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 5 SCORES

5-1a/1. Use of Scores Made by Playing Nine Random Holes of 18-Hole Course Twice

Q: When the weather is unpredictable, many of our members play holes 1, 2, 3, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18, all of which are relatively near the clubhouse. They then play the same holes again. May such scores be returned for handicap purposes?

A: Yes. Since this is common practice, the club may obtain, from its authorized golf association, a USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating for the course when played in this manner so Handicap Differentials can be determined.

5-1a/2. Score Made When Playing Alone

Q: If a player plays alone, should the score be returned for handicap purposes?

A: Yes, provided the round is played in accordance with the Rules of Golf.

5-1a/3. Returning Scores for Handicap Purposes While Playing on Temporary Greens or Tees

Q: May a club accept scores for handicap purposes if temporary greens or tees are being used?

A: Yes. If the Rules of Golf can be followed during the reconstruction period, scores should be posted. The club must contact its authorized golf association for advice regarding its specific situation. If a temporary green (not an alternate permanent green) is played, the recommendation of the authorized golf association may be for the club to advise players to post par plus any handicap strokes the player is entitled to receive on that hole. (See Section 4-2.) (Revised)

5-1a/4. Acceptability of Scores Made While Taking Playing Lessons

Q: May a player post a score made while taking a playing lesson?

A: No. Scores made when a player is receiving instruction are not made in accordance with the Rules of Golf - see Rule 8-1 of "The Rules of Golf" and may not be used in computing a Handicap Index.

5-1a/5. Status of Scores Made when Two Balls Played Throughout Round

Q: A player frequently plays alone and plays two balls throughout the round. May the player return the score made with each ball for handicap purposes?

A: No. The player may not return the score made with either ball, as such scores are not made in accordance with the Rules of Golf - see Rule 7-2 of "The Rules of Golf."

5-1b/1. Club Will Not Accept Away Scores

Q: May a club decline to accept away scores for handicap purposes?

A: No. A basic premise of the USGA Handicap System is that a player will post every acceptable round for peer review.

5-1c/1. Status of Scores Made When Match Play and Stroke Play Combined

Q: Two players competed in a match in the club championship and at the same time competed in a stroke play competition. Such practice is prohibited under Rule 33-1 of the Rules of Golf. May players return their scores for handicap purposes?

A: The stroke play score is an acceptable score for handicap purposes.

5-1e/1. Returning Scores Made at Par-3 Golf Courses

Q: Why is it not permissible for a Handicap Index to be computed from scores made on par-3 courses which are less than 3,000 yards in length?

A: Such courses do not normally require the use of a full set of clubs. It would not be equitable to handicap players on such short courses on the same basis as players on standard courses. A score on such a course is analogous to a score made in a competition that limits types of clubs. Such scores are not acceptable.

However, scores made on par-3 courses may be used to produce equitable handicaps for use at such courses only. Please follow the policy in Appendix A.

5-1e/2. Scores Made Using a Distance-Measuring Device

Q: Are scores made using information generated from a Distance-Measuring Device acceptable for handicap purposes?

A: In certain situations, yes. If the Distance-Measuring Device measures distance only, the score is acceptable for handicap purposes, regardless of whether the Committee has established a Local Rule allowing the use of a distance-measuring device. However, the use of a device that gauges or measures other conditions that might affect a player's play (e.g., wind or gradient) is not permitted and makes the score unacceptable for handicap purposes, even if these capabilities are disabled or not used. (REVISED)

5-1e/3. Scores made using an Artificial Device During the Execution of the Stroke

Q: Are scores made using artificial device(s), such as a towel placed under the arms during the execution of the stroke, acceptable for handicap purposes?

A: No. If artificial devices, as defined under Rule 14-3, are used during the execution of a stroke, the score is unacceptable for handicap purposes according to Section 5-1e(vii)

5-2a/1. Requiring Return of Scores Within a Prescribed Period

Q: Since some members of a club have been posting scores up to two months after they were made, would it be proper for the Handicap Committee to require that scores be posted within two weeks of the date on which they were made?

A: Yes. Normally, scores should be posted immediately after the round or as soon as practical. The Handicap Committee may set a reasonable limit within which scores must be posted, taking into account extenuating circumstances.

5-2a/2. Score Made Prior to Revision Date Returned too Late to Use

Q: May 1 is a handicap revision date. On April 30, players played but did not post their scores until May 2. What may the Handicap Committee do?

