How to Build Your Own Golf Handicap

By Jim Thomas
Establishing a handicap allows you to play competitive matches against golfers of all abilities.
Establishing a handicap allows you to play competitive matches against golfers of all abilities.

Golf handicaps allow golfers of different abilities to compete against each other on a level playing field. Building or establishing your golf handicap is done under the rules of the United States Golf Association. When you establish a handicap, you may use it to play in competitive events that are open to players with your handicap level, as well as in matches with friends.

Join a golf club that is licensed under the USGA Handicapping System. The USGA's definition of a golf club applies to private courses and public courses. A club is required to have at least 10 members and follow the USGA Handicapping System rules

Play at least five rounds of golf in the company of other golfers or someone who agrees to keep score for you. Your scorecard must be signed by you and one of your playing partners or your scorer. They must attest to the accuracy of the numbers on the card. If you have played just five rounds, you will just use the lowest of your five scores for handicapping purposes. A chart at the PGA Professional website delineates the number of rounds to use for handicapping purposes until you have posted 20 scores.

Determine your gross adjusted score for each round. The gross adjusted score is your total score minus excessive scores made on any one hole. For example, if your handicap is 9 or less, you don't count any strokes over a double bogey. If your handicap is between 20 and 29, you don't count any stokes over an 8 on a hole. The purpose is to prevent handicaps from being distorted by one or two particularly bad holes.

Post your adjusted gross scores with the USGA. Usually the club you play at regularly will post your scores, so you just need to turn the scorecards in to the appropriate person or at a designated place. Scores may be posted online as well.

Keep playing to build your handicap. When you have turned in scores from 20 rounds, the USGA calculates your handicap by considering an average of the lowest 10 adjusted scores out of the last 20 scores posted. Posting scores on a regular basis gives you an up-to-date handicap that truly reflects your current skill level. You must turn in scores from at least three rounds per season in order to keep your handicap in effect.

About the Author

Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.

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