Handicap In Golf: Everything You Need To Know

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golfing man in the course

Golf is undoubtedly, the most popular sports in the United States, and it’s played by millions of people worldwide. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced golfer, handicapping can be a difficult concept to grasp at first. What does it mean when someone is at an advantage or at a disadvantage? How does one achieve a handicap? These are questions you may have about handicaps, so we’ll break down everything you need to know about them. With this article as your guide, we hope to explain everything you need to know about handicap in golf!

What is a golf handicap?

A handicap in golf is a number that represents the golfer’s ability to play. A low-handicapper will have an excellent short game and putt well, while those with high handicaps struggle on driving accuracy and distance control [1]. The USGA Handicap System provides guidelines for assessing each player’s skill level as it relates to the course being played. [2]

This system is used by golfers of all skill levels. It provides a way to track progress with measurable goals, while providing an avenue for competition against players of similar skill level in local area events or larger competitions such as those sanctioned by the United States Golf Association (USGA).

How to calculate handicap in golf?

A golfer’s handicap is calculated by taking the average of his or her last 18 holes. The USGA Handicap System has a maximum limit, which varies depending on gender and age group, so that no golfer will have an official handicap higher than this number.

The golf course itself can also be used to assess a player’s handicap. Golfers can figure their course handicaps at the start of a round by playing holes with out-of-bounds or water hazards, and then subtracting those strokes from their scores on that hole to arrive at an adjusted score. 

Golfers who are playing on a course for the first time should find out what its difficulty level is and consult a USGA Handicap System chart. This will determine how many strokes they need to deduct from their scores at different levels of the game.

How to get a handicap in golf?

The easiest way to get a handicap is by playing with friends and keeping track of the scores. The winner gets 12 points, second place 11 points, third place ten, fourth nine etcetera until all participants have had their score recorded. A player’s adjusted total must be 70 or less for his/her initial meeting to be a handicap.

The next time the players meet, they can simply compare their new scores with each other by adding or subtracting points based on whether they won or lost the match. This is usually done by each player adding up his/her point total from previous games before coming together for comparisons. If there are any ties, it’s best to keep track of the rounds in order for one player to have the edge.

The process can be simplified by keeping a running total on your phone and adding points as you go. There are also apps [3] that do this automatically because they know when someone wins or loses from their handicap score card; however, if there is no one to keep track of the game, it’s best to just keep a running total and compare scores.

There are also various online calculators that will do the work for you in addition to giving you an estimation on how many handicap points you’ll need before meeting with friends again. Handicapping is not difficult but can be time consuming for those that are new to the game.

When it comes to buying golf handicaps, the best way is through a donation system or by purchasing them from an online vendor. This can be more expensive but at least there’s no paperwork involved. The easiest course of action would be to donate $20-$30 per player for each event and then have all players sign up for this amount. This is a great way to offset the cost of hosting an event, plus it allows every player on your team to have their handicap for free!


What is considered a good handicap in golf?

A good handicap in golf is considered to be between 0-25. A person who has a handicap of 25 or less can qualify for membership at many private, country clubs while those with higher handicaps are not eligible for most tournaments and competitions. In the United States there are two primary sets of standards used by players when calculating their handicap: the GHIN rating system and USGA Handicap Index.

GHIN (Golf handicapping information network) [4] is a third-party service that provides online access to golfers’ scores, statistics, rankings, ratings and handicaps for amateur players in North America. The GHIN scorecard allows you to track your stats and calculate your handicap. 

The USGA Handicap Index is a golf scorekeeping system maintained by the United States Golf Association (USGA) that provides an alternative to using the GHIN rating or Stableford scoring methods for calculating individual player handicaps.

The most common way players calculate their handicap, whether they use GHIN or USGA, is by scoring the number of shots taken from a designated starting point (sometimes called “zero”) over 18 holes.

The golf player takes their scorecard and then compares it to what is considered “par” for that particular course. Par is the number of strokes or points a player needs to hit in order to complete 18 holes.

The golfer then divides their score by par and arrives at what is called “their index.” The USGA Handicap Index is based on an arithmetic average, calculated using the best 20 out of 40 rounds over two years; while GHIN is calculated by multiplying the gross score on a course with an assigned coefficient (based on factors such as difficulty), then dividing that product by 36, and then adding back in any strokes taken during those rounds.

The golfer’s handicap is determined based off of their index, which they can use for competitive purposes. For example: if your index is 20 and you are playing against someone with a handicap of 12, then the golfer’s score needs to be at least five less than their opponent in order for them to win.


We hope this article has provided some insight into handicap in golf. You now have the opportunity to play competitively with your friends and family even if you do not know the game as well. Keep these tips in mind when playing and practicing so that you can maintain a healthy handicap score!

Also, check out golf simulators for the fastest way to improve your handicap! For more useful information on golf gear reviews, tip and tricks on improving you game and what is happening in the golf world, please visit our homepage at totallyengolfed.com.

Happy golfing ya’ll!