How does a golf handicap work? Here’s how to calculate your own in a few steps.

How does a golf handicap work? Here's how to calculate your own in a few steps.
How does a golf handicap work? Here's how to calculate your own in a few steps.
  • You can find your golf handicap by taking the average score of the best eight of your last 20 scores.
  • Use this equation to calculate your handicap for any course: Course Handicap = [Handicap Index * (SR / 113)] + (CR- Par)

If you’re a novice golfer, competing with those who have played longer or are more skilled could be discouraging.

Making group rounds competitive can also be difficult if you’re with people of wildly different ages. If you’re just counting strokes, your 10-year-old niece and 80-year-old grandfather may not fare well against your 30-year-old cousin who is a competitive golfer.

Using a handicap system allows golfers of different abilities to play competitively despite their skill gap, according to the World Handicap System.

Every golfer has a unique handicap index that is easy to calculate and changes as they improve.

How to calculate your golf handicap

The World Handicap System was rolled out in 2020 with the goal of unifying the six pre-existing handicap systems around the world. As of July 2022, 119 countries use the system.

Once you have a personal handicap index, you can set your own par for any given course. According to Golf Ascending, you can follow these two steps to calculate yours:

  1. Find the eight best of your 20 most recent scores.
  2. Take the average score of these eight rounds by adding the scores together and then dividing that number by eight.

On the average golf course, this is the number of strokes you should add to the course’s par, though there is a more complex calculation to adjust your handicap for each unique course you play.

It’s important to note this index is a rolling metric. Make sure to record your score each time you play and update your handicap index as you log new scores that place in your top eight or as scores in your top eight are no longer in your most recent 20 rounds.

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To get an official handicap rating, you’ll need to join a golf association, Golf Ascending says. If you’re part of a golf club, you can reach out to the pro to start the process or you can join an Allied Golf Association. The USGA, which writes and interprets the rules of golf in the United States, has a list of the rules of handicapping on its site.

Whether you have an official handicap index or maintain your own, you can apply this metric to any golf course to calculate your handicap for that course.

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How to calculate a golf handicap for any course

According to Golf Ascending, you can use this simple equation to calculate your handicap for any course:

Course Handicap = [Handicap Index * (SR / 113)] + (CR- Par)

“SR” stands for slope rating, a value given to a course to account for hills and other elevation changes that may affect the distance and accuracy of your shots. This value is divided by 113, the average slope rating of a golf course. This number should be visible on your score card or posted at the start of the course you’re playing.

According to the Southern California Golf Association, “CR” stands for course rating, which is a numerical value designed to represent the difficulty of a course for a scratch golfer — a skilled player who has a handicap rating of zero. This number should also be on your score card or otherwise posted for all to see.

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Celebrities’ golf handicaps

NFL quarterback Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers celebrate winning The Match VI against Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes at Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas.
  • Peyton Manning had a handicap rating of 6.4 as of May 2020, according to Golf.com.
  • Tom Brady had a handicap of 8.1 in 2021, according to Sporting News.
  • Aaron Rodgers had a handicap of 4.6 as of June 2022, according to Golf.com.
  • Josh Allen had a 9.0 handicap as of June 2022, according to Sporting News.
  • Patrick Mahomes played a tournament with a 7.7 handicap in 2021, according to Golf.com.
  • J.R. Smith self-reported a handicap of five as of April 2022, according to the Washington Post.
  • Alice Cooper carried an impressive handicap of four at 73 years old in July 2021, according to Golf.com.
  • Alonso Ribeiro carries a handicap between two and four, according to Why We Love Golf.
  • Charles Barkley claimed a handicap of 10 in November 2021, according to Golfweek.

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