A: If practical, each player's handicap may be recomputed immediately, using the score made on April 30. When such procedure is not practical, as might be the case if the golf club's scores had been sent to a computation service, the score should be carried forward to the next revision date.

5-2a/3. Requiring the Return of Scorecards for Handicap Purposes

Q: May a Handicap Committee require the returning of scorecards from players in order for a score to be posted?

A: No. However, scorecards may be requested periodically if the Handicap Committee wishes to sample the accuracy with which players are adjusting scores. In any case, the club must not take punitive action regarding the scoring record or the Handicap Index if a scorecard does not accompany a score. 

5-2a/4. Requiring the Return of Scorecards by a Player Whose Handicap Index has been Withdrawn or Modified 

Q: If a player's Handicap Index has been withdrawn or modified by the player's Handicap Committee, and the player is allowed to get a new Handicap Index, may the Handicap Committee require the return of that player's scorecards?

A: Yes, the club Handicap Committee may request the return of scorecards for a probational period from a player who has had a Handicap Index withdrawn or modified. 

5-2a/5. Assigning Scores in Four-Ball (Better-Ball) When the Hole Scores are Left Blank

Q: During a golf club's four-ball (better-ball) tournament, a player leaves two individual hole scores blank on the scorecard because the partner's scores were used on those holes, as allowed under "The Rules of Golf," Rule 31-4. For handicap purposes only, what scores may the Committee enter for the player on those two holes?

A: If the player can be contacted and recall the strokes played on these two holes, the player must record the actual score for each hole, not to exceed the player's Equitable Stroke Control limit. If the player picked up on those holes, the Committee must record the most likely score, had the player completed the holes. (See Section 4-1.)  However, if that information is not available, the Committee must record a score of par plus any handicap strokes to which the player was entitled based on the player's Course Handicap. (See Handicap Decision 4-1/1.)

Note: For handicap posting purposes, there is a limit to the number of holes a player can leave blank. A player must have played 13 holes for an 18-hole score and 7 for a nine-hole score; therefore, leaving at the most 5 holes blank for an 18-hole score and 2 holes blank for a nine-hole score.

5-2a/6. Internet Score Posting

Q: What are some of the important aspects of Internet Score Posting?

A: Due to the ease of use of the Internet, the USGA believes that golf clubs and Handicap Committees can implement a positive Internet score posting component. Adopting Internet score posting requires that the golf club display scoring records of all members over the Internet as well. This may improve an aspect of peer review by giving members better ability to view other members' scores at any time. These features will continue to enhance the foundation of the golf club and the USGA Handicap System.

5-2a/7. Score to Post if Match Ends in Fewer Than 18 Holes and Player Completes Round

Q: In match play, a player wins the match on the 16th hole. The player plays the remaining two holes. What score may the player post for these two holes?

A: The player should post the actual scores on the post-match holes. To post in any other manner would be at odds with the basic premise that contends that each player will try to make the best scores at every hole in every round. If the Committee believes that the player is inflating hole scores on the post-match holes, it may apply provisions of Section 8. (See 8-4c(iv).) (REVISED)

5-2a/8. Posting Individual Scores Via a Palm-Size and/or Wireless Device

Q: May a player individually post scores using a palm-size device and/or other wireless type device?

A: Yes. A member of a golf club (which has adopted the policy to accept Internet-posted scores) may post scores in this manner as this method is similar in nature to Internet score posting at a computer terminal. Therefore, there is no prohibition against using this type of device. 

5-2a/9. Web site Computation

Q: Can an individual get a Handicap Index from a Web site?

A: No. However, an individual can obtain a Handicap Index from a licensed golf club that follows the USGA Handicap System in its entirety and communicates with its members primarily through a Web site. (See Decision 2/7.)  

5-2c/1. Method for Combining Nine-Hole Scores

Q: What method should be used to combine nine-hole scores when multiple nines are played, such as in a 27-hole Round Robin format?

A: The USGA recommends that the following method be used to combine nine-hole scores in a Round Robin format or in other events when the format requires 27 holes or multiple individual nines: The first two nines played on any day are combined to form an 18-hole score. The third nine is posted as a nine-hole score and becomes a part of the scoring record when combined with another nine-hole score.

An exception would occur if, for example, a player plays 27 holes in one day, and the first nine is a practice round. If this were the case, the nine-hole practice round would be posted as a nine-hole score, and the subsequent two nine-hole rounds would be combined to form an 18-hole score.

Both the first two nines and subsequent two nine-hole rounds referenced in this answer are eligible to be combined and designated as an 18-hole tournament score.

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