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golf handicap
novice golfer
double bogey
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How To Calculate Your Golf Handicap
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Golf is a unique game in that every affiliated player - that is a player registered with his country's ruling association - has an official handicap. But how do they calculate your golf handicap?

Essentially there are two world governing bodies who oversee the game of golf and who decide not only the rules of the game but also the method of calculating player's handicaps. These governing bodies are the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in Scotland and the American Golf Association.

With an official golf handicap golf becomes a very competitive game for every player in the world. Essentially a novice golfer playing off a handicap of say 36 can play against, and beat, a better player.

What does that mean?

Golf is played over 18 holes and each hole is assigned a degree of difficulty relative to the other 17 holes on that particular course. In other words there is the easiest hole, rated stroke 18, and the most difficult hole, rated stroke 1, and 16 other holes in between.

A handicap theoretically reduces the difficulty of these holes to the ability of the player.

For example a 5 handicap golfer should score par on 13 of the 18 holes - a difference of 5 ! On the 5 most difficult holes he is likely (based on his skill levels) to score 1 over par (bogey) on each of these 5 holes.

A 36 handicapper is not expected to par any of the holes - and is expected to play 2 over par (double bogey) on each hole. 2 times 18 equals 36!

Magic? Not really.

This is all fine for affiliated golfers but what about those who aren't affiliated, or who are just taking up the game, how do you calculate your golf handicap?

Well you can't really unless you know what the governing body's formula is.

Essentially an official handicap is based on the best 10 of your last 20 scores. But it is not just and average of these 10. It is a percentage of the best 10 after taking into consideration the difficulty of each course played. For example Augusta is a far more difficult course than say your local municipal course. Hence a score of 85 at Augusta would be far better than the equivalent score at other courses.

The importance of a handicap cannot be overstressed.

Besides being an indication of your ability to play the game it makes things fair for all players.

Let's assume you were an above average sportsman and only played golf occasionally - such as your annual company do.

  • What handicap would you use on the day?
  • What is a fair handicap and how did you come to that conclusion?
  • How would you calculate your handicap for that day?

Just because you don't play regularly does not mean you should play off a 36, especially when you know you have the ability to play better than that.

It is not fair on the other players who have handicaps based on a percentage of the best 10 of their last 20 games. Believe me regular players are not happy when a non-handicapper comes in with a score far better than the handicap he played off on the day.

You can calculate your golf handicap without having to join a governing body. By doing this you can comfortably play off a "fair" handicap. Should you win with a great score - some people may frown at you anyway. But you have the comfort of knowing that the handicap was fair, and that the score you have just shot will be used to calculate your golf handicap the next time you play.

Including each score you shoot in calculating your handicap will ultimately result in closest you can get to an official handicap without being affiliated.


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