Jun 25, 2023
POSTED BY: Nicholas Venditti

How is a Golf Handicap Calculated?

Knowing your handicap is as important as practicing your swing and investing in a solid set of golf clubs. 

A handicap is more than just a numerical representation of skill. It sets a goal for you to work harder to surpass and allows you to play fairly against other golfers of all skill levels. 

As you play, your handicap will change for the better. But you have to understand how to calculate one to get on that path to progress. Here's everything you need to know about calculating a golf handicap.

How Does a Golf Handicap Help When Playing Golf?

A recent study found that more than one-third of the U.S. population has played golf, watched on TV or online, read about the game, or at least listened to a podcast about it. In 2022 alone, an estimated 500,000 people played the sport for the first time.

There are more new golfers than ever, which means more people will need to understand how to calculate their handicap. But first, it's essential to know why you should learn to calculate your handicap.

Handicaps allow players of all skill levels to play against one another. Say you're playing an 18-hole round of golf on a par 72 course. Your handicap is 10, and your competitor's handicap is 4. That means that in an average round, you're likely to score 10 strokes over par, and your competitor is likely to score 4 strokes over par. Does that seem fair?

When you each bring your handicap to bear, you can adjust the game in a number of ways to make the competition fair. Without the handicap system, golfers would have difficulty finding fair competition to improve their game.

How Do I Calculate My Golf Handicap?

The process of calculating your golf handicap is not a difficult one, but it does take time and dedication. Here's another advantage of calculating this figure for the first time: it will motivate you to play harder and better.

1. Play at Least 20 Rounds

In 2020, the U.S. Golf Association released an official system for calculating golf handicaps. These guidelines dictate that if you wish to calculate yours, you need to play 20 rounds of golf. You can also play any number of rounds that add up to 54 holes, but playing 20 rounds gives you the best sample size to pull your best scores.

One upside to the need to play so many rounds is the physical exercise that comes with golf

Healthline reported the findings of a recent study showing that golf can burn more calories than simply walking. Golf can help prevent cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia.

Playing 20 rounds of golf won't just be good for your score; it'll be good for your health.

2. Tabulate Your Eight Best Scores

Once you have your scores from 20 rounds of golf, search through them to find your eight best. You'll need your eight best scores to calculate an average.

3. Find Your Average Score 

Once you have those eight scores, average them together, and that's your handicap. Technically, this score is called your Handicap Index, as it was calculated using the official guidelines laid out by the USGA. 

Some golfers will average a rough handicap of 7 or 15, or 22 to suggest, broadly, that they are advanced, moderately skilled, or novices. Before matching up with someone, you should always ask whether their handicap was calculated using the official USGA guidelines.

4. Adjust As You Play More

Your handicap isn't set in stone once you calculate it. Every round you play after your first 20 (or at least the first 20 you count), you'll take that score and calculate a new handicap with the new crop of 20 most recent.

The lower your handicap, the higher your skill level. Conversely, the higher your handicap, the less skilled you are. If player A has a handicap of 8 and player B has a handicap of 12, when they play together on an 18-round course, player B will be allowed four additional strokes to make up for the gap in skill level.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Scores Do You Need To Establish a Handicap Index?

In order to get your handicap, you need to play 20 rounds to get 20 scores. You need a large enough sample size to pull your eight best.

How Can I Improve My Handicap Score?

The best way you can improve your handicap score is the simplest: practice. Don't bother looking for players that have the same handicap as you. Now that you have your score, you can play against a player of any skill level and use your handicap to even out the playing field.

Practice really does make perfect.

Final Thoughts

Handicaps are hugely important in golf. If you want to make sure you're playing the best you can, check out Stitch Golf for all your apparel, gear, and accessory needs. Outfit yourself with new clothes, a new bag, and new gear to get the best golf handicap on the green.