How to Determine Golf Handicap – Updated

The golf handicap was established in 1911 to allow golfers of different abilities to play together on a relatively equal basis. If you know your handicap index, you will be able to determine what your course handicap should be for the specific golf course you are playing. Once you and your golf partner(s) have determined your specific course handicaps, you can calculate your final scores so that you can compare them equally, even if you play at different skill levels.

How to Calculate Handicap

The handicap calculation is fairly straightforward, it is derived from the subtraction between the number of strokes you use to go around the course and the par of the course.

If you want to know what your handicap is, first consult the corresponding golf federation. Secondly, when you are playing a round, write down how many strokes you made to complete each hole.

Subtracting these two numbers will give you your handicap score.

For example, if the par for the course is 70 and you made it in 88 strokes, you have a final score of 88 – 70 = 18.

What is a Beginner’s Handicap?

The handicap in golf has a range of values from 48 to 0.

The number 0 indicates that it is a player with a lot of experience or professional, and the higher the number the less experience the golfer has.

Therefore, it would not be surprising if a beginner has a golf handicap of 48.

It is normal for those who are just starting out to have more than 30 and gradually decrease it with practice.

Now that you know what a golf handicap is and how important it is to know it, you can start to get an idea of your performance and the experience of your competition.

But don’t be too embarrassed or ashamed, these values can change over time. With more practice, your handicap will improve!

scorecard golf handicap

The New World Golf Handicap System

On January 1, 2020, the process of implementing the new world golf handicap system began in order to unify and improve the different handicap systems in force in different parts of the world. In this way, a single way to define the handicap of golf players around the world is established.

What is the WHS or World Handicap System?

First of all, it is important to know that there are 6 different handicap systems in the world.

Golf has a single set of equipment rules, a single set of playing rules, and a single set of amateur status rules that are overseen by the USGA and the R&A.

That makes each of the different handicap systems produce slightly different results.

The WHS or WORLD HANDICAP SYSTEM will unify the six systems into a single system that:

Will allow golfers of different handicaps to play and compete fairly and equally, in any format, on any course, anywhere in the world.

It is easy to apply and understand, without sacrificing accuracy.

And that it meets the varied needs and expectations of golfers, golf clubs, and golf authorities around the world, and is adaptable to all golf cultures.

The aim is to bring together the different handicap systems as the fourth set of Rules, in support of the global game.

The WHS / WORLD HANDICAP SYSTEM will encompass both the Handicap Rules and the Golf Course Rating System.

how to determine golf

How to Determine Golf Handicap: Maximum Handicap

The maximum handicap changes from 36 to 54 for all players. This changes so that beginner players can better appreciate their progress. However, it is possible that club competition committees may limit most competitions to handicap 30.

How to Determine Golf Handicap: Out of Competition Results

Players wishing to submit an Out of Competition Result (RFC) that counts towards handicap, will comply with 2 requirements and 3 limitations :


– They will have to announce to the club their intention to submit an Out of Competition Result.

– They will have to play with a scoreboard.


1- Only one out-of-competition result may be submitted per month.

2- Only senior players may do so.

3- Only players with handicap 4.5 or higher may do so.

Other New Features:

The penalty adjustment goes from 1 tenth to 2 tenths. It is applied when no result is given or there has been a disqualification. The results in 9-hole rounds will be valid for handicaps in players of all categories. They will be extrapolated to 18 holes.


Players do not have to do anything different from what they have been doing so far, they only have to hand in their signed card at the end of the round, as they have been doing so far. Their score will be posted at the club and transmitted to the Central Handicap System.

The year 2020 is the transition period for the countries’ golf federations to implement the new SHM. To do so, the countries’ golf federations recalculate the golf handicap of their players to effectively implement the new SHM.

Players can consult their new handicap on the website of the RFEG and the territorial golf federations of each autonomous community. The book The Rules of Handicaps is also available to interested organizations, clubs and players.

scorecard golf handicap guide

Summarizing a Lot, here are 5 Key Points you Need to Know About the new World Handicap System:

To calculate the new handicap, the best eight rounds of the last 20 competitions you have played will be taken. Your handicap will be the average of those eight best rounds.

If you do not have 20 rounds in your competition history (because you have not played long, for example), the system will make an adjustment to compensate for this lack and calculate a reasonable average.

If at the end of a tournament you do not turn in your card or are disqualified, a penalty of +0.2 will be applied to all 20 rounds used to calculate the average.

The system also includes a method for penalizing “ambushers”. To do this, the system monitors the results of each player over the last 12 months, and if it detects that in a round there is a very strong rise or fall, it applies limitations to the change of handicap.

The maximum handicap is now 54 for adults as well, and not 36, as it was until now.

Why is the Change to this World Handicap System Being Made?

Allowing the maximum number of players to obtain and maintain their handicap.

To permit any player to maintain their handicap anywhere and on any golf course in the world in the same way.

To indicate with sufficient accuracy the score a player is capable of making on any golf course in the world.

Provide sufficient analysis to make the player’s handicap as realistic and accurate as possible.

To emphasize the importance of the player in the Rules of Golf.

To reflect variations in playing conditions.

Establishing a uniform system throughout the world.

Make it as easy as possible for players and clubs to understand, apply and implement the system.

Generate confidence in golf players.

Submit to a regular and coordinated review process by the competent authorities.

playing golf field land

How to Determine Golf Handicap: Improve Your Handicap

Calculate Your Golf Handicap

1- Go for the range. The more you practice your shots, the better you will perform on the links.

Get in the habit of regularly hitting the range.

Practice at range to perfect your stroke, which will result in better technique.

2- Check your equipment. If you have ill-fitting or overused equipment, it can have a noticeably negative impact on your game.

Check that your equipment is in good condition (check for disintegrated grips, worn grooves, etc.). If it is not, invest some money to replace worn accessories.

Fit your equipment properly. If you have the right size equipment for your body, it can make a significant difference in the quality of your game.[8] If you have the right size equipment, it can make a significant difference in the quality of your game.

3- Challenge yourself. Personal challenges will help keep your skills sharp and diversified.

Play in different fields. Get out of your comfort zone. Test yourself by playing in new and different fields so that you develop a variety of skills.

Play in less than ideal conditions. If it’s windy, raining, or otherwise unfavorable weather, don’t stay home. Instead, test yourself by playing in the most difficult conditions. If you do, you’ll develop a more diverse range of skills that you can use to your own advantage when playing in comparatively easier conditions.

How to Determine Golf HandicapTips:

Some golfers prefer to their handicap index simply as their “rating.” While technically incorrect, it’s a fairly common abbreviation.

If your math skills are rusty or you have trouble with the formula, you can find calculators on the Internet to easily obtain the handicap index.

The handicap index and the course handicap are two different numbers and should not be confused or used interchangeably.

Generally, a handicap index of 18 (or less) is considered good; one of less than 10 is considered fairly good, and one of 5 or less is considered exceptional.

handicap score