Understanding Golf Handicaps

If you’re a beginner, understanding the game of golf can be complicated. There has always been some confusion about handicaps, like how to calculate a handicap or if you should even have one.

Understanding all the components involved in playing a round on the links may not seem like it’s important, but just like learning how Stanley Cup odds work, understanding the concept of a handicap will end any confusion. It will help you understand the game, as well as the betting.

What is a Handicap?

A handicap in golf is how well an individual plays a single round. According to the USGA, a handicap index is described as “The measure of a player’s demonstrated ability calculated against the Slope Rating of a golf course of standard playing difficulty (that is, a course with a Slope Rating of 113).”

In short, it’s a calculation of your golf scores compared to the difficulty of the course. It’s not much more difficult to calculate than figuring out who will win in the NHL Playoff series between the Lightning and Maple Leafs.

The various handicapping systems used worldwide were merged into what is now known as the World Handicap System. Scores posted with one of the governing bodies, such as the USGA, allow players to carry an official handicap. The handicap index of each golfer is calculated automatically with each posted score.

For golfers interested in calculating their handicap, keep in mind that if you’re not breaking 100 or less, there is no point in figuring out or even needing a handicap. If you do golf under 100, you first have to be serious about keeping score without cheating and make sure to track all of your shots. Technically, another golfer must keep your scores to avoid any discrepancies.

Many golfers don’t understand what is represented by a Handicap Index. For example, some think that if someone has a handicap of 4, they should shoot around +4 every time they play, which is not true.

According to the USGA, it’s not a calculation of a golfer’s average but how a golfer is capable of performing in any round, or their “demonstrated ability.” Fans should also read about the abilities of the Lighting vs. the Maple Leafs in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.

What is a Good Handicap?

When comparing handicaps by gender, the average handicap for men is around 14, while for women, it’s about 27. Men with handicaps under 14 are considered in the 50th percentile, while a handicap under 5.0 puts them in the 90th percentile.

Almost 80% of male golfers hold a handicap under 20, while less than 2% have a Handicap Index of 0.0 or below. More than 50% of women who keep a handicap are at 28 or below, while a handicap of 14 or better puts them in the 90th percentile.

A scratch golfer is someone with a handicap right around zero and will generally shoot close to even par for 18 holes. The Handicap Index formula only considers eight of the players’ last 20 scores. As a result, they can sometimes shoot in the high 70s or low 80s and still maintain their handicap, as long as most of their recent scores are close to even par.

Players who consistently shoot below par will have what’s known as a “plus” handicap. For example, if a golfer has a +3 handicap, he typically scores around 69 for 18 holes, depending on the course. When taking the handicap strokes into account, the player must give strokes to the course, when most players receive strokes to play their handicaps.

No Handicap Index in PGA

Professional players in the PGA and LPGA don’t use a Handicap Index. If they did calculate them, most would range from around +4 to +8. An individual score in the plus range is also an essential stat in hockey, which shows how well a team performs when a particular player is on the ice, such as in the NHL Playoff series featuring the Maple Leafs vs. the Lightning.

Players should remember that their handicap doesn’t reflect the average score they shoot, or what they have the potential to score for any round. The new World Handicap System caps every player’s hole score at net double bogey. Limiting the number of strokes per hole eliminates sandbagging for players who play a hole badly just to increase their handicap, as a high score would not be accurate using the system.