The Complete Guide to Golf Handicap Calculations

By Ben Jarratt •  Updated: 07/14/23 •  6 min read

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A golf handicap is a system that golfers use to calculate their skill level and compare themselves to other golfers. Tournaments also use it to rank players in order of skill, to create more competitive matches between players of similar ability levels. In this blog post, we’ll show you how golf handicap calculations are made so you can understand your score better!  Also, be sure to read more about how do golf handicaps work.

Player’s Average Score

A player’s average score determines golf handicaps. To find your handicap, divide the total number of strokes you’ve taken over 18 holes by 36. The result is your average score for an eighteen-hole round.

For example, if a player’s average golf score were 77, their handicap would be (77/36) = 21.88 shots per hole on an eighteen-holer course in regulation play under normal conditions. No penalty strokes or putts conceded outside of putting from off the green to finish a spot which is not counted towards one’s final tally but does count as part of one’s Handicap Index computation). In other words, this person can expect to shoot around 78 or higher when playing with someone who has a similar level of skill.

USGA Handicap System

The USGA Handicap System is a system designed to allow golfers of different abilities to compete against one another on an equal basis.
A golf handicap is calculated using the USGA Handicap System. The player’s handicap is a measure of that player’s golfing skill level. It indicates the number of strokes above par. It will take an average golfer to play a hole, or 18 holes, with the given handicapper (in other words, how many shots better than them he/she is).

Course And Slope Rating

Your course rating and slope rating determine how challenging the course you’re playing is. The course rating is the average number of strokes it takes a scratch golfer (a player with no handicap) to play 18 holes. A course rated at par 72, for instance, would take an average golfer about four shots per hole or three under par.
A golf course’s slope rating indicates how much more challenging it will be than a typical golf course when played from the back tees. If your slope rating on a particular day was 128 and you typically shoot around 85-95 each time you play that same course, then playing from those back tees might feel like shooting 95-105 range because of how tough they can make things by elevating your ball flight and making greens more challenging to hit.

5 Categories of Skill Level

There are five categories for golfers with different skill levels – scratch, 0-9, 10-19, 20-29, 30+ and they can range from a zero handicap to a 36-handicap. If you’re playing as an amateur, then your tournament would have a certain number of strokes that are added or subtracted depending on how many over par the course rating is, and this will be indicated by what golfers call “the penalty.”

The players who complete all 18 holes in less than the allotted number for their skill level get 0 points towards their total score, which means they count as scratch golfers.
Suppose you played at 128 slope rating course with those back tees mentioned earlier. In that case, it might take 20 shots instead of 15 – but if other courses had more forgiving greens and required just 12 shots per hole, for instance, then the average golfer would be looking at about 25 attempts to complete all 18 holes.  You can always learn more from Twin Golfer by reading our latest topics.

Scratch Players

Scratch players have an 18 hole score of 72 or less and receive 0 points. A scratch player has 18 holes at a course rating of 72 or less, and the total score for that round would be 72 strokes, which equals zero handicap pts. The golf tour barometer to measure how well players are playing is when they get below par on their first nine holes (before the turn) – this means that an average golfer’s goal should always be to play as close to “scratch” golfers as possible by not exceeding 12-15 shots per hole during their round. This will allow you to shoot a better score than other players in your group while still having enough time left over after completing all 18 holes with under 36 total shots taken during those rounds.

Courses Scratch Players Can Play

Scratch players can play any course they want without restrictions. This is a crucial point to mention because many courses have been built with golfers of different skill levels in mind – and scratch golfers might not be able to play an entire course, or they may feel bored out on the links if all they can do is birdie every hole. There are also some situations where it’s just more fun for players of similar skill levels to tee off together so that each player will stand a better chance at winning when scoring is done after rounds.

Handicap Index

A golfer’s handicap index will change over time as he or she plays more rounds of golf. A handicap index is a numerical value assigned to golfers based on their course scores. For a golfer’s current handicap index to be calculated, his or her last 20-or-so rounds of golf must first be analyzed and then averaged together into one general score per round. A golfer’s handicap can also fluctuate as he or she plays more rounds – if they play in tournaments with other players of similar skill levels, it will affect their average; but if they win every tournament they enter, it’ll make them look like a better player than they actually are and may even drive up their handicap index (which would not necessarily be accurate).

What’s Your Rating

If you think you have a high rating, then it may be time for an evaluation. An evaluation is where a golf pro will take the time to analyze your past rounds of golf and then assign you an adjusted score. A golfer’s handicap can be raised or lowered depending on how they play throughout their average round.

The final step in calculating a golf handicap index is assigning that new number to their original course rating (i.e., what they thought was good enough for them before). Once this occurs, all subsequent scores are calculated based on the new total; meaning if someone played with a 20 handicap but now has 25 because he won more events than usual, it’ll change every other score accordingly from there forward.


This is how golf handicap works. This post has gone into detail about the many different ways that a golfer’s score can be calculated based on their skill level, course difficulty, and any other factors that might affect scoring.

If you have read up until here, then congratulations! You now know more about golf handicap calculations than most people out there in the internet land, so enjoy your new status as an expert with everything golf-related when it comes time for your next round.