Understanding Golf Handicaps: What is a Golf Handicap, How Does Handicap Work in Golf, and How to Get One

What Is A Golf Handicap?

Believe us when we tell you that you are certainly not the only person to have asked yourself this question! In fact, it’s one of the most frequently asked golf questions that we hear. In this post, we’ll break down exactly what a golf handicap is, how it works, and how to get one.

So, what is a golf handicap? A golf handicap is a numerical measure of a golfer’s playing ability that allows players of different skill levels to compete on an equitable basis. Basically, it’s a way to level the playing field in golf, enabling golfers of varying levels of skill to compete fairly against each other. Sounds simple right? Well, there’s a lot more to it…

How Does Handicap Work in Golf?

To understand how handicaps work in golf, you need to know about a few key components:

1. Handicap Index:

The Handicap Index is the heart of the golf handicap system. It’s a number that represents your potential playing ability. This number is typically expressed as a whole digit (e.g., 10.0 or 15.3), with a lower index indicating a better golfer.

2. Course Rating and Slope Rating:

To calculate your golf handicap, the golf course’s Course Rating and Slope Rating come into play. Course Rating reflects the expected score of a scratch golfer (handicap of 0) on that course. Slope Rating measures the relative difficulty for bogey golfers (those who typically shoot above par).

3. Score Differential:

When you play rounds of golf, your scores are compared to the Course Rating and Slope Rating of the course. The difference, adjusted for the slope rating, is called the “score differential.” This differential represents how well you played in relation to the course’s difficulty.

4. Handicap Index Calculation:

Your Handicap Index is calculated by averaging your best score differentials from a specified number of rounds (usually the best 8 out of the last 20 scores). This calculation can involve adjustments for course difficulty and playing conditions.

5. Course Handicap:

Once you have your Handicap Index, you can calculate your Course Handicap for a specific golf course. This adjustment ensures fairness by considering the course’s difficulty and the tee box you’ll be using.

How to Get a Golf Handicap

Getting a golf handicap involves a few simple steps:

1. Join a Golf Club or Association:

To get a golf handicap, you’ll need to join a recognized golf club or association that offers handicap services. These organizations maintain records of your scores and calculate your Handicap Index.

2. Start Keeping Score:

Play rounds of golf and keep scorecards for each round. You’ll need a minimum number of scores (usually 5 to 20) to establish a Handicap Index.

3. Submit Scores:

Submit your scores to your golf club or association, and they will calculate your Handicap Index for you.

4. Maintain Your Handicap:

Keep submitting scores regularly to ensure your Handicap Index accurately reflects your current playing ability.


In conclusion, a golf handicap is a vital tool that makes golf enjoyable and fair for players of all levels. Understanding how it works, including what a golf handicap is, how it operates, and how to obtain one, is essential for anyone looking to enjoy the game of golf to its fullest. So, if you’re ready to take your golf game to the next level, consider getting a golf handicap—it’s your key to fair and competitive play on the greens.