What Is a High Golf Handicap?

By Clint Hale
A handicap helps golfers assess their progress on the course.
A handicap helps golfers assess their progress on the course.

The term "handicap" is used frequently in golf. And while many golfers use the term, some do so without actually knowing its official definition--and what it signifies. Fortunately, there is a hard-and-fast definition for a golf handicap, as well as a way to calculate it.

Definition

A handicap is a numerical calculation of a golfer's on-course ability. The lower a golfer's handicap, the better golfer he is considered. As an example, a golfer with a 2 handicap is considered substantially better than a golfer with a 12 handicap.

Calculations

A golf handicap is calculated by compiling a golfer's recent scores and comparing those scores against the difficulty of the courses that were played. For instance, a golfer who shoots 90 on a course rated 72 is an 18 handicap, while a golfer who shoots 80 on a course with a rating of 68, would be a 12 handicap. The United States Golf Association (USGA) introduced this system in 1911 as a way of gauging players' abilities against course difficulty.

High Handicap

The highest allowed handicap by the USGA is 36 for men and 40 for women. However, anyone with a handicap above 20 is generally considered to have a high golf handicap.

Ratings

Handicaps are also awarded to golf courses to give players an idea how difficult a course may be. The two handicaps assigned to courses are course rating and slope rating. Course rating is what a golfer with a 0 handicap should score on the course, while a slope rating is what a "bogey" golfer (18 handicap) should score when compared to the course rating.

Handicap Calculators

There are numerous online golf calculators available. A player can input his recent scores, as well as the USGA course ratings and course slopes of each, and receive his handicap number. This can help a player when participating in scramble tournaments or other competitions, most of which factor handicap into the scoring equation.

Photo Credits

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