring programs could each be par 72, their respective course or slope scores – which calculate how tough the course is to play – could differ. One structure could have slim fairways, loads of penal bunkers or small, undulating greens compared to its neighbour, and subsequently have a more durable course ranking, so your 19 handicapper could also be allotted a 23 handicap, for instance, on that harder course.

The right way to Calculate your Handicap

Traditionally, completely different nations used alternative ways to calculate handicaps and it was all a little bit of a multitude; however then the governing our bodies of the sport, the USA Golf Affiliation and Royal & Historic, sat down with numerous handicapping organisations across the globe and in 2020 got here up with the World Handicapping System. It has not met with common acclaim as a result of a) golfers are small ‘c’ conservative and don’t like change; b) it takes a little bit of getting used to – like all new methods and c) decrease handicap golfers suppose they’re being screwed.

Your golf handicap is just not static however is a rolling reflection of latest play, normally based mostly on the most effective eight scores of the final 20 rounds performed. A scratch golfer is somebody anticipated to shoot degree par, whereas a plus handicap means they need to rating even higher – so a plus two golfer, on our par 72 course, would count on to go spherical in 70 strokes. Strive to not maintain that in opposition to her or him.

What’s Match play?

In match play, you might be pitted in opposition to an opponent, relatively than the course itself and that is the place the stroke index is available in. It is a system by which every gap on the course is given a ranking in accordance with its problem – the stroke index 1 gap is thought to be probably the most tough, and the stroke index 18, is the simplest. If our 19-handicap golfer was taking part in the four-handicap golfer, he could be given, or obtain, 15 strokes (the distinction between their handicaps*). So, on the holes with a stroke index between 1 and 15, his par determine could be regardless of the par of that gap is, plus one. They tee off on the primary gap, which is a par 4, stroke index 10. The four-handicapper scores 4, and the 19-handicapper makes 5, in order that they have halved the outlet, neither has received or misplaced it. On this means, the distinction of their talents is evened out, permitting them to compete on equal phrases, or as close to equal phrases as human ingenuity and arithmetic can calculate.

*Really they get 95% of the distinction however the causes for this are too sophisticated and life is just too quick; simply settle for that it’s 95%.

How does Stableford Factors work?

These are a way by which the whole discipline of competitors can compete in opposition to one another beneath stroke play situations. Par on a gap is value two factors, bogey one level, birdie three factors and eagle, 4. Once more, your handicap comes into play together with the stroke index of every gap. Our 19-handicap golfer, nonetheless on the primary gap, which has a stroke index of 10, makes 5. As a result of he will get a stroke on the outlet, this turns into a internet 4, so he will get two factors. Sometimes, he’ll say to whoever is marking his rating: ‘5 for 2.’ In case you play to your handicap you need to get 36 factors in whole (two for every gap, instances 18 holes). If somebody scores 40 factors or extra, you might be legally entitled to query their parentage.

What’s the common handicap?

In April 2022 the English Golf Union printed knowledge suggesting that the common golf handicap for males is 17.1 and 27.2 for girls. As a common rule of thumb, under 10 – that’s, single-figure handicappers – are thought of to be good gamers however the handicap can go as excessive as 54, which brings us to the complaints of low-handicap golfers when confronted by an opponent with a high-handicap. The higher golfers stay satisfied that they’re at a drawback, particularly when their opponent makes a par. However the motive she or he is carrying that top handicap is that they can’t maintain that degree of play. You see only a few high-handicap golfers stroll away with their membership championship trophies. Additionally, the incidence of 54-handicap golfers is calculated at 0.04% for males, and a couple of.32% for girls, so we’re speaking a couple of fairly small proportion carrying that sort of handicap.

The issue, or perceived drawback for low handicappers is that our 19-handicap good friend could effectively play three or 4 consecutive holes in par or higher, which makes them a formidable opponent. However they’ll equally blow up with a run of dangerous holes, which is why they’ve a excessive handicap – however while you’re beneath the cosh in a match and confronted with an opponent who performs considerably higher than their handicap may suggests, it may be tough to simply accept in a phlegmatic means. Console your self with the thought that they’re simply having day.


Worst case state of affairs, nevertheless, is that your excessive handicap opponent is a bandit – a golfer with a lot better skill than their handicap may recommend. These vermin hold their handicap excessive by any variety of ploys. They may, for instance, if taking part in effectively, intentionally hit a number of dangerous photographs on the homeward stretch of a spherical as a way to see their rating climb. Or they might withdraw from the spherical when taking part in effectively, citing a non-existent damage. Once they enter critical competitors, particularly ones that supply fascinating prizes, they play to their full skill. Also called pot, or trophy-hunters, they’re cheats, pure and easy and wherever attainable ought to be averted. Failing that, shoot them**.

**It is a tasteless and dishonourable joke – simply ensure you don’t get caught.

How do you get a handicap?

Simple, be part of a golf membership and enter a couple of competitions. Sadly, many golfers usually are not members of a membership and till a couple of years in the past golf’s governing our bodies labelled them with the relatively insulting time period of ‘non-status golfers.’ There are quite a few on-line organisations and firms providing handicaps, at a price, and customarily, these are accepted by golf golf equipment and programs as a sign of your skill however they don’t seem to be official. What the golf equipment the place you wish to play are most involved about is that you’ve got an understanding of the etiquette of the sport and can bear in mind the fundamentals, comparable to changing divots, repairing pitch marks and raking bunkers and hopefully a web based handicap from an organization shall be accepted as proof of your skill.

In England you may signal as much as England Golf’s iGolf subscription, after which you obtain an app, submit scores from a minimal 54 holes and away you go. In Scotland you do it through the Open Play app from the Scottish Golf Union, which prices £5.99 per thirty days. In England you pay £40 for a year-long subscription. In Wales the system is Flexi Membership (£5.50 a month) and in Eire there’s not but an analogous scheme. These methods are organised by the sport’s governing our bodies of their respective nations and carry better authenticity.

The World Handicapping System has taken a short while to mattress in however is now largely accepted as a result of it’s extra versatile and responds faster to your scoring, and is relevant all over the world.

Concerning the Creator

Martin Vousden – Golf Author

Vousden bio

Martin Vousden joined Right now’s Golfer in 1988 as a employees author and shortly rose to turn into editor; beneath his stewardship it grew to become Britain’s best-selling golf title. He then grew to become launch editor of Golf Purchaser and Swing magazines, earlier than shifting to Scotland to take over at ScottishGolf. After 5 years he grew to become (and stays) a contract journalist, having written for quite a few titles, together with Golf Month-to-month, Golf Punk and The Clubhouse, which relies in Malaysia. He lives in Angus, about 12 miles from the Carnoustie course that beats him up each time he performs it, so he joined Kirriemuir GC. His handicap of 19.3 rises inexorably with each passing 12 months.

Martin’s golf bag incorporates:

Ping G400 driver

King Cobra F/Velocity 3-wood

Kane Golf 5-wood

Callaway Large Bertha 7-wood

Wilson D9 irons, 5-gap wedge

Yonex Z-Drive sand wedge

John Letters Golden Goose lob wedge

Putter: GEL Ruby or Odyssey 2-ball blade (relying on which is behaving itself)

TaylorMade Distance Balls (yellow, simply because he likes the color)