Handicap Terms Explained

Handicap Definition

handicap-full-procedureA golfer’s handicap is a number used to quickly give an indication of the golfer’s potential at a given point in time. The higher the number, the more strokes a golfer should require in finishing up a round, and therefore the worse he is. It is used in Net competitions as a way to level off the field and provide every golfer a chance at winning. Grossly speaking, the handicap is calculated by taking a golfer’s best 10 rounds out of the last 20 and will take into account the course rating as well as slope rating of the course played. Although the general handicap term is used, there are actually two different numbers used to determine a player’s handicap, Handicap Index and Course Handicap.

Alternative meanings: Hole Handicap

The different holes of a golf course are also awarded handicap numbers. For more information on this meaning refer to the scorecard section.

Scratch Golfer

scratch-golferA golfer defined as being scratch is one that can post scores of even-par on any course, reliably. Such a golfer will have a handicap index of 0.

Bogey Golfer

bogey-golferA golfer referred to as a bogey golfer is one that will on average require 1 stroke more than par on every hole. Because he will require an extra 18 strokes more than the par for the course – 1 extra on each of the 18 holes – such a golfer will have a handicap of 18, generally speaking. For example, on a par-72 course a bogey golfer’s typical score should hover over 90.

Course Rating

course-ratingThe course rating is a one-decimal number assigned to a golf course as an indication of the course’s difficulty from the point of view of a scratch golfer, a very good golfer. More precisely, a course rating is awarded to each of the available tees, both for men and ladies. Course rating numbers rise as a course’s difficulty increases and importantly the numbers should be interpreted as their relation – or distance – from the par number. For example, a course rating of 72.5 awarded to a course that is a par-72 will be an indication of a difficult course but an easier one than a 72.5 rating for a course that is a par 71. Indeed, the first course rating is 0.5 over its par number whereas the second one’s is 1.5 over.

Slope Rating

slope-ratingThe slope rating is a number awarded to a golf course that is used to illustrate its relative difficulty from the point of view of bogey players, in contrast to that of scratch golfers. Technically, the slope will take the form of a whole number between 55 and 155, with a higher number indicating a more difficult course to a bogey player than a lower number. For example, a slope rating of 125 will indicate a course that will be more difficult for bogey golfers to do well on than one with a slope of 105. As is the case with the course rating, a slope rating is assigned to every sets of tees, for both men and ladies.

Handicap Index

handicap-indexThe handicap index is a one-decimal number used to compare golfers regardless of where they play golf or which sets of tees they use. A golfer with a low handicap index will be better than a golfer with a high one. Very good golfers whose handicap index is better than 0 are assigned a + sign in front of their index number. For example, a golfer with a handicap of +2.0 should score better than one with a handicap index of 2.0, and much better than one with 10.0.


Step 1: Sanitize Gross Scores using Equitable Stroke Control

equitable-stroke-controlIn order to calculate a handicap index, a golfer needs to first make sure the scores inputted into the formula are sanitized using the equitable stroke control. This control limits the number of strokes that are allowed to count for any given hole. The numbers are limited according to one’s handicap and are detailed here.

Step 2: Calculate the Handicap Differential

handicap-differential-formulaScores sanitized by the equitable stroke control must then be converted into a handicap differential, rounded to one decimal.

Step 3: Calculate Handicap Index

handicap-index-formulaThe final step is to calculate the average of the 10 best differential out of the last 20 rounds, and multiply that number by 0.96.

Course Handicap

course-handicap-formulaThe course handicap is a course-specific, whole number assigned to golfers who play at the same golf club that is used to compare the skill levels of golfers. Tournaments that are held for members of a golf club will use the course handicap of the players instead of their handicap index. A golfer with a low course handicap will be better than one with a high one. As with the handicap index, golfers who are better than a 0 are assigned a + sign in front of their handicap.

Also, golfers are assigned a different number for each of the tees available at the golf course in question.

Formula: The formula to convert a Handicap Index into a Course Handicap is detailed here.