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 9 HANDICAP COMPETITIONS

9-1/1. Requiring Players to use a Handicap Index based on Local Scores

Q: Is it proper to make it a condition of a handicap competition that a Handicap Index must be based on scores made on four local courses?

A: The Committee in charge of the competition is entitled to determine the conditions of the competition. (See "The Rules of Golf," Rule 33-1.) If the Committee requires that players base their handicaps on scores limited to four local courses, these players would not be using a Handicap Index and could not term the handicap a Handicap Index. The USGA Handicap System requires players to return all scores, regardless of where they were made. (See Section 5-1b.)? The USGA recommends that the Committee in charge of a competition require the use of a Handicap Index in order to be fair and equitable.

9-1/2. Prohibiting Players whose Handicap Index is based on Fewer than Ten Scores from Handicap Competition

Q: A Committee has prohibited players whose Handicap Index is based on fewer than ten scores from handicap competitions on the basis that such a Handicap Index is generally higher than a Handicap Index based on ten or more scores. Is this proper?

A: The Committee in charge of the competition is entitled to determine the conditions of competition. (See "The Rules of Golf," Rule 33-1.) The USGA does not recommend prohibiting a player whose Handicap Index is based on fewer than ten scores from the competition because the Handicap Index that is based on fewer than ten scores is just as valid as a Handicap Index that is based on ten or more scores. Furthermore, a player whose Handicap Index is computed from fewer than ten scores has no advantage over other players. (See Section 11-4.)

9-2b/1. Procedure when Play Suspended During Round and Handicap Index Revised Prior to Resumption

Q: A handicap competition was scheduled for a Sunday. The competition began and was interrupted because of rain, and play was suspended for the day.

Play was resumed on the following Saturday. In the meantime, a revised Handicap Index list had been received and was posted.

A condition of the competition provided that players should use their Handicap Index in effect at the time each round was played. Should the players have used the Handicap Index with which they started the round or the Handicap Index in effect on the day on which play was resumed?

A: The Handicap Index in effect at the beginning of the round should have been used until the round was completed, even though the players? Handicap Index had been revised.

9-3a/1. Handicap Allowance in Singles Match Play when a Player with a Plus Handicap Competing

Q: In a match, A?s Course Handicap is plus 2 and B?s Course Handicap is 8. How many strokes may B receive?

A: The USGA recommends that B receive 10 strokes, and A play at scratch.

9-3a/2. Handicap Allowance in a Four-Ball Match when a Player with a Plus Handicap Involved

Q: In a four-ball match played on a handicap basis, the Course Handicap of each player involved is as follows: player A has a plus 2, player B has a 6, player C has a 2, and player D has a 4. How should Course Handicap be allocated?

A: The USGA recommends that player A receive no strokes, player B receive 8 strokes, player C receive 4 strokes, and player D receive 6 strokes. (See Section 9-4a(iii).)

9-3a/3. Handicap Strokes Given or Received in Four-Ball Stroke Play when Partner has a Plus Handicap

Q: In a four-ball stroke play net competition, A and B are partners. A?s Course Handicap is plus 2 and B?s is 2. On which holes may handicap-strokes be received or given?

A: A should add one stroke on the holes allocated as the 17th and 18th handicap-stroke holes. B should deduct one stroke on the holes allocated as the 1st and 2nd handicap-stroke holes. (See Section 9-4b(ii).)

9-3a/4. Minus or Zero Net Score?

Q: In a handicap match, a player entitled to two handicap strokes at a par-3 hole scores a 2 or a hole-in-one.? What would be the player?s net score in each case?

A: The player?s net score would be zero (0) if the player scored a 2 or minus one (-1) if the player had a hole-in-one. The same would be true in a four-ball stroke play or Stableford competition since scores are calculated on a hole-by-hole basis. (See ?The Decisions on the Rules of Golf,? 2-1/2.)

9-4a/1. Players Choose to Use Full Handicaps in Singles Match Play

Q: In singles match play, player A has a Course Handicap of 17 and player B has a Course Handicap of 13. Based on Section 9-4a(i), player A may receive four strokes from player B on the holes allocated as the first four handicap-stroke holes. The players decide to play the match with their full Course Handicap, A taking a handicap stroke on 17 holes and B taking a handicap stroke on 13 holes. Is this procedure equitable?

A: No. Handicap-stroke holes are established to maximize the number of halved holes in a match by assigning strokes where player A most needs four strokes in order to obtain a half on those holes. If both A and B receive strokes on those four holes, the better player (B) will have a greater chance of winning those holes. On holes allocated 14, 15, 16, and 17, A will receive strokes and B will not. A will have a greater chance of winning those holes. The result will be more holes won and lost than halved and the better player (B) will have an advantage in the match.

9-4a/2. Handicap Allowance in Four-Ball Match if One Player Unable to Compete

Q: In a four-ball match played on a handicap basis, the player with the lowest Course Handicap is unable to play. May the absent player be disregarded in determining handicap allowances?

A: No. The Course Handicap of the three players may be reduced by the Course Handicap of the absent player, and the three players may be allowed 100 percent of the resulting difference. If an incorrect Course Handicap is declared for the absent player, Section 3-6a applies. (?The Rules of Golf,? Rule 30-3a, 30-3e(i), and Decision 30-3a/3 of ?The Decisions on the Rules of Golf.?)

9-4a/3. Result of a Hole if Men?s and Women?s Par is Different

Q: In a match-play competition, one hole is par four for men and par five for women. In a match between a man and a woman, if both score par, what is the result of the hole?

A: Par is irrelevant. The player who completes the hole in fewer strokes wins the hole.

9-4b/1. Handicap Allowance in Foursome Stroke Play when a Player with a Plus Handicap Involved

Q: In foursome stroke play, a competitor?s Course Handicap is plus 1 and the partner?s Course Handicap is 12. How many handicap strokes does the side receive?

A: The side receives 50 percent of 11 strokes, which is 5.5, rounded to 6 strokes.

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