An ordinary athlete – a basketball player, for example – typically won’t have any success going one-on-one against a professional in that sport unless the pro is handicapped. For example, if the pro plays with one hand tied behind his back, the amateur athlete may have a chance. A similar idea guides the United States Golf Association’s handicap system – except that no rope is involved. Instead, a lesser player receives handicap strokes when competing against a better golfer.
Find the handicap chart for the golf course at which you are playing. Next to your handicap index, you’ll see a number designating your course handicap for that particular course. Alternatively, obtain the course’s slope rating, then type the rating and your handicap index into the USGA’s online course handicap calculator.
Compare your course handicap with that of your opponent in match play. The player with the lowest handicap plays scratch (no handicap). The other player receives handicap strokes equal to the difference between the two handicaps. For example, if your opponent’s handicap is 4 and yours is 10, you’ll receive six handicap strokes. Apply your handicap strokes on the six most difficult holes. Look at your scorecard to determine where to apply handicap strokes. Each hole on a standard 18-hole course is assigned a handicap number from 1 to 18. The course’s most difficult hole will have a handicap of 1. The easiest hole’s handicap will be 18. If you receive six handicap strokes, you subtract one stroke from your score on each of the six most difficult holes.
Subtract your handicap from your total score at the end of the round to get your net score in stroke play. For example, if you shot a 92 and your handicap is 10, your net score is 82.