The USGA Handicap System™ enables golfers of all skill levels to compete on an equitable basis. This section of the site will help golfers understand why having a Handicap Index® is important. There are links to "The USGA Handicap System" manual, the USGA's handicapping equivalent of "The Rules of Golf", and a Course Handicap™ calculator to allow players to convert their Handicap Index to the Course Handicap for any course that has been properly rated. Articles and resources are available for anyone interested in starting a golf club or for current Handicap Committee chairmen who need assistance in maintaining handicaps for their respective clubs. The current version of the USGA Handicap System went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, and the next revision will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016. Any modifications to the System are noted on this Web site. 





Browse the 2012-2015 Rules


2/1. Clarification of Term "Golf Club"

Q: Membership in a golf organization is open to any player living within a large geographic area. In general, the members play at different golf facilities within the area, and do not normally play golf with one another. Is this organization a golf club within the meaning of the term in Section 2?

A: No. Section 2 states that in order for an organization to be considered a golf club, "members must have a reasonable and regular opportunity to play golf with each other." Also, the members of a golf club who are issued a Handicap Index must be from a small defined geographic area. For example: the residence or business address of each member of the golf club must generally be within approximately a 50 mile radius for Type 3 golf clubs (75 miles for Type 2 golf clubs) of the principal location of the golf club. (Applies to Type 2 and Type 3 only.) (REVISED)

[2/2. Reserved]

[2/3. Reserved]

2/4. Club Members at a Driving Range Issued Handicap Index

Q: May a driving range utilize the USGA Handicap System?

A: Yes. Hitting golf balls at the same driving range does not provide the opportunity to play golf together as required in the definition of a golf club. However, nothing prevents a driving range from being the principal location of a golf club. As long as its members have a reasonable and regular opportunity to play golf with each other, peer review is being performed, and all items on the Club Compliance Checklist are being met, this club is satisfying its requirements and is eligible to be licensed to issue a Handicap Index. (See Decision 2/7.)

2/5. Golf Club Composed of Company Employees

Q: A group of 52 employees from a company formed a golf club. The members work at the same office and play in a weekly league after work. The club has bylaws based on the USGA's sample bylaws with officers and meetings. A Handicap Committee has been formed and handicap reports are posted on a bulletin board for all to see. Scores are personally posted by members and reviewed by the Handicap Committee. All other requirements of the USGA Handicap System are followed. Is this group eligible to be licensed to utilize the USGA Handicap System?

A: Yes. Peer review standards are being met as members have a reasonable and regular opportunity to play golf with each other, as well as to review scores posted, and the Handicap Committee has the reasonable opportunity to satisfy the peer review oversight requirements set forth in Section 8.

2/6. Organization Recruiting Members through Advertisement

Q: An organization places an advertisement in a public newspaper or on a Web site inviting players to join a group that it calls a golf club. The player is asked to sign up, at the Web site or by mail, and pay via the Web site or by mail. Members are invited to play in tournaments held frequently and handicap reports and scoring records are displayed on a Web site or mailed to each member on revision dates. Members generally post scores via the Internet. In return, the player will receive a Handicap Index. Can this organization meet the USGA Handicap System definition of a golf club and utilize the USGA Handicap System?

A: Yes. See the definition of a golf club (Section 2), specifically Type 3. It is understood that Type 3 clubs organize by advertising for members. But, in addition all portions of the golf club definition must be met, the golf club must follow all aspects of the Club Compliance Checklist (see Section 8-2m), and the club must comply with all sections of the USGA Handicap System, including the clarifications listed in Decision 2/7.

2/6.5. Effect of Advertising on Golf Club Category

Q: Can a golf club that currently exists as a Type 1 or Type 2 club advertise for the purposes of adding unaffiliated players? If so, could this action cause the club to become a Type 3 golf club?

A: Nothing prohibits any golf club from advertising for members. As long as only a relatively small minority of the club members join because of advertising, the club Type would not be affected.

2/6.7. Third Party Involvement in Membership Process

Q: A group of golf clubs gets together and advertises membership openings. A third party becomes involved and signs up individuals to become members of these clubs. Is this acceptable?

A: Each golf club's bylaws may provide how new members are approved. A third party may inform a player about the possibility of becoming a member of a particular golf club, but each individual player must complete the membership application process and be approved by the club. A proposed candidate for membership may not become a member of a club until these requirements are met.

2/7. Clarification of Compliance/License Issues for Golf Club Categories Described in the Golf Club Definition

"Principal Location" (applies to Type 2 and Type 3 only)

The principal location of a golf club must be the physical address in the city or town which the club first identified in its application for a license to utilize the USGA Handicap System. So long as the golf club is in existence, the principal location must not be changed without the prior written consent of the authorized golf association of which the golf club is a member, or if the club is not a member of a golf association, of the USGA. Members of a golf club who are issued a Handicap Index must be from a small-defined geographic area, e.g., the residence or business address of each member of a Type 3 golf club generally must be within approximately a 50 mile radius of the principal location of the golf club. For a Type 2 golf club, members generally must be within approximately a 75 mile radius of the principal location of the golf club.

"Identification" (applies to Type 3 only)

Each individual must provide proof of identification and residence to the golf club in order to be a member of the club.

"Playing Requirements and Club Size" (applies to Type 3 only)

The USGA will consider the playing requirement met if each member returns at least three scores played with other club members during the season, and at least one of those rounds is played in a club-sponsored event. Anyone not meeting this minimum requirement should be dropped from the handicap roster.

A golf club's size is limited: If membership in a club exceeds the number of available tee times offered in club-sponsored events, the playing requirements are not being met. For example, if a club has 200 members and conducts only eight organized events with a maximum of 15 players each, not all members will have played in a club sponsored event (8 x 15 = 120, not 200 or greater).

"Group Cohesion/Activities" (applies to all Types)

In order to be able to utilize the USGA Handicap System, the golf club must have group cohesion. Group activities should go beyond playing in tournaments. There should be a group orientation policy and other functions, such as group meetings, award banquets and the like.

"Contact Information" (applies to all Types)

Contact information about each member of the golf club must be made readily available to all members. (REVISED)

2/7.5. Club-Sponsored Event

Q: What constitutes a club-sponsored event, as referenced in the playing requirements portion of Decision 2/7?

A: A club-sponsored event is one that is organized and conducted by the golf club, the majority of participants are members of the club, and its contestants are playing the same golf course during a single round. The format of the competition must result in an acceptable score for handicap purposes and its conduct must be under the principles of the Rules of Golf. Providing club-sponsored events allows for interaction among members including some that may not normally play golf with one another, which increases the likelihood of peer review taking place. A club with 150 members that conducts a four-person event is deemed not to be fulfilling the intent of the club-sponsored event requirement.

2/8. Clarification of Reasonable and Regular Opportunity to Play Golf with Each Other

Q: Parts of the definitions of a Golf Club and Peer Review state, providing a reasonable and regular opportunity for members of a golf club to play golf with each other.  Would this requirement be satisfied by being on the same golf course, but not together within groups?

A: No. In order to gain an understanding of a player's potential ability and to form a reasonable basis for supporting or disputing a score that has been posted, a player needs to have played in the group with a fellow member. Merely being on the same golf course on the same day is not considered adequate for peer review to take place, as stated in the definitions of "peer review" and "golf club."

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