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Golf Handicap System
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Golf handicap systems are used to level the playing field between amature golfers.  This allows players of different skill levels to compete against each other, while giving everyone a fair chance of "winning".  Different countries use different formulas for generating your handicap, but basically a handicap gives a player an approximate number of strokes that you should be able to play above or below par.  So better players have lower handicaps than players of lesser skill. To determine the winner of a round of golf, players subtract their handicap from their score and this is their final score. 

According to the Golf Association your handicap is supposed to show your potential as a golfer, not just your average.  This is called the "average best" method.  Your handicap is generally calculated by using recent rounds played.  This means that your handicap is not a fixed number, but is changing based on how well you are playing.  So if you start playing really well after getting some lessons, your handicap will drop, and if you start playing poorly then your handicap is going to go up.  This way using your handicap to determine a winner in a round of golf continues to be fair, if your handicap was too high for your skill then you would have an easy time winning.

There are usually three factors that go into your handicap.  One is your scores from recent rounds as stated before, the other two are the course and slope ratings from those scores.  The course rating is the average score that a scratch golfer gets on a course.  A scratch golfer is a golfer with a handicap of zero.  The bogey rating for a course is the average score that a bogey golfer gets.  A bogey golfer is a golfer with a handicap of about 20.  The slope rating for a course is the difference between the course rating and the bogey rating.  A handicap differential is then calculated by using these 3 numbers.  The next thing that is calculated is your handicap index, this is the average of your ten best differentials from your last twenty rounds of golf, and this is multiplied by .96.  I know this is all pretty confusing, but there is one more step.  To get your course handicap for a particular course you are playing on, you will take your handicap index and multiply it by the slope rating of the course divided by 113.  This is the number of strokes you will subtract from your final score at the course.

Wow, that was a lot of info and it probably still makes no sense.  Good thing for you there are handicap calculators that you can use that do all of this for you.  What you should definitely take from all of this info is that your handicap is directly related to how well your are playing.  So if you want to lower your handicap then you need to start playing better.  So get out to the course and practice your golf swing and master your clubs!

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