Calculating Handicaps

imageCalculating your golf handicap is best done through your local club, or through one of the online services (in fact, that’s the only way it will be official). But for those of you who are curious as to how it works, here’s an explanation:

First, a player’s handicap is based on the best ten of the last 20 rounds played (it actually will work with fewer rounds, though). The first task therefore is to choose the scores to work with.

For each of those rounds, calculate a differential based on the following formula:

Differential = ( (Player Score – Course Rating) (113) ) / Slope

Then, use those differentials to average a handicap.

Handicap = (Average of Differentials) (.96)

In English: for each round you’re counting, subtract the course rating from your score. Then, multiply that result by 113. Finally, divide the previous result by the slope of the course that you played. That gives you the differential score for that round.

The course rating is an evaluation of the difficulty of the course for a scratch golfer. Slope is a measure of the difficulty of the course for a bogey golfer as compared to the course rating. You’ll find both of those on the scorecard, or in the clubhouse. The “113” represents the average of all course slopes.

The lowest Slope is 55; the highest 155.

So what you’re doing is comparing your score to that of scratch golfers for that course, and then modifying the result based on the difficulty of that course compared to all other courses.

Once you have ten differentials, average those results. Then,multiply by .96.

I have no explanation for why you multiply by .96.

The end result is your handicap. However, each time you play a round, the whole thing needs to be recalculated, because it’s all based on your best ten out of the last twenty.

It’s important to note that your handicap is NOT an indicator of your average score. It’s an average of your BEST scores. It’s therefore not surprising when a player claims to be a 12 handicap, and shoots a 96 on any given day.

The average handicap for a male player is 16.1. The average for a female player is 28. Less than 1 percent of golfers play to a single digit.

And that’s just among players who bother to keep a handicap—something only dedicated golfers actually do. In the general population of recreational and weekend golfers, the average handicap likely is much higher.

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7 thoughts on “Calculating Handicaps”

  1. Hey there.  I wonder if you might explain, if you can, what it means that I have a +.9 Trend/+.7 Handicap, and what the difference is between a 1 handicap, and what I show on my Golf Channel Handicap Index calculator above. I can guess, but would rather have the correct info. I am almost embarrassed that I do not know, and have not seen my coach at my club to ask….not that I would…due to that fact that I am an avid good golfer…

    If you can help, thanks in advance….

    Reply
  2. If I’m following what you’ve said correctly, you have a better than scratch handicap. Scratch would be a zero. Tiger Woods doesn’t have a handicap, but various sources have calculated it as either a +7 or a +8.

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  3. The multiply by .96 is the “better player advantage.” So if a 5 handicap plays a match againt a 15 the 5 would have a slight advantage because they are the better golfer.

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  4. Good website for Handicap info:

    http://www.popeofslope.com

    It is a site by Dean Knuth, who “was a member of the USGA Handicapping Procedure and Handicap Research Committees from 1978 to 1981 prior to joining the staff of the United States Golf Association in 1981. He is the prime developer of the USGA’s Course Rating and Slope Rating System that is the System used throughout the United States and in most foreign countries today.”

    Reply
  5. A slight correction to the calculation description:

    In English: for each round you’re counting, subtract the course rating from your score. Then, MULTIPLY that result by 113. Finally, divide the previous result by the slope of the course that you played. That gives you the differential score for that round.

    The 113 figure is considered an “average” slope rating by the USGA.  When you play a course with a slope rating higher than 113, this process lowers the differential to reflect your play on a harder course.  In the same way, if you then play a course with a rating lower than 113, if you had the same score, the resulting differential is higher.

    Reply
  6. when doing a handicap do you cap a hole that is out of the ordinary. such as a 10 on a par 3 when all other holes are pars and bogeys

    Reply

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