Golf Handicap

What is a golf handicap?

A golf handicap is a measure of an amateur player’s ability to play golf. In short, a golf handicap is calculated as the average number of strokes above par a player is likely to score for any given round. Upon completion of a round of golf, each player subtracts their individual golf handicap from their score, resulting in a net score. This system allows golfer of differing degrees of skill to compete against each other.

A golf handicap can be zero or a negative number where a player consistently performs under par. In this instance the net score is calculated by adding the golf handicap value to the actual score achieved. A Player with a golf handicap of 0 or less is referred to as a scratch golfer. Golf handicaps are not used in professional golf and all players in a competition play off scratch.

Golf Handicap
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Different countries have different rules for calculating a player’s golf handicap. In the UK, the Council Of National Golf Unions (CONGU) rules for calculating golf handicaps is used. Because no two courses are the same, some are easier to play than others. To account for this, each course is given a Standard Scratch Score (SSS). If the SSS is more than par, this course is considered to be more difficult than a one where the SSS is lower than par.

In reality there are many other factors to consider, but an initial golf handicap is essentially calculated using three score cards from the same course. The SSS is subtracted from the players score and their golf handicap is the resultant difference. Golf handicaps are then recalculated after each round of golf and may go down as well as up.

Golf handicap categories

Golf handicaps fall into categories from 1 to 5 as per the table below:

Category Handicap Range Reduction Increase Buffer Zone
1 0.1 - 5.4 - 0.1 + 0.1 1
2 5.5 - 12.4 - 0.2 + 0.1 2
3 12.5 - 20.4 - 0.3 + 0.1 3
4 20.5 - 28.4 - 0.4 + 0.1 4
5 28.5 and over - 0.5 + 0.1 5

How do golf handicaps change?

To calculate if your golf handicap changes you need to take your net golf score (you actual or gross golf score, minus your golf handicap) and subtract from this the SSS of the course.

  • If the result is more than 0 plus your buffer zone your golf handicap is increased by 0.1
  • If the result is less than zero, you golf handicap is reduced by the reduction amount multiplied
    by the number of strokes below 0.
  • If the result is between 0 and 0 plus your buffer zone, your golf handicap does not change.

For example, a golfer with a handicap of 14.3 plays a course with an SSS of 72. If they take 90 strokes to complete the course the resulting difference is: 90 -14 – 72 = 4. 4 is greater than 0 plus their buffer zone of 3 so their golf handicap increases to 14.4 (14.3 + 0.1).

If they took 84 strokes the difference would be 84-14-72 = -2. This would reduce their golf handicap to 13.7 (14.3 – (0.3x2)).

If they took 87 strokes the difference would be 87–14-72 = 1. 1 is more then 0, but less than 0 plus the buffer zone of 3, so the handicap does not change.

To find out more about how we calculate your free golf handicap here at My Online Golf Club see the Free Golf Handicap Calculator information page here