How To Calculate Golf Handicap? – Easiest Method

golf strength handicap

Golf is an amazing sport that you can play over decades and still get better at.

However, you may wonder just how good you actually are. The standard system for knowing how good you are at golf is the handicap system. Therefore, you may wonder: How do you calculate golf handicap?

In this article, we will tell you exactly how to calculate handicap in golf in the easiest method possible.

How To Calculate Golf Handicap?

To calculate your golf handicap, you need to play the equivalent of 3 to 20 rounds of 18-hole golf. With your most recent scorecards, you will need to apply the formulas to calculate handicap. Alternatively, you can use the free Sports Ruby Excel Handicap Calculator sheet to calculate your index.

Calculating a Golf Handicap is no simple matter. If you ever find the following steps too hard to understand, you can download our Free Excel Golf Handicap Calculator.

The first step to calculating your golf handicaps is to play 3 to 20 rounds of 18-hole golf.

If you only play on a 9-hole golf course, you can combine your scores for 2 rounds into 1 round of 18-hole golf. You could also double your score for 9 holes to get a similar score to what you might get for 18 holes.

For each round of golf, make sure you keep track of the par numbers and your score for each golf hole. Make a note of how many golf rounds you will consider for the handicap calculation, as it is relevant for further steps.

In the next sections of this guide, you will find the different steps to calculating your golf handicaps.

Calculating Your Adjusted Gross Scores (AGS)

Next, you will need to get your adjusted gross scores (AGS). For each hole on each round of golf, adjust your scores according to the USGA guidelines. As of 2020, the guidelines stipulate the following rule:

“If for any hole of any round of golf, you required more strokes than the par + 2 strokes (double bogey), you will only count the (par + 2) strokes as your score for that hole.

Your adjusted score for any single golf hole is capped at double-bogeys.

E.g. If you required 10 strokes for a par 4 hole, you will fill adjust your score as if you scored (4+2) = 6 strokes for that hole (or double bogey).”

Following this rule, you need to adjust each and every score for each hole of each rounds of golf you consider in the handicap calculation. Not following this rule will result in an abnormally high handicap for you.

After adjusting each score for each hole, total the scores of individual holes for each round of golf to obtain your Adjusted Gross Scores (AGSs). You will have one AGS per round of golf.

In the past, the Equitable Stroke Control Chart (ESC) was used to determine how many strokes you count for your AGS (Adjusted Gross Score) score. Now, you just add 2 over par (double bogey) for all holes, regardless of the course rating.

Down below is a reminder of the now deprecated Equitable Stroke Control Chart (note: this table is not to be used anymore as of 2020).

Course Rating Adjusted Gross Score Cap
0-9(par + 2)
10-197
20-298
30-399
40+10
18-Hole Equitable Stroke Control Chart

The next step is to calculate your score differentials based on your total adjusted scores.

Calculating Your Handicap Differentials

The number of handicap differentials you will consider in the golf handicap calculation depends on the number of golf rounds you consider. You will only keep the lowest differential(s) for the calculation, but the number of differentials considered can vary.

Down below, you can see a chart summarizing how many score differentials you will need to consider:

Number of Rounds Considered Number of Handicap Differentials to Consider
3-61 lowest differential
7-82 lowest differentials
9-103 lowest differentials
11-124 lowest differentials
13-145 lowest differentials
15-166 lowest differentials
177 lowest differentials
188 lowest differentials
199 lowest differentials
2010 lowest differentials
Number of Handicap Differentials to Consider VS Number of Rounds Considered

To calculate your handicap differentials, you will need 2 additional pieces of information: the course rating and the slope rating of every golf course you played on for the golf rounds considered.

The course rating and slope rating can be found online on your local golf course’s website or on the scoresheet. If not, you can ask the golf course staff in person for this information.

The course rating and slope rating are measurements of the difficulty of a given golf course.

The course rating is the expected number of strokes a scratch golfer would require to complete a given golf course.

