How to Calculate a Golf Handicap

How to Calculate a Golf Handicap

One thing that baffles a lot of golfers is how to calculate a golf handicap, I will break it down so it’s an easy one to figure out when you are next playing!

Firstly, if you are a full member or 5 day member of a golf club, you will have the luxury of having a member of staff or the golf professional to work out your handicap and scores for you, then any necessary adjustments are made accordingly for when you next play, but that is not always the case because we know that there are more social golfers than there are golfers who are members of a golf club.

So to keep it simple, let’s say the level par of the course is 72, you go out and shoot 79 which is 7 over par so that makes you a 7 handicap golfer in simplistic terms. However if you are a social golfer and play many different courses and are a member of a social golf society, that plays numerous different courses over the course of a year, you could end up with an adjusted handicap or handicap that is reflected across the standard of the players across the society membership.

How to Calculate a Golf Handicap - Golf ball and hole

So if you win a few events in your social group or society the handicap assessor might bring you back a peg or two to bring you in line with the other players, in other words giving the other society members a chance of also winning! So your 7 handicap might be and could be reduced to say 5 to give the other players a chance – does that make sense? This is what you will find will happen if you are a not a full member of a certain golf course which has hundreds of members and you end up with what I call a ‘social travelling handicap’, that is relevant to the standard of society or social group you are playing with, so pretty simple to work out your handicap if you are playing and travelling in social groups.

When you are a full member of a club and have been playing the same course week in week out for many years, your handicap soon takes shape because you are playing the same course. However, when you first join a golf club it is compulsory to put in 3 scorecards marked by an existing member, and until you have done this you will not be eligible to play in club competitions until you have done so, this makes perfect sense from the offset because you don’t want to be branded as a ‘bandit’ from the beginning – so three cards will have to be completed and then the average is worked out and you then get your official golf union handicap.

Now you are saying, that’ all pretty straight forward then isn’t it? No not quite just yet because you will get a ‘starting’ handicap from the first three cards that you put in, however, this could change either up or down dependent on your golf course ‘standard scratch score’ – this is worked out on the day to take into account playing conditions, weather conditions and also the amount of entrants who are playing in that day’s competition! 

Golf Driver and Golf Ball

So if you had 200 members playing in the field or competition that day, then an average is worked out for that days play, so if it is a par 72, in theory, the standard scratch could be as low as possibly 68 or as high as 75, so if the average score, after all the players have finished their round is say one over par, then the standard scratch could be 73!

So that means it is the average score, not the actual par, as I said you have to take in playing conditions etc for that day – so if you go out and shoot a 2 under your handicap for the day, it does not mean you will win but it will certainly mean you are going to get your handicap adjusted for that day’s play. So that could mean, you have played the game of your life, played like a pro, beat the majority of the field, then got docked 2 strokes off your handicap and haven’t won = great game isn’t it!!

So your handicap is worked out and adjusted on recent play, so it’s kept current and up to date, so even if you play on another course you can play to your most recent handicap. Bearing in mind there are really 2 main club competitions that are played throughout the year, these being medal/stroke play and Stableford competitions. Medal/stroke play is pretty easy to work out, whatever your gross score is then minus your handicap then gives you your nett score for the handicap competition.

Stableford is a bit harder to work out – but if we work out the scores based on a scratch handicap then it goes along the lines of one point for a bogey ( one over par ), two point for a par, 3 points for a birdie ( One under par ), 4 for an eagle ( 2 under par ) and 5 for an albatross ( 3 under par ). However because you are playing off a handicap and not scratch like a pro you get strokes on each hole, of course, dependent on your handicap and also the course rating for that particular hole. But the aim at the end of the day is to get 36 points which equates to 2 points per hole on average to play to your club handicap.

For more on the golf handicap system CLICK HERE.

I hope that this article has given you a little insight into working out your handicap, however as per normal if you have any questions please leave your comments below.

Happy Golfing.
Mick

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