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Handicap - What does it mean in Golf?

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What is Golf Handicap?

What is Golf Handicap?

Whenever there is any doubt, or you want to search for something, the very first thing that comes to an individual mind is the internet. Today, the internet is full of many articles, videos, and definitions explaining the meaning of the term handicap in golf. However, sometimes it is quite complicated for amateur players to understand those technical explanations due to their audience-specific nature.

Observing this situation, we have decided to educate you with some simple answers to the doubts you may have.

What is a Golf Handicap?

A golf handicap is a numerical measure of a player’s potential that is used to enable players of varying abilities to compete against one another,” says Wikipedia.

While the actual definition of the term handicap somehow relates to,

a situation that either helps a player to progress more or makes their success difficult

Well, in golf it’s the same indeed. Technically, it is a number that gets subtracted from players’ final score at the end of the round.

According to USGA, the handicap is a measure that levels a playing field bringing equal opportunities for golfers to compete against each, regardless of their playing abilities.

Importance of Golf Handicap

Initially, it was proposed to level the playing aspects between players of varying abilities by ‘handicapping’ the player who’s better in all respects. Let’s understand this with an example,

You’re playing a golf round with your friend who’s having a handicap of 10 while you have a handicap of 20. From this point only, one will get an idea of the better player.

A player with lower handicap is considered as the better one

In this case, of course your friend is a better player.

At the end of the round, you finish up with ‘final score’ of 80, while he scores 70. It’s the point where Handicap comes into the picture. Now, subtract your handicap (20) from your final score (80) to get a ‘Net Score’ of 60. He, after doing the same calculations gets same ‘Net Score’. So, it’s a tie. Even though, she wins by 10 shots.

Bingo...you both can share drinks at the club house!

A player with handicap ranges b/w 18-24 is referred to as ‘bogey golfer’ while a player with 0 handicap is known by the name of ‘scratch golfer’. As per the new rules, from January 2020, the maximum handicap number that a golfer can have is ‘54’.

It’s more than just a NUMBER, Basically, handicap is a number that represents the average best score of a player instead of the overall average.

Let’s sum up this quickly with another example, if you played 100 strokes on an 18-hole course, your approximate par is 72, giving you an average score of 28 which is your handicap.

Every time, you play a new round, your handicap changes simultaneously.

Many of the world’s renowned golf tournaments require a certain handicap score to play. As per USGA update, the average handicap index for men is 14.2 and it’s 27.5 for women.

Handicap Calculation – It’s not an expert’s cup of tea

Handicap Calculation – It’s not an expert’s cup of tea

How to Calculate your Handicap?

There’s a significant change in the ways of how a classic golf game is played, its analytics, and how golfers compare themselves to their peers. But, still many players aren’t aware of how to calculate ‘handicap’ and take advantage of strokes-gained features linked with it.

This part is the tricky one! You need to be aware of a few more basic terms to get your perfect handicap number. Let’s have a look at the following terms.

Handicap- As explained above, it’s the number subtracted from score at the end of each round.

Handicap Index- It is a more accurate number that describes a golfer’s ability with respect to an official system. It helps in determining your personal handicap against the worldwide standard making you a desired golfer to play a tournament of your choice.

Course Rating- A system responsible for measuring the course difficulty levels for a scratch golfer – it is used while calculating the handicap index.

Slope Rating- A system responsible for measuring the course difficulty levels for a bogey golfer – used while calculating the handicap index.

Well, the point of reference to calculate handicap indexes is different for different countries/ regions. But, it’s mandatory for a golfer to play at least five 18-hole scores and not more than 20 scores to judge their level.

You need to track a record, and submit the score to the club. Then, course and slope ratings will be kept under consideration by the club to give you a number, which is your ‘handicap index’.

How Your Handicap Index Compares?

As per USGA’s Golf Handicap Information Network, there’s a huge network of more than 2 million registered golfers with valid handicaps- including both men and women within the US only. A few takeaway of this update are,

  • The average handicap index for men is 14.2 and 27.5 is for women.
  • The most common men handicap index lies in the 13.0-13.9 range, which is overall a percentage of 5.42/ just more than 95,000 golfers. On the other hand, for women this range is 27.0 – 27.9, which consists of 4.07%.
Handicap Index Distribution for Men and Women

Handicap Index Distribution for Men and Women

World Handicap System (WHS)

A new World Handicap System (WHS) was introduced to the golfing culture in January 2020 by joint efforts of R&A and USGA, offering equal opportunities to elite athletes to compete fairly against each other.

As per the new WHS, handicap index will now be calculated by averaging players’ best 8 differentials from the last 20 rounds. This system is basically designed in order to reflect the final score of a golfer, depicting his/her ability to achieve on their best day.

Golf World: Before and After COVID

Due to the fast-spreading pandemic, this year’s world’s major Golf Championships were cancelled. But, the picture before this Coronavirus-world was completely different. Do you remember the classic WGC- Mexico Championship 2020, one of the few championships played just before COVID outbreak halted the sports industry globally.

Patrick Reed with WGC Mexico Championship Trophy Before COVID

Patrick Reed with WGC Mexico Championship Trophy Before COVID

Hitting most mistake-free strokes of the time, Patrick Reed adds WGC – Mexico Championship 2020 title to his name showing a few glimpses of his best-ever results on PGA Tour. Mexico’s Club de Golf Chapultepec, a tree-lined parkland course, witnessed Reed’s 8th career victory here.

According to the metric traced by one of world’s most reputed golf’s e-magazine provider, golf.com between 2016 and 2020, this pro shares an average handicap index of +5.7. Opening a window offering some fascinating looks describing how good this player is, this average handicap index is purely based on the score shot relative to his ratings and slopes on the course he played.

Today top golfers once shared alluring handicap index, which are,

  • Tiger Wood, who was World No 1 for a total of 683 week, has one of the five best indexes
  • Dustin Johnson, who is World No 1 for a total 5 weeks, shares best average index of +6.5
  • Fowler at one point reached the lowest index at 8.4

Interesting Facts

Here are some interesting facts about handicap you might want to know! Later, we’ll discuss a lot more in depth.

  • The classic game of Golf came into existence in the 15th-century, while the term ‘handicap’ entered the world of golf dictionary after the 1870s.
  • No.1 handicap hole is the most difficult and no. 18 is the easiest one to score.
States in Blue are Offseason US States

States in Blue are Offseason US States

Did You Know?

34 states out of 50 US states are known to be offseason states which mean you can play golf in these areas year-around. But, you can’t register a score that counts towards your handicap.

These are a few things but big things to know about handicap for newbie players who wish to play professional golf in future! Hope you like reading it. You are welcome for any suggestions.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Sakshi Chaudhary

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