Among the ways amateur golfers may compare themselves with each other is the handicap system. Typically, players identify themselves by their actual handicap number. In the United States, for example, that generally means their USGA handicap. There are specific events across the world in which groups of golfers are categorized by the range in which their handicaps fall. The better golfers may be placed in the “A” category while those in the next level are in the “B” category.
The known history of golf handicapping dates to late 17th century Scotland, according to the USGA. In 1911, in response to the haphazard handicap rules inherited from Great Britain, the USGA formulated a uniform system for the United States. The system has been revised over the years, but it retains the philosophy of basing a player’s handicap on his current potential rather than on his average results.
A player’s USGA handicap index is generally based on the 10 best among the player’s most recent 20 rounds of golf. The portable USGA index is then converted to a course handicap that applies to one course and is dependent on that course’s difficulty. A player’s course handicap will be greater than her handicap index, for example, when playing a particularly difficult course.
Handicap in Action
In handicap stroke play, a golfer subtracts his handicap at the end of the round to obtain his net score. In match play, the higher-handicap player receives one handicap stroke on a specified number of holes, equal to the difference between the players’ course handicaps. For example, a 6-handicap player would receive three strokes in a match with a 3-handicap golfer. Those strokes would be applied on the three most difficult holes.
There is no definition of a “B” handicap within the USGA’s handicap system. In practice, a B handicap is a designation for a group of golfers, relative to a chosen standard. Different organizations define B handicappers in a variety of ways. For example, the Golf Professor website says that in Texas scramble play when golfers of different abilities are placed on each team, the “B” designation is given to golfers with handicaps ranging from 11 to 15. The Luzvimin Golf Tournament in the Philippines has defined a “Class B” handicap as 16 through 21. During competitions at the Werribee Park Golf Club in Australia, B handicappers include men with handicaps of 12 to 16 and women with handicaps ranging from 21 through 32. The BMW Golf Cup International event, which boasts more than 100,000 amateur golfers worldwide, lists its “Men’s B” handicap at 13 to 28.