What Is a Good Handicap in Golf?

Brad Carey28 Apr 2022

As stringent as golf's rules and policies are, the concept of a "good handicap" is open to interpretation. There isn't much mystery about your place in the game if you've been playing for some time and paying attention.

Golf is a difficult sport to master and as a matter of fact, many don't succeed in doing so. It's even more difficult when you consider that each game is unique. This is why golf is so fascinating and appealing. Even if you play the same course repeatedly, no two games will ever be the same.

Not every golfer takes the time to get an official handicap. Many people take part in the sport for fun, and only golf a few times each year. A few of these players are quite good, while some may not be considered very good.

What Does Handicap Mean in Golf?

The World Handicap System was established to allow golfers of all skill levels to compete fairly. Golf handicaps are established by "posting" or recording your scores. You have the option of posting 9-hole or 18-hole scores. Your golf handicap is a number after your scores are posted. The better the golfer, the lower the number. For instance, if you regularly score 90 on par 72 golf courses, your golf handicap is roughly 18.

What effect does this have on leveling the playing field? It specifies how many strokes a superior player must offer to the opposing player. If you have an 18 handicap and your friend has a 9, as an example, he must grant you 9 strokes for the match to be fair.

While often referred to as a handicap, the USGA refers to it as a "Handicap Index." The handicap index's objective is to provide a gauge of a player's skill in relation to par. One of the things that distinguish golf from other sports is that the handicap system lets golfers of all skill levels participate fairly.

Consider this: even if LeBron James gave you 20 points in a one-on-one basketball game, you would still lose. But if Tiger Woods gave you a 20-stroke advantage against a match, it might be a stretch, but you can play competitively. It's an amazing thing. Golf handicap allows you to play the game on equal footing.

How To Calculate Golf Handicap

The formula to calculate a golf handicap is (Score – Course Rating) x 113 / Slope Rating. But, the common approach for handicap is to consider your most recent 20 rounds of golf and eliminate the 5 best and 5 worst scores. The final 10 scores are averaged, and this is your final score.  To calculate your estimated handicap, use your average score and deduct the par of your golf course.

For instance, if your average is 83 and your par score is 72, you would average 11 strokes above par, and this will be your golf course handicap. Since every course is assessed in terms of difficulty, Jim and Bob may golf at different courses, and both score 90, but if Jim played the more difficult golf course, his 90 would be more spectacular than Bob's.

What Is Considered a Good Handicap?

When a golfer's handicap is calculated, it takes into account how the golfer performs on average during each round. Handicaps aren't necessary for most amateur competitions, although they help ensure that players are matched fairly. A handicap could vary depending on the level of golfers you regularly play with and the caliber of players at your golf club or group.

Having a handicap of ten or less is considered good. To shoot 82, you'll need to have a handicap index of less than 10. Shooting in the low 80s is higher than average, but not excellent enough to be termed a scratch player. If you have a  playing handicap of less than ten, you must be able to play well on all sorts of courses, not just your home course.

Low-handicap golfers should expect to shoot in the 70s on occasion and may even participate in a few events now and then. A few bogeys and a poor hole here and there are to be expected at this level. As far as consistency is concerned, you should be fine. The low 80s are indeed amazing when playing against a group of newbies.

What Is a Scratch Golfer?

"Scratch golfer" is one of the many words in the golf lingo. A scratch golfer is someone who can play all graded golf courses with a Course Handicap of 0. The typical tee shot distance for an average male scratch golfer is 250 yards, and a 470-yard hole can be reached in two strokes at sea level. Female scratch golfers, for rating reasons, could average 210 yards on their drives and reach a 400-yard hole in two shots. To keep it simple, scratch golfers are those who consistently shoot at or below par on any course they play. Such a  golfer has a handicap of 0.

What Is a Bogey Golfer?

The term "bogey golfer" refers to a player who, on average, takes one stroke more than par to complete each hole. Bogey golfers often have a course handicap of around 20 on a regular difficulty course, tee drives that travel about 200 yards, and also can usually reach the green of a 370-yard hole in two shots. A 280-yard hole may be completed in two strokes by a female bogey golfer with a course handicap of 24, who makes 150-yard tee shots and lands on the green.

No one can definitively say what constitutes a "good golf handicap," but most would agree that anything under ten signifies progress. However, even if you're far from being an expert golfer, you have a lot of golf knowledge and are adept in navigating a course. It is generally accepted that golfers with a handicap of 10 to 15 are better than average and should be commended for their efforts. It's all about practice and experience for golfers in the middle and upper echelons of the sport. It takes a lot of time and commitment to become an excellent golfer.

Brad Carey

Brad Carey

An avid golfer, brad loves a round of 18 on a Sunday. After getting involved in the technical side of golf, he thought he'd share his insights with others.

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