What is the Golf Handicap?

Have you ever asked what is the golf handicap? The handicap in golf serves as a measure of an amateur golfer’s playing ability, providing an equitable way for players of different skill levels to compete.

In this article, we’ll discuss what does the handicap mean in golf, how they’re calculated, and why they matter for fair play. 

We’ll also explore different types of handicaps and offer tips on how golfers can improve theirs.

What does the Handicap Mean in Golf

The word handicap comes from English and in Spanish means “disadvantage”. In short, the handicap in golf is the evaluation of the level of play of an amateur golfer.


It refers to the number of strokes, generally above, that an amateur player makes on a golf course with respect to the par of the course or stipulated number of strokes.

For example, a player who plays a par 72 course in about 80 strokes has a handicap of 8. And a player who plays the same course in 95 strokes has a handicap of 23. The lower a player’s handicap, the better he plays the course and in fewer strokes, approaching the par of the course.

The maximum handicap is 54 and the minimum is called positive handicap, which means that players who have it play the course in fewer strokes than stipulated. For example, a player who plays a par 72 course in 68 strokes has a +4 handicap. Also you can read about what is plus handicap in golf.

The handicap works in conjunction with the USGA (United State Golf Association) system of Course Rating and Slope Rating, which refer to the level of difficulty of the courses.

What is a Good Handicap for Golf?

Although the handicap is a factor that helps to equalize different athletes in the same competition, golf contemplates different categories of handicap according to the age or the type of professionalism of the players. 

The handicap is a number of strokes that provides an “advantage”, it can go from 0 (strokes) to a maximum of 54.


The handicap number is given to players with a federation license, after the completion of some tests made by a golf course club, within the federation of the country. In addition, it has the peculiarity that this mark can be decimal.

For a better exposition of the different categories that exist, we have to take into account these categories and their specifications where you will find out what is a good handicap for golf is:

Category 1

Handicap 4.4 or lower. This category includes golfers with a very low handicap, indicating a high level of skill and proficiency. Golfers in this category are typically considered to be excellent players.

Category 2

Handicap from 4.5 to 11.4. Golfers in this category still have a relatively low handicap, suggesting a solid level of skill and proficiency. They are considered to be above-average players.

Category 3 – Average Golf Handicap

Handicap from 11.5 to 18.4. This category includes golfers with a moderate handicap, indicating a decent level of skill and proficiency. Players in this category are generally considered to be average golf handicap or slightly above-average.

Category 4 – Average Golf Handicap

Handicap from 18.5 to 26.4. Golfers in this category have a higher handicap, suggesting they may be less experienced or less skilled. Players in this category are typically considered to be beginners or recreational golfers.

Category 5 – Average Golf Handicap

Handicap from 26.5 to 36. This category includes golfers with a higher handicap, indicating they may be relatively new to the game or have limited experience. Players in this category are often beginners or casual golfers.

Category 6

Handicap from 36 to 48 (only for infants, juveniles, and juniors). This category is specifically for young golfers, and handicaps in this range are not directly comparable to adult handicaps. It represents a developmental stage for junior players.

How Can I Get a Golf Handicap?

To acquire a golf handicap, one typically needs to align with a golf club or organization that offers handicap services. This affiliation allows access to the necessary infrastructure and expertise to manage handicaps effectively. 

Upon becoming a member, the process begins by submitting scores from several rounds of play, usually around 5 to 10. These scores serve as the foundation for establishing an initial handicap index, a numerical representation of one’s playing ability.

Following each round of golf, players must diligently record their scores on scorecards and submit them to the club’s handicap committee or designated personnel. This step ensures accurate and consistent data collection, which is crucial for fair handicap calculation. 

The committee then employs a standardized formula, considering factors like the player’s scores, the course rating, and slope rating, to compute the handicap index.

Once calculated, the player receives their official handicap, expressed as a numerical value. This figure indicates the number of strokes a player is expected to score above or below par in a round of golf.

It’s a dynamic measure that evolves with each submitted score, reflecting the player’s current skill level.

Maintaining a handicap involves continuous engagement with the system. Players must consistently submit their scores after each round of play.

This ongoing participation ensures that the handicap remains accurate and up-to-date, aligning closely with the player’s actual performance on the course.

Calculation of Handicaps

Calculating handicaps in golf helps make the game fair for everyone, no matter their skill level. 

Here’s how it works:

Formula for Calculating Handicaps:

  • Your Handicap Index = (Your Score – Course Rating) / Slope Rating × 113

Factors Involved:

  1. Your Scores: The scores you get from your rounds of golf.
  2. Course Rating: How difficult the course is for a scratch golfer.
  3. Slope Rating: Adjusts for the difficulty of the course based on your skill level.
  4. Adjustments: Sometimes, exceptional scores are adjusted to keep things fair.

Why It’s Important:

Accurate handicaps ensure fair competition, allowing players of different skill levels to compete equally. 

By providing a standardized measure of skill, handicaps build trust among golfers and contribute to maintaining a fun and fair playing environment for everyone involved.

How to Improve Your Handicap


Regular Practice. Dedicate time to regular practice sessions, focusing on all aspects of your game including driving, iron play, chipping, and putting. 

Get Professional Instruction. Consider taking lessons from a qualified golf instructor to fine-tune your technique and address any weaknesses in your game. 

Focus on Short Game. The short game, including putting, chipping, and pitching, often has a significant impact on scores. 

Course Management. Develop a strategic approach to course management, focusing on playing smart shots that minimize risks and maximize scoring opportunities. 

Physical Fitness. Maintain good physical fitness to enhance your performance on the golf course.

Mental Game. Work on improving your mental game by developing focus, confidence, and resilience on the golf course. 

Play Competitively. Participate in competitive golf tournaments or matches regularly to gain valuable experience and test your skills under pressure.

Competition can provide motivation and incentive to improve, as well as opportunities to learn from other players.

Track Progress. Keep track of your scores, statistics, and progress over time to identify areas for improvement and measure your success. 

Stay Patient and Persistent. Improving your handicap takes time and effort, so stay patient and persistent in your pursuit of progress. 

Conclusion of Handicap Mean in Golf

In conclusion, a golf handicap is a numerical measure of a player’s skill level, allowing fair competition across different abilities. 

It represents the expected number of strokes above or below par a player will score in a round. 

To obtain a handicap, players submit scores from multiple rounds to their club, which calculates their handicap index. 


What is a golf handicap❓

A golf handicap is a numerical measure of a player’s skill, indicating the expected number of strokes above or below par they’ll score in a round, enabling fair competition across different skill levels.

How does the handicap system work in golf❓

The handicap system in golf adjusts a player’s scores based on course difficulty. It calculates a handicap index using the player’s scores, course rating, and slope rating, determining their handicap for a specific course.

What is a good golf handicap❓

A good golf handicap typically falls below 10 for men and below 20 for women, reflecting higher levels of skill and proficiency in the game.

How can I get a golf handicap❓

To get a golf handicap, join a club offering handicap services, then submit scores from several rounds to establish an initial handicap index.

What is the highest handicap in golf❓

The highest handicap in golf is usually 36 for men and 40 for women, representing the maximum strokes expected above par in a round.

What is the World Golf Handicap System❓

WGHS is a standardized global system ensuring consistent handicap calculation and management across various countries and golf associations.