How to Apply Your Golf Handicap to Your Score

By Jackson Lewis
Golf handicaps allow players at all levels to compete on a level playing field.
Golf handicaps allow players at all levels to compete on a level playing field.

The United States Golf Association (USGA) Handicap System is designed to permit golfers of varying skill levels to compete against each other. In order for a golfer to obtain a handicap index, he or she must join an approved club or local golf association that is a member of the USGA and complete a minimum of five rounds that are subject to a peer review at the organization. Once a player has completed the satisfactory number of rounds, the golf organization issues a handicap index to use in calculating a course handicap.

Obtain your updated handicap index from your golf club or association. Although there are a number of computer programs and websites that will track golf scores and estimate a handicap for you, the only USGA-approved handicap index is one issued by an approved USGA golf club or local golf organization.

Find the slope rating for the set of tees that you are going to play. Each golf course will have a different slope rating for each set of tees, with the higher rating considered the more difficult set of tees. The course ratings of each set of tees for a golf course are listed on the course score card and are also available through the local golf association or pro.

Divide the slope rating for the set of tees that you are playing by 113 and multiply the result by your handicap index to get your course handicap, then round up to the nearest whole number. For example, if you are playing a course with a slope rating of 135 and have a handicap index of 10, divide 135 by 113 and multiply the result by 10 to get 11.94. Since the result is greater than 11.5, round the result to a course handicap of 12.

Compare the course handicap number of 12 to the handicap line on the scorecard for the golf course. On the holes labeled number one through 12, you may subtract one stroke per hole. If you are playing match play, each player will subtract strokes based on his or her individual handicap. If your handicap is greater than 18, then additional strokes may be subtracted from the score starting with the hardest hole. For example, if the golfer's handicap was 20, she could subtract one stroke on all 18 holes, and an additional stroke on the first and second-hardest holes on the handicap line of the score card.

Determine your overall net score for the round by subtracting the course handicap from your overall score. Events or tournaments will notify participants before play if the net score method will be used for play.

About the Author

Based in Memphis, Jackson Lewis has been writing on technology-related material for 10 years with a recent emphasis on golf and other sports. He has been freelance writing for Demand Media since 2008. Lewis holds a Master of Science in computer science from the United States Naval Postgraduate School.

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