You’re heading to the course to join a new crew of golfers. When you met them last weekend, they talked big, commenting on their under-par scores and birdies. The problem is, you can’t remember the last time you hit a birdie. Even getting to par is a struggle for you on most courses.
So, if you want to compete in a fair four-ball with your new friends, you will need to understand your handicap before you hit the tee. After finding your handicap, you have a level ground against the competition. The handicap places everyone on a level playing field. You can all enjoy the game without feeling like you’re miles behind everyone else on the scorecard.
The handicap system promotes fairness and equality in the gameplay, and it’s critical for new players to understand their handicap before they start playing in four balls or tournaments. Typically, golfers would need to join a club to discover their handicap.
But what if you don’t have the money to join a club or just don’t want to go through the hassle of having a pro assess your game? Fortunately, there’s a way you can figure out your handicap yourself. This post unpacks everything you need to know about how to get a handicap without joining a club.
Discovering Your Handicap
The best part of understanding this method of discovering your handicap is that it has a universal application. It’s suitable for men and women and young players and adults. You can use our handicap system to calculate your handicap on any course you play.
Sure, the most accurate handicap comes from playing the same courses again and again, but you can apply it to any course in the world. After establishing your handicap, you can take it to Augusta or St. Andrews, and you’ll get a repeatable result from your gameplay.
We base our system on math, so it’s a fair system offering repeatable results, regardless of the player of their skill level. We aim to provide an accurate and fair handicapping system you can use anywhere in the world, irrespective of the course you play or the players.
A proper, legitimate handicap is suitable for use in several tournaments. It is also useful when you just want to have a fun round of golf with friends. So, what is a good handicap, and what can you expect from high-handicap versus low-handicap player rankings?
The handicap helps you make the most out of each stroke on the golf course. The lower the handicap, the better the player. Golfers with handicaps under 10 are usually pretty good players, while those with handicaps over 18 need to improve their game.
However, using the handicap system, both of these players can play together without severely affecting the outcomes to have the low handicapper walk away with the win. A handicap system levels the playing field between the players, giving everyone an equal chance of winning.
A player with a 10 handicap will shoot around 82 over 18-holes. Typically, the average handicap for men and women golfers is approximately 15. With this handicap, you’ll be shooting a score of around 90 over 18-holes.
What are the Types of Handicaps?
You have handicaps set by the United States Golf Association(USGA) and general handicaps. The easiest method of calculating your handicap is averaging the number of strokes over par in your score line after completing the course. So, if you finish the course 12 over par, your general handicap is around 12.
However, some courses are more challenging than others, so you need a method of scoring your handicap that provides a more universal application across all courses. Let’s unpack the USGA system to see what we can learn for creating your handicap.
The USGA Handicap System
According to the USGA, the most accurate method for measuring a golfer’s handicap is by completing 12-rounds of golf on the same course. This method allows the golfer to average out their scores over 12-rounds, giving them an average they can use to accurately set their handicap.
So, for instance, you would hit your local course and knock out 12 rounds over a few weeks or months, depending on your activity. You’ll need to use the same course to ensure you don’t add extra variables into the calculation, resulting in a more accurate scoring and better result for a precise handicap.
For instance, if you play 12-rounds, that’s 18 x 12 = 216 holes. That will give you a far better average than using just one round of 18 holes. So, you’ll calculate your scores over 12 games and then divide the total of your scores by 216 to find your handicap.
Suppose you frequent USGA-approved courses for your indexing purposes. In that case, you’ll find it easier to set a generally-accepted handicap across all USGA-approved courses around the globe. While most players use 12-rounds to get their average, some players may use up to 20-rounds to further refine their handicap.
You Don’t Need to Join a Club to Calculate Your Handicap
The reality is that you don’t have to join a club to find out your handicap. The World Handicap System, launched in January 2020, gives you everything you need to assess your handicap yourself.
It’s a set of guidelines providing consistency to the handicapping process, allowing players around the world to use the same method of calculating their handicap. Whether you’re playing in the US or the UK, the World Handicap System provides consistent results on both sides of the pond.
So, follow these guidelines to measure your handicap using The World Handicap System.
Head to the Links and Start Swinging
Find any USGA-approved course in your area and head to the links for a few rounds. Play a few rounds over six to ten weekends, and keep track of your scores using an official scorecard or a dedicated tracking app.
The key is to track the number of strokes it takes you to complete the round. Most experts recommend you need at least 12-rounds for an accurate assessment.