The slope rating is the expected number of strokes and average golfer (including hobbyists) would require to complete a given golf course.

You can calculate a golf handicap differential with the following formula:

Handicap Differential = [(AGS – Course Rating)*113]/(Slope rating)

where 113 is the standard slope rating

AGS is your Adjusted Gross Score for each round of golf. You will need to repeat this formula for each round of golf considered, swapping out the AGS, Course Rating, and Slope Rating accordingly.

If you always play at the same golf course, then your course rating and slope rating numbers will be the same every time you apply the formula.

For example, if one your AGS numbers is 90, the course rating is 71, and the slope rating is 115, you will get the following handicap differential:

Handicap Differential = [(90 – 71)*113]/(115) = 12.05

Remember to repeat this calculation for each of your last 3-20 golf courses AGS scores.

Finally, only keep your x lowest handicap differentials, where x refers to the number in the chart up above. For example, if you considered 20 rounds of golf, you would only keep your 10 lowest handicap differentials.

Calculating Your Handicap Index

In this step, you will calculate your handicap index. This is the number golfers around the world like to brag about being as low as possible. It is also a good measurement of your improvement as a golfer throughout the years.

After having kept only your x lowest handicap differentials in the previous step, you can take a look at the formula to calculate the handicap index:

Handicap Index = (Sum of Handicap Differentials/Number of Differentials) * 0.96

where 0.96 is a constant number that never changes in this calculation

Make sure you only use the x lowest handicap differentials in the Handicap Index equation.

After you calculate your handicap index, always drop the final decimal digits until you only have 1 decimal left. Do not round up.

For example, if you considered 20 rounds of golf, only use the 10 lowest handicap differentials in the handicap index formula.

Continuing on this example, if you had a sum of differentials of 120, the handicap calculation would be:

Handicap Index = (120/10)*0.96 = 11.52 = 11.5 with decimal digits dropped

Calculating Your Course Handicap

The course handicap is the number of strokes you can deduct from your final score during your next round of golf if you play with the handicap system.

This allows players of different skill levels to compete against each other with the sense that anyone can win.

As of 2020, the formula for the course handicap is the following:

Course Handicap = [(handicap index)*(slope rating)/113] + (Course Rating – Par)

where 113 is the standard slope rating,

where par is the total par of the next golf course you play at

You will need to know the slope rating, course rating, and par number of the next golf course you play at to apply this formula.

As of 2020, the second hand of the equation, (Course Rating – Par), has been added to account for players starting from different tee boxes.

For example, starting from a tee further away from the hole might warrant a course rating of 70, while starting from closer to the hole might carry a course rating of 68. Starting closer to the holes would require less strokes to complete the golf course.

The numeric result you obtain for the course handicap is then rounded to nearest whole number.

For example, with a handicap index of 11.5, a course rating of 71, a par of 72, and a slope rating of 115, the calculation would be:

Course Handicap = (11.5*115/113) + (71-72) = 10.7 = rounded to 11

Course handicap is different for every golf course you play on because the course rating, slope rating, and par change.

With the course handicap finally calculated, you can deduct it from your final score to see who wins between you and your competitors.

For example, if you have a course handicap of 11 and your friend has one of 4, it means your friends is generally better at golf than you. However, you decide to apply course handicap to your scores for the next round.

After finishing 18 holes of golf, you have a score of 80, and your friend scores 76; your friend is 4 under your score. However, with scores adjusted for handicap, you each subtract your course handicap from your score, resulting in the following adjusted scores:

Your adjusted score = 80-11 = 69

Your friend’s adjusted score = 76-4 = 72

Since 69 is lower 72, you won against your friend, as the handicap system leveled the playing field to give you a chance to win.

What Is The Golf Handicap System?

The golf handicap system was popularized in the 20th century. It is a system that levels the playing field at the amateur level between players of varying skill. The golf handicap system allows weaker players to deduct strokes from their scores and allows for a feeling of equal chances of winning.

