Golf Tip: What’s Your Handicap?

What’s Your Handicap?

Many golfers, when asked that question, won’t be able to give an accurate answer. If you play regularly it’s a good thing to know. The purpose of the handicap system has always been to attempt to level the playing field for golfers with various abilities.


There are a few terms you need to know to truly understand the handicapping calculation. A Handicap Index, issued by a golf club or golf association compares a player’s scoring ability to a scratch golfer* on a course of average difficulty. This number reflects a player’s potential score and is based on the best 10 of the last 20 rounds.

A USGA Course Rating indicates the playing difficulty of a course for a scratch golfer based on yardage and other features.

A Slope Rating is a measurement of the relative difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers. Each course is rated from each set of tees for both the scratch golfer and the bogey golfer*.

What this means

Slope ratings range from 55 to 155. To put it simply, your handicap index suggests your potential score on a course of standard difficulty, meaning a slope rating of 113. When you play a course with a slope rating higher than 113, your Course Handicap will be higher than your handicap index. For example, if you have a handicap index of 10 and you are playing Pebble Beach with a slope rating of 144, your course handicap is 13. If you are playing a much less difficult course with a slope rating of say 90, your course handicap is 8.

A handicap index is a great thing to have. It not only makes it easier and more fun to compete with other golfers, it also helps you measure your progress in developing skill. Later on, if you get really good and want to qualify for the U.S. Open, you will need a USGA Handicap Index of 1.4 or lower. Good luck!


*According to the USGA, a scratch golfer is defined as “a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any and all rated golf courses.” A male scratch golfer, for rating purposes, can hit tee shots an average of 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots at sea level. “Bogey golfer” means a golfer who averages about one bogey per hole, or 1-over par per hole.