However, some players feel you can get an accurate handicap with as few as five rounds. Others state you need at least 20 to get a good and accurate view of your handicap. We recommend going with ten rounds as a good average, but the choice is up to you.
Calculate Your Adjusted Score
The USGA keeps a set of scores for basic handicapping as part of its overall system. These figures are the maximum amount players should score on any one-hole of golf during their round. If this is your first attempt at finding your handicap, the score to aim for is the “10” mark.
This means that you subtract the shot from your final score for every shot over ten. After establishing your handicap, you can adjust it accordingly. So, instead of using 10, you will use the following.
- A handicap of 40 or over, the max score is 10.
- A handicap of 30 to 39 is a max score of 9.
- A handicap of 20 to 29 is a max score of 8.
- A handicap of 10 to 19 is a max score of 7.
- A handicap of 0 to 9 is a max score of a double-bogey.
Using the Slope Rating System
Most course scorecards have a course slope rating listed for easy identification. If you can’t find this number on your scorecard, ask the attendant at the pro shop for the information. It’s important not to confuse the course slope with the course rating.
The rating is the number telling you how challenging the course is for scratch golfers. The slope is only useful for players playing bogey golf. So, in layman’s terms, if you usually score 18-strokes over par on a par-70 course, the bogey golfer would have an average score of 88.
Calculating Your Handicap – The Math
Doing the math is the final step to calculating your handicap. Use the adjusted score you worked out earlier and subtract that number from the course rating. Take the difference, multiply it by 113, and divide it by the slope rating – this is your handicap.
So, the calculation would look like the following.
- Your adjusted score is 95.
- The course rating is 71.4.
- The course slope rating is 120.
Adjusted Score – Course Rating x 113, divided by the Slope Rating
- 95 – 71.4 x 113 /120 = Your handicap
- 95 – 71.4 = 23.6
- 23.6 x 113 = 2666.8
- 2666.8/120 = 22.2
After completing the calculation, we find that you have a 22.2 handicap differential. Your handicap will continue to improve as you play more golf. Better scores lower your handicap, and higher scores raise it.
The World Handicap System
The method described in this post is ideal for helping you discover your handicap without the need to join a club and speak with the pros. It’s a relatively easy method to master, and you can keep track of your handicap after each round you play. Once you know the formula, it’s easy to add the inputs and recalculate your score without going to the pros for assistance.
However, the World Handicap System also offers you a new method of calculating your handicap without going to a pro for assistance. The new system combines all six handicap associations into one system that provides consistency to the handicap system in all courses in all countries around the globe.
How Do I Use a Club to Get a Golf Handicap?
If you don’t want to calculate your handicap yourself, that’s fine. You can always go the traditional route of sighing up with a club and paying fees to access their facilities. There are over 15-million golfers around the globe that rely on the Handicap Index, and more than 16,000 authorized professional clubs in the United States capable of helping you find your handicap.
Joining a club allows you to get in the game and start working out your handicap right away. After joining a golf club, you play 54-holes and post your results. These 54 holes can consist of any combination of 9-hole or 18-hole rounds, and you get your handicap result the following day directly from the pros. As a result, you know you’re getting an approved handicap from a club that you can use anywhere in the world.
You need to keep in mind a few things when assessing your handicap with a club. Only those scores from play at courses with a valid Course Rating™ and Slope Rating® are allowed for calculating your handicap.
Fortunately, most courses in the United States and worldwide stand up to this rating. The club will limit the max score for each hole for handicapping purposes to par +5. After breaching that, the max hole scores become “Net Double Bogey,” equal to Double Bogey plus any handicap strokes received based on the Course Handicap.
We recommend posting scores with the “hole-by-hole” option to make the process easier. This strategy lets you benefit from automatic adjustments to your handicap by the club after each round. For nine-hole scores to be acceptable, players must play a minimum of seven holes and post an 18-hole score, with a minimum of 14-holes played.
By using this handicap system, the scores for unplayed holes are par plus the handicap strokes received based on your Course Handicap. It’s also important to note that matchplay scores are acceptable for calculating your handicap.
When conceding strokes, or if you decide to hole out when play allows, you’ll record your most-likely score. This score equals the number of strokes taken already, including your penalty strokes, and the number of strokes most likely required to complete the hole.
It’s important to adhere to the Rules of Golf and Rules of Handicapping for accuracy when establishing and maintaining a Handicap Index.