The USGA defines your handicap as a “number that represents your demonstrated golfing ability. It is based on your past scores relative to the difficulty of the course and tees played, as well as the playing conditions during each one of those rounds.” A golfer’s handicap allows them to gauge their overall performance personally and compete with the other players based purely on ability.
If you are honest about your scorekeeping and your playing partners are too, it is shocking how close everyone’s scores would be with the handicap accounted for. For instance, If you played a match with a buddy on a golf course with a par of 72, the expected number of strokes for the course to be completed in, you both may have a different handicap that allows you to be competitive. If you generally shoot above 100 and your playing partner tends to shoot below 90, you would always lose to him unless you incorporated a handicap to provide a net score. If your friend shot an 85 with and carries a handicap of 6, their net score would be 79 for the round. Similarly, if you finished with a 107, but your handicap was 28, you would have netted a score of 79.
Handicaps are often used as a mark of status, highlighting their level of play. The lower your handicap, the more talented the golfer must be. Some tournaments, leagues, or employment positions can even hinge around a registered handicap.
How Does Someone Calculate Their Handicap?
While you can calculate your score as quickly as three rounds, your actual handicap and the best representation of your game will come after you record 20 matches.
Once you have 20 rounds in the books, the math to figure out your handicap is quite simple. Of those 20 scores, select the eight lowest scores, add them all together and divide by 8. There are a couple of “safeguards” put in place by USGA to ensure the number doesn’t become skewed.
– You submit an exceptional score, which is 7.0 strokes or better than your Handicap Index at the time the round is played, or
– Your 8 of 20 calculation is 3.0 or more strokes above your Low Handicap Index™ from the previous 365 days.
If either one of those safeguards are applied, it will be clearly identified in your scoring record.FAQs – How is a Handicap Index Calculated (usga.org)
USGA goes into further rules on their site that cover almost any situation you could dream up.
Closing Thoughts About The Handicap Index
If you are serious about golf, you should complete and track your current handicap. If you are a “weekend warrior,” a handicap could help make your rounds a little more competitive between you and your buddies; no one can run away with the score. If you only play golf a few times a year, forget you read this article and enjoy the fresh air, cold beer, and good company.