In the simplest terms, a golf handicap is a number that shows a golfer’s lack of ability. It’s a way for non-professional golfers to play against each other on somewhat more equal terms. The higher the handicap number, the less skilled the player is.
So when a player with a high handicap plays against someone with a lower handicap (meaning they are better skilled), the lower handicap player gives a certain amount of strokes to the higher handicap player in order to help level the playing field.
There are different rules about using and calculating golf handicaps in different countries so if you do any international travel and plan to golf, be prepared for some differences. The system we will talk about here is that used in the United States.
You can often get an official handicap score from a club if you are a member but you can also calculate your own.
Improving your golf handicap means lowering the number which requires dedication, practice, and training in the proper golf swing fundamentals.
In this guide, we will define what is a handicap in golf and then show you how to calculate your own golf handicap and how to improve that score through practice and training to improve your skills.
The main point of the golf handicap system is to make the game more enjoyable for players. If two people of very different skill levels are playing against each other, it’s not as fun for either one.
The person with the lower skill tends to feel way behind and like they don’t stand a chance while the person with a higher skill doesn’t feel like the game is particularly challenging. The score helps both by giving the lower skilled player a bit of boost.
The score is perfect for casual games among friends and colleagues. It’s not used in professional matches since these are much more official competitions where all players are highly skilled.
There are actually two parts of your score. The first is the golf handicap index and the second is your course handicap. The index is a more general score that can be applied no matter what course you are on or which tees you play.
The course handicap is a specific score that depends on the course you are on and the tees you are playing.
There are golf handicap calculators available for free online that calculate golf handicap for you if you prefer to skip the math but following the formula and calculating yourself is not difficult and it allows you to more clearly see what goes into it.
By using the following golf handicap formula, you can figure out what your handicap is right now and start working to improve it. Keep track of your handicap is a great way to track your improvement even if you don’t plan on actually using the handicap in matches.
Here is an example. Let’s say one of your adjusted gross score is 93. The course rating for the course you played on is 69.3 and the slope rating is 116. So, the formula is:
(93 – 69.3) x 113 / 116 which would mean your handicap differential is 23.1 for that course.
Repeat this for each golf score. Once you have your handicap differential for each score, you can calculate your handicap index.
Simply add your differentials together, divide that by the total number of differentials and multiply it by 0.96. This index can be used to figure out your specific course handicap on any course.
The course handicap formula is just your handicap index multiplied by the course’s slope rating divided by 113. As you can see, it’s fairly basic arithmetic but it can be a little tedious so that’s why golf handicap calculators exist!
If you’ve done all these calculations, you are probably now wondering what this number means relative to other golfers. According to recent data, the average golf handicap for men is 14.3 and for women, it’s 26.5.
So if your number is higher than that, you are below average. If it’s lower than that, congratulations, you are above average! Either way, there’s no harm in trying to improve your handicap.
The key to lowering your golf handicap is practice, practice, and a lot more practice. It’s one thing to know what a proper golf swing looks like, it’s another to be able to do it smoothly and consistently every single time.
To practice effectively, you need to use golf practice drills that target the specific areas you need to work on most. You can also make your golf practice more effective by use special training equipment like golf practice nets, home golf simulators, practice golf balls, and golf practice mats.
If you are wondering how to practice golf at home, many of these drills and the equipment are suitable for home use. In fact, some are even specifically designed to be used at home. So you don’t need to go out to the course each time you want to get a good practice session in.
To effectively improve your swing—and, by extension, your golf handicap—you will want to use a set of golf drills that help you focus on each specific aspect of your swing. By using a series of drills, you can fine tune and perfect your swing piece by piece.
To make your drills even more effective, consider using some of these tools that give you more versatility and, in some cases, more real time data to better analyze how you are doing and where you need to focus on improving.
Using this information and investing in the practice equipment that you find to be most useful for your needs, you’ll be able to steadily whittle your golf handicap down further and further.
Craft a golf practice routine that suits your schedule and your skills. Then, stick to it. If you don’t keep working at it, you won’t see any improvement but the longer you commit to that routine, the more you’ll be able to enjoy watching your golf handicap shrink to a smaller number.