A Beginner’s Guide To Golf Handicap: How To Calculate & Improve It

  • 6 min de lecture

A Beginner’s Guide To Golf Handicap: How To Calculate & Improve It

Nothing is more exciting than on a field where every golfer, regardless of skill level, has an equal opportunity to win the game. Here’s everything you need to know about the world golf handicapping system and how it makes that possible.

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What Does Golf Handicap Mean?

Golf handicap, also known as the handicap index, is a numerical score representing your skills as a golfer. To be more precise, golf handicap is a numerical representation of how many strokes you are allowed to shoot over par.  The exact number of shots you can play are found by adding your handicap to the course par. 


Let's say if your golf handicap is 19, and you are playing on a par 72-course, you can hit up to (19+72) 91 shots. Similarly, a golfer with 6 handicap can play (6+72) 78 strokes on a par-72 course. 

How To Calculate Handicap?

How To Calculate Handicap

In the past, various different methods were applied to calculate golf handicaps, and it was all quite messy and chaotic. So the governing bodies of golf, the USGA (United States Golf Association) and R&A (Royal & Ancient) brought together all the handicapping organisations around the globe and in 2020, released an official World Handicapping System.  


  • To calculate a Handicap Index according to the World Handicap System (WHS), take the scores for the last 20 rounds you have played and calculate the score differential for them all. 

Score Differential=  (113 ÷ Slope Rating) x (adjusted gross score – Course Rating – Players Conditions Calculation adjustment)



Adjusted gross score: The gross score is adjusted under USGA Handicap System procedures for unfinished holes, conceded strokes, and holes not played, or not played under the Rules of Golf.

Course Rating: A measure of the difficulty of the course from a scratch golfer’s (a golfer with 0 handicap) perspective.

Slope Rating: A measure of the relative difficulty of the course for a bogey golfer compared to a scratch golfer (standard Slope Rating is 113).


Now, take 8 of your lowest score differentials out of the 20 latest score differentials and add them. 


Calculate the average of score differentials sum by dividing it by 8. The value you get is your Golf handicap or handicap index.

What Is an Average Golf Handicap?





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What Is a Good Golf Handicap?

There is no specific numeric that represents a "good" golf handicap. It all depends on your skill. If you have a handicap index of 30, you'll think 20 is a good golf handicap and so on.


To answer this question, it is safe to say 10 and below is a good golf handicap. Hitting 82 strokes on a 72-par course means a person has been golfing for quite some years and has mastered the basics well.

How To Improve a Golf Handicap?

How To Improve a Golf Handicap

As every golfer is different, there is any foolproof formula that will help you lower your golf handicap. The only way to improve your handicap index is to discover your shortcomings, and work on them daily. Here are some basic pointers that you may find helpful.

Take your health and physical fitness seriously

Golf requires as much stamina and strength as any other sport. To walk long distances and swing powerfully, you need to be physically fit. 


Some exercises that improve core strength and flexibility include planks, Russian twists, dynamic stretches, static stretches, and HIIT.

Work on your basics 

Mastering the basics of golf is essential for improving your handicap index. These fundamentals provide a solid foundation for consistent and accurate play. Golf basics you must focus on include,

-Grip: The way you grip the club has a significant impact on your swing. A neutral grip with both hands working together helps control the clubface and direction.

-Stance: A proper golf stance promotes balance and a solid foundation for your swing.

-Posture: Good posture ensures proper body rotation and balance when you swing.

-Alignment: Proper alignment ensures your shots follow along the target line.

Learn a variety of shot shapes

Mastering shot shaping gives you an advantage on the golf course. Since every hole is different and demands different shot shapes, you can strategically position the ball to take advantage of the layout. Shot shaping also helps you avoid hazards like bunkers and trees. It also helps in combating the effects of wind.For example, if the wind blows from the left, you can hit a fade to counteract its influence and keep the ball on target.

Practise regularly

Go to the golfing range at least two to three times a week and practise your game regularly. With consistent practice, you will improve your skills and help you face the ball with more confidence on the greens. If you can afford to go to a good golf academy, get enrolled ASAP. Learning one-on-one with a professional instructor will improve your game and golf handicap. 

Ensure club fitting

Since every golfer has different height, arm length, swing speed, posture, and other physical attributes, you can't just pick any club to play with. In order to optimise your game and improve your golf handicap, you need to get customised clubs that match your specific needs.

Play under pressure

Nothing can improve your golfing skills like playing under pressure. Participating in friendly golf tournaments will help you develop mental toughness, improve decision-making skills, and prepare you to perform well in actual rounds. Make sure you are dressed appropriately in high performance golf polos and golf joggers for a distraction-free game. 

What Does Course Handicap Mean?

Every golf course is different. Some are easy to play, some tough enough to make a professional golfer sweat, and some in the middle. Depending upon the difficulty level of the golf courses, the number of strokes allowed over par is also different on different golf courses. This is exactly what course handicap is- the shots a golfer can play over par on a particular golf course. 


When playing in a tournament, the course handicap determines the number of strokes a player receives or gives to make the competition even. 


Here is how the process takes place:

Handicap Index: The handicap index or golf handicap represents a golfer's skill. The USGA (United States Golf Association) defines the handicap index as "a portable number representing a golfer's demonstrated golfing ability. It is based on the golfer's past scores relative to the difficulty of the course and tees played, as well as the playing conditions during each one of those rounds." 


To obtain your handicap index, you can join any golf club and enter a few tournaments. The club will then calculate your handicap and maintain it for you. 


Another way is to pay online to a handicap service provider and follow the guidelines provided by the organisation to play golf rounds and submit scores after each game. 


If you live in England, subscribe to iGolf, submit scores of at least 54 holes through their mobile app and get your golf handicap. Scottish golfers can get the index through the Scottish Golf Union's " Open Play app" by paying £5.99 monthly. 

 Slope Rating: 


Next, you get the slope rating of the tees you're playing. The slope rating is the relative difficulty of the course you're playing compared to a course of standard difficulty. It's provided by the golf course and is specific to each set of tees.

Calculating Course Handicap: Course Handicap = Handicap Index x (Slope Rating / 113)


Once you've calculated your course handicap, you can play friendly tournaments with golfers more skilled than you, as it helps golfers of all levels to come together and play a fair match. 


Under normal circumstances, a less skilled golfer stands no chance against someone practising golf for years, but the handicap system levels the playing field. It does so by adjusting the raw scores of each golfer based on their skill level. The concept is pretty simple: When two players of different skill levels compete in a round of golf, the skilled player is expected to have a lower raw score.  However, when handicaps are taken into account, the weaker player might actually end up with a lower adjusted score, making the competition more balanced.


Consider two golfers- Harry (less skilled), with a course handicap of 19, is playing against George, with a course handicap of 10 on a 72-par course. At the end of the round, the course handicap is deducted from the actual number of strokes Harry and George played (gross score) to get the handicap-adjusted strokes. If Harry shoots 94 and George shoots 86, Harry's net score after deduction becomes 94-19= 75. George's score, on the other hand, becomes 86-10= 76. In the end, Harry wins the game by one score despite being a weaker player than his opponent. 

Last Word:

The world handicapping system (WHS) introduced by USGA and R&A is now used in 124 countries worldwide and is probably the best thing that has happened to the sport. It encourages people to play the sport regardless of their skill level and makes the game a lot more fun.