How to Calculate Your Golf Handicap

Oct 05, 2021 Smiling golfer writing on score card while standing at golf course

The purpose of a golf handicap is to make the game of golf more competitive between players of different skill levels. Your handicap reflects your skill level based on the course’s par round total compared to your score.

For example, your golf handicap is five. This means that the average of your previous golf rounds was five over par. As you play more rounds and record scores, your average and handicap can change. In general, the lower the golf handicap score, the more skilled you are at playing golf.

How does a golf handicap help when playing golf?

Midsection of a senior women writing golf score on scorecard

USGA handicaps can range from 0 to 36 for men and 0 to 40 for women. Handicaps help offset the difference between your score and the score of other players.

To illustrate, you and a friend are playing an 18-hole round at a golf course with a par of 75. Your friend has a golf handicap of 7. He should play 82 strokes or 7 over par. Your golf handicap is 14. So, you are expected to play 89 strokes or 14 over par.

After scoring all 18-hole scores, your friend scored 82 and you scored 85. While your friend scored lower, once handicaps are applied you would have won this round of golf. Your friend played 7 over par as expected. So, his adjusted score is 0.

You played -4 over par because you took 4 fewer strokes than you were expected to play. As such, you are the winner of this round of golf.

What formula should I use to calculate my golf handicap?

Close-up of a male golfer writing golf score

Calculating your course handicap does require some mathematical skills. In 2020, the formulas used to calculate golf handicaps were changed. The current formula you should use is:

  • Handicap Index x (Slope Rating/113) + (Course Rating - Par)

The handicap index is an average of golf round scores and has its own calculation. This formula requires you to sum your differentials and divide these by the number of differentials used, and then multiply the result by 0.96.

The slope rating is the difficulty of the golf course for an average golfer. It is calculated by comparing the course rating to bogey golfers’ scores. Luckily, you don’t have to figure this out, as you can simply ask the course for the slope rating.

The course rating is a value assigned by the USGA to each hole on the course, such as par 4, par 3, etc. It totals up the number of strokes that should be needed to complete the course. The course rating is also available from the course, so you don’t have to add it up.

Fortunately, there are several useful golf handicap calculators and apps available to help. So, all you need to keep track of are:

  • Golf Scores
  • USGA Course Ratings
  • Slope Ratings

Once you have these values for the golf course and have completed a round of golf, you just plug them into the app or calculator to get your handicap score.

What number of scores are needed to calculate my handicap index ranking?

Close up of Golf Score Card with Glove, Pencil, & Ball

To calculate your handicap index rating, you will need to play at least five 18-hole scores or ten 9-hole scores. However, you can use up to 20 scores to calculate the handicap index rating. You will use your scores to calculate your Adjusted Gross Score (AGS).

Your AGS is your average score for the total number of games you are using. So, if you are using five 18-hole scores and the total is 442, your AGS would be 442/5 = 88.4, but you would drop the decimal and round down to 88.

Next, you can use your AGS to calculate your handicap differential score using this formula:

  • [(AGS - Course Rating) x 113] / Slope Rating

How do I find my adjusted score?

Writing golf handicap with a glove

You will need at least two handicap differential scores to calculate your handicap index. Once you have those, you add them together and divide by 2. Next, multiple by 0.96 to get your handicap index. Round the result up or down as appropriate.

The number of rounds you use will affect the number of lowest differential scores to use for this calculation. Last, take your handicap index rating and multiply it by the course’s slope rating you intend to play. Divide this result by the standard slope rate of 113 to get your handicap for that course. Round up or down as needed.

As you can see, the handicap formula is rather complex. Handicaps have to be calculated each time you play a new course if you were not previously rated. Additionally, the amount of handicap a player receives should be adjusted every five rounds to reflect their current skill level.

How can I improve my handicap score?

Home golf simulator

The easiest way to improve your handicap score is with regular practice and playing different golf courses using a golf simulator and launch monitor setup from Foresight Sports. We design at-home golf simulators using our advanced launch monitors and software applications.

We make it possible to play golf courses from around the world without ever having to leave home. For further information or assistance in designing your golf simulator system, please feel free to contact us at (858) 880-0179 today!