How Golf Handicap Is Calculated And Ways To Lower Your Score

How golf handicap is calculated

Understanding how golf handicap is calculated is like understanding how a quarterback rating is calculated for an NFL quarterback. But, or those who are veterans of the sport, talking about the golfing handicap is as big a part of the golfing discourse as clubs, tees, bags, and the notorious 19th-hole. For us amateurs and part-time golfers, it’s all Greek to us. So, here is a to help explain how golf handicap is calculated.

Should I Practice with Golf Simulators

What is a Golf Handicap? 


The concept of the golfing handicap was devise 100 years ago as a way to even the playing field between golfers of different skill levels. It is akin to the point spread in other sports. For example, the person betting on the favored team has to give the person betting on the underdog team “points” as a way of evening the bet. Consequently, the better on the favored team can’t win the bet, unless his team wins by a certain amount of points – covering the point spread. The handicap in golf works along those same lines. Let’s say you have a 2 handicap and beat your opponent by 10 strokes. He has a 15 handicap, he still wins because you failed to cover the handicap spread so to speak. 


How to Calculate Your Handicap 


Simply put, your handicap is the number of strokes over/under par you can meet. On a par 72 course, for example, a player with a 10 handicap would be expected to shoot an 82. So, playing with a golfer with a handicap gives both players a net score to compare. It is their gross score (total number of strokes) minus their handicap (10, for example) that is calculated to decide the final score (82-10=72, for example). 


What Does Course Rating and Slope Have to Do With Anything? 


If a golfer plays a certain number of rounds (10-20) on the same course, then his handicap is relatively easy to figure out. However, for scramble tournaments, and/or competing against friends on different courses, something called a “traveling” handicap must be utilized. It is officially known as a handicap index. The index uses a formula based on a combination of data from both the golfer and the course, including the following:


  • Course Rating: A number that represents the difficulty of the course for a scratch golfer. A golfer with a 0 handicap who plays the course at even par.
  • Course Slope: The number representing the course difficulty for a bogey golfer. (someone who plays the same course at 18 over par).

Course Rating

These numbers will be displayed on the scorecards of each golf course, or you can look it up on the USDA database. The numbers are also influenced by the tees you play form – white, red, gold, or blue.


These numbers can also be used to pare your score down even further after you’ve finished around. For example, let’s say you finished your round with a score of 85 for an 18-hole course. You then find the course rating in the USDA database and subtract it from your score. Staying with the present example, your final score would be 85-71=14. So, you would have shaved 1 point off of your score for that round.


Course Slope

The second part of the equation is calculating “slope“. The slope rating has been set at 113 because it is considered the standard for slope rating difficulty. Again, in keeping with the example, you then divide 113 by the course rating you’re playing on (113/110=1.03). Then multiply the first part of the equation (14) by the second part (1.03) for a total handicap difference of 14.42. 


Now, it should be stated here that this total only represents one round. You willl need to repeat these calculations for each subsequent round. Keep in mind that the handicap index is always calculated from the lowest 10 of the last 20 rounds played. To further get an accurate running handicap, that total is then resolved by figure 0.96. 


An Easier Way To Calculate A Golf Handicap

Still a little confused about how a golf handicap is calculated, don’t worry. You can have all of these numbers calculated automatically by visiting 


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