Handicap

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

Section 3 THE PLAYER

3-2/1. Player has Handicap Index (N) and Wishes to Participate in 18-Hole Competition

Q: A player with a Handicap Index (N) (see Section 10-5) wishes to compete in an 18-hole competition. The player does not have an 18-hole Handicap Index. How may the player calculate an 18-hole handicap?

A: If a player has a Handicap Index (N), the player should double the Handicap Index (N) for 18-hole play. It may be noted that the Handicap Index (N) is not as accurate as an 18-hole Handicap Index; it is based on half as many hole scores, and the player will generally receive one or two fewer strokes than with an 18-hole Handicap Index.

3-2/2. Handicap to Use if Player Has Both an 18-Hole Handicap Index and Handicap Index (N)

Q: A player has both an 18-hole Handicap Index and a Handicap Index (N). If the player's Handicap Index (N) were doubled, it would not be equal to the player's 18-hole Handicap Index. Which Handicap Index may the player use in a competition?

A: The 18-hole Handicap Index should be used for 18-hole play and the Handicap Index (N) should be used for 9-hole play.

3-5/1. Adjusting for the Difference in USGA Course Rating between Two Sets of Tees when Most of the Field is Playing from the Higher-rated Set of Tees

Q: When adjusting for the difference in USGA Course Rating between two sets of tees, a player playing from the higher-rated set of tees must add the difference in USGA Course Rating to the player's Course Handicap. In a competition with a field of 100 players, in which 88 are playing the back tees and 12 are playing the forward tees, instead of adding the difference in USGA Course Rating to the Course Handicap of each of the 88 players, could the Committee subtract it from the Course Handicap of the 12 players playing the lower-rated set of tees?

A: Yes. The Committee may subtract the difference in rating in such cases since the overall effect will be the same.

3-5/2. May a Golf Club Choose Not to Follow Section 3-5 of the USGA Handicap System

Q: May golf clubs choose not to follow Section 3-5 of "The USGA Handicap System" manual if the club's groups are competing from different tees?

A: No. Not applying Section 3-5 of The "USGA Handicap System" when players are competing from different tees would be waiving a Rule of Golf, and the Committee in charge of a competition does not have the authority to waive a Rule of Golf.

3-6/1. Player in Match Uses Established Handicap but Handicap is Too High Due to Player's Failure to Observe Provision of the USGA Handicap System

Q: Player A's Course Handicap is 23 and Player B's Course Handicap is 31. A and B compete in a match and, based on the handicap allowance from Section 9-4a(i), B receives 8 strokes, the difference between 31 and 23. B wins the match, 1 up. A questions B's handicap; B admits to not adjusting hole scores under the Equitable Stroke Control provision of the USGA Handicap System. It is determined that if B had adjusted hole scores using ESC, Course Handicap would be 29 strokes. The Committee disqualifies B under Rule 6-2a. Was the Committee correct?

A: Rule 6-2a of "The Rules of Golf," acknowledges that: "Before starting a match in a handicap competition, the players should determine from one another their respective handicaps. If a player begins the match having declared a higher handicap which would affect the number of strokes given or received, the player is disqualified; otherwise, the player plays off the declared handicap."

B's Course Handicap, although incorrect due to the player's failure to apply Equitable Stroke Control, was 31. Accordingly, B was not in breach of Rule 6-2a and the match should have stood as played.

As it is impractical for a Committee conducting a competition to determine whether a player has correctly recorded each score, turned in all scores, etc., for handicap purposes, the Rules of Golf assume that the player has done so. The solution to a situation such as this is for the Handicap Committee to take appropriate action against B under Section 8-4c of the USGA Handicap System manual because of the player's failure to apply Equitable Stroke Control to the scores the player returned for handicap purposes.

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