How is Golf Handicap calculated?

In the early part of the twentieth century, the United States Golf Association (USGA) made a decision to even the playing field among amateur golfers in an attempt to make golf more fun and equitable. The premise was that golf would be much more fun if you could “handicap” a better player when they are playing others of lesser skill levels; the match would be more even and competitive.

The challenge, of course, was determining a fair handicapping system. In the effort to develop a fair handicapping system, several systems have been developed. In the United States, the GHIN, system is the most accepted system. Other countries have different systems. Handicap systems are not used in professional golf. Amateur golfers who are not members of golf clubs are generally ineligible for “official” handicaps.

A player’s handicap is intended to show a player’s “potential”, and not a player’s average score. The frequency by which a player will play to their handicap is a function of that golfer’s handicap, as low handicappers are statistically more consistent than higher handicappers. The USGA refers to this as the “average best” method. So in a large, handicapped competition, the golfer who shoots the best with respect to his abilities and the normal variations of the score should win.

In the United States, handicaps are calculated based on several variables including the scores from the most recent rounds, the “course rating” and “slope” of the course they are playing. A handicap differential is then calculated from these scores.

Calculation for handicap index: This is a calculated number. You must first know the course rating and slope.

  1. A minimum of 5 scores and a maximum of 20 scores is required to start
  2. First, calculate the Handicap Differential for each round
    • Handicap Differential = ( score- course rating ) x 113 / slope
      ** the number 113 represents the slop rating of a golf course of average difficulty
  3. Note that a variable number of differentials are used . For 5 rounds entered, use the 1 lowest differential. For 10 rounds, use the 3 lowest differentials, and for 10 rounds, use the 10 lowest differentials.
  4. Take an average of the differentials used by adding them together and dividing them by the number of differentials used. ( If 5 differentials are used, add them up and divide by 5 )
  5. Multiply this result by 0.96 ( 96%). Drop all the digits after the tenths ( do not round off ) and the result is your handicap index.

Once the player has an official Handicap Index, this number can be “carried” to different courses to determine the players “Course Handicap” . It is the Course Handicap, that is generally used to determine the Handicap that a player uses in a Tournament/Match at any specific course.

Calculation for Course Handicap Index:

Course Handicap = ( handicap index x slope ) / 113

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