How to use your Golf Handicap

How to use your Golf Handicap

Amateur golfers all over the world use golf handicaps. A golf handicap allows players of widely differing skill levels to have competitive games against each other. So someone who averages a score of 102 can compete with someone who averages a score of 82 or 72.

Golf HandicapScorecard

So what is this Handicap you ask?

The United States Golf Association defines a handicap index as “a number that represents the potential ability of a player” on a course with of average difficulty — those with a slope rating of 113. The index is a number with one decimal place, such as 14.3, used with a Course Handicap Table (supplied by the USGA) to find the handicap you should use on the particular course you are playing. You and your opponent should do this before starting your match.


How to use your Golf Handicap

Singles Matches

In stroke play, your handicap is clear enough – it tells you how many strokes you get against the field. But in a singles match, there are only two players. The player with the lowest handicap becomes the baseline handicap and plays at scratch, meaning he doesn’t get any handicap strokes. The other player gets his handicap strokes by subtracting the other player’s handicap from his. For example, your handicap for this course is 15 and your opponent’s is a 6. Subtract 6 from 15; your handicap is 9 and your opponent plays scratch.

Match Play

Each hole has a handicap number indicated on the scorecard. You subtract a stroke from your score on each hole for which you are allocated a handicap stroke to get your net score for that hole. For example, if you gets nine strokes, you subtract a stroke from your score on each of the nine most difficult holes — that is, the “1” handicap hole through the “9” handicap hole. If you are entitled to more than 18 strokes, you subtract the additional strokes from the most difficult holes in order of difficulty. If you received 20 handicap strokes, for example, you get two strokes on the “1” and “2” handicap holes and a single stroke on the rest of the holes.

Four-Ball Matches

In a four-ball (or better ball of partners) match, there are two teams of two players. Each player plays his own ball, and each team uses the best score of its two players. The player with the lowest handicap plays at scratch. The remaining players adjust their handicaps by subtracting the best player’s handicap from theirs. For example, your partner is a 6 and you’re a 15; your opponents have handicaps of 7 and 9. Your partner plays scratch, you get 9 strokes and your opponents get 1 stroke and 3 strokes, respectively.

Foursome Matches

Foursomes matches (alternate shots) add a new wrinkle. Since each team plays a single ball and alternates shots (you hit the drive, your partner hits the approach, you putt, etc.), individual handicaps cannot be used. In this case, a handicap allowance is used. The handicaps of both team members are added together; the team with the lowest combined handicaps plays at scratch. The other team then subtracts the low team’s handicap from theirs, divides the difference in two, then rounds up to the next full stroke.

Whats your current handicap?  Let RealGolfTalk know in the comments section below.  Hit ’em straight!



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This entry was posted onSaturday, May 9th, 2015 at 11:54 pm and is filed under Golf Talk. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Both comments and pings are currently closed.