Aug 10, 2023
POSTED BY: Nicholas Venditti

What Is an Average Golf Handicap?

Knowing how to calculate your handicap is essential if you want to play golf. It allows you to play against golfers of different skill levels and gives you a personal best to work toward beating. 

The average handicap index for men is 16, whereas for women, it's around 28. Those numbers significantly spike for pros, where the average handicap is in the +6 to +8 range. Conversely, the newer you are to the game, the higher your handicap will be.

Learn how to calculate your handicap and get examples of good golf handicaps below.

What Is a Golf Handicap?

A golf handicap is a numerical figure representing your current skill level as a golfer. It's taken from an average of your best scores on the green and is used to level the playing field when golfers of different skill and ability levels come together to shoot a round. It's a critical measurement system that has deep roots in the history of the game.

The earliest recorded example of a golfer calculating something like a handicap was in the 17th century. The system took off in 19th-century England, but for years there was no unified handicapping system. That changed in 2020, when the U.S. Golf Association implemented the World Handicap System to provide golfers with a single, unified system.

The World Handicap System aims to enable golfers of different skill and experience sets to play on any course and in any format. It's a helpful leveling system that suits all golfing cultures and can help golfers improve their personal games.

How Are Golf Handicaps Calculated?

A golf handicap is calculated from an average of your eight best scores from a 20-round sample. So if you play 20 rounds on a par 72 golf course, take your eight best scores, calculate the number of strokes over par on each, and average those numbers. You now have your handicap.

It's not uncommon to hear handicap being confused for or conflated with golf score. But it's important that the two remain distinct, as they measure two different things. Handicap is calculated from golf scores. 

So, if you shoot 88, 87, 92, and 95 on a 72-par course, your average score would be 90.5. But your handicap would be 18.5. 88 (16 over par) + 87 (15) + 92 (20) + 95 (23)/4 = 18.5. 

It's easy to see why handicaps are sometimes used interchangeably with average scores. But in reality, your average score will often be several shots higher. Think of your handicap less as a measure of your scoring and more as an index to be used with other golfers.

What Is a Good Golf Handicap?

There are high handicaps, mid handicaps, and low handicaps:

  • Low handicaps range anywhere from 1 - 9.
  • Mid handicaps range anywhere from 10 - 19.
  • High handicaps range anywhere from 20 to the upper limit of 54.

It's difficult to define what a “good” golf handicap is, because “good” is a subjective term that varies from person to person. If you generally shoot an average of 90.5 and your handicap is 19.5, and after some practice, you lower it to 18, that's a great handicap. But for someone who consistently shoots a sub-10 handicap, 18 isn't great.

Achieving a good handicap is about getting in touch with your skill level, dedication to the game, and the amount of free time you're willing to hand over for practice. You can check out STITCH’s shop for golf gear for ideas of how gear can improve your game.

What Is a Scratch Golfer?

A scratch golfer is a player who consistently shoots close to zero par. They have a handicap of 0, and for this reason, there are very few of them. 

You can actually achieve a handicap better than zero if you consistently shoot under par. Then your handicap would get a plus sign next to it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Respectable Golf Handicap?

Anywhere in the mid-handicap range is respectable. That range runs from 10 to 19. If you find yourself in this range, you likely work a lot at your game, practice a ton, and are doing a great job; you just haven't broken through to pro-adjacent levels yet.

What Is the Average Golf Handicap for a Man?

There are different estimations of the average golf handicap for men, but they all hover around 14-16. That's squarely in the mid-handicap range, so it's quite a respectable figure.

What Does 85% Handicap Mean in Golf?

The 85% handicap allowance in golf is a rule established by the USGA that allows for a 17-stroke difference between teams. It's a rule designed to create equity between players and teams of different skill levels.

What’s My Handicap if I Shoot 90?

If you shoot a 90, your handicap comes in at the upper mid-range at 18. That means there's much room to improve, but you're doing great.

Final Thoughts

A lot of factors play into calculating your handicap. The size and difficulty of the course, the conditions on the days you're playing, how much you've practiced, and your natural ability. Handicaps can definitely be improved by updating golf gear. 

Shop STITCH Golf if you want apparel, gear, and accessories that can transform your game.