The golf handicap system was created in the 20th century in order to allow amateur golfers of different skill levels to be able to complete with each other. The golf handicap system deducts strokes from the scores of weaker players to level the playing field.

The system is also useful to avoid disappointments between golfers of different ages. For example, between two brothers, aged 15 and 8, chances are the 15 year old would win every time. However, with the handicap system, the playing field could be leveled, leaving the young one with more than perpetual tears.

Overall, the handicap system can make golf more fun for everyone in rounds of golf with low stakes.

Going up against an opponent who is leagues ahead of you skill wise can be demotivating, and obliterating a player who is much weaker than you does not feel fulfilling more some. The golf handicap system allows for a better suited challenge for multiple parties.

The golf handicap index is your expected number of strokes over the golf par.

Most people have a handicap index in the range of 15 to 25.

A negative handicap index means you are expected to shoot under par, based on your previous performances. Obtaining a negative handicap index is rare and a real feat in the sport of golf. Players with a negative handicap index are much better than most players.

Finally, professional golf players do not typically use the handicap system, as they are playing for high stakes and more interested in winning than artificially bridging the gap in skill between each other.

Example Of A Golf Handicap Calculation

In the lines down below, you can find an example of a golf handicap calculation. You can find this same example in the third sheet of our Free Excel Golf Handicap Calculator.

First, we gather 3-20 of our most recent golf scores for 18-hole rounds and adjust them to obtain our Adjusted Golf Scores (AGSs):

82, 84, 84, 82, 80, 88, 87, 86, 84, 87, 90, 91, 89, 84, 85, 86, 88, 87

We also note the Course Rating numbers for each round of golf considered:

64.5, 66.8, 66.7, 68.1, 70.5, 62.8, 68.7, 67.7, 65.6, 69.8, 65.9, 66.1, 68.4, 66.1, 67.8, 69.8, 69.3, 67.0

We also note the Slope Rating numbers for each round of golf considered:

111, 115, 116, 114, 112, 111, 113, 117, 116, 120, 112, 110, 111, 111, 113, 116, 115, 114

With these elements, we then calculate our score differentials, and only keep the lowest 10, based on the chart described earlier in this guide.

For the first AGS score, the handicap differential is:

Handicap Differential = [(AGS – Course Rating)*113]/(Slope rating)

Handicap Differential = [(82-64.5)*113]/111 = 17.81531532

This formula is repeated for each AGS score, and we thus end up with our list of 20 calculated handicap differentials:

17.81531532, 16.90086957, 16.85258621, 13.77807018, 9.584821429, 25.65405405, 18.3, 17.67435897, 17.92413793, 16.19666667, 24.31517857, 25.57909091, 20.97117117, 18.22252252, 17.2, 15.78103448, 18.37478261, 19.8245614

We then retain only the 10 lowest handicap differentials in this series of handicap differentials:

9.584821429, 13.77807018, 15.78103448, 16.19666667, 16.85258621, 16.90086957, 17.2, 17.67435897, 17.81531532, 17.92413793

We then add up these 10 golf handicap differentials, which results in a sum of 159.7078607.

Next, we can calculate our handicap index:

Handicap Index = (Sum of Handicap Differentials/Number of Differentials) * 0.96

Handicap Index = (159.7078607/10) * 0.96 = 15.331 = 15.3 with decimal digits dropped

Finally, with our handicap index calculated, we can calculate our course handicap. The next golf course we will play at has a par of 72, a course rating of 65.9, and a slope rating of 113:

Course Handicap = [(handicap index)*(slope rating)/113] + (Course Rating – Par)

Course Handicap = [(15.3*113)/113] + (65.9 – 72) = 9.2 = rounded to 9

Conclusion

There you go! After reading this article, you have learned exactly how to calculate handicap in golf in the easiest way possible.

You can now understand exactly how good you are at golf and where you stack up next to other players.

You also received access to our FREE Excel Golf Handicap Calculator, if you want the calculations to be automated.

What is your golf handicap? Let us know in the comments down below!