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. 

 

 

 

 

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Section 3 THE PLAYER

Definitions

Within each section, all defined terms are in italics and are listed alphabetically in Section 2 - Definitions.

A Handicap Index is the result of a mathematical calculation based on scores returned. A Handicap Index is converted to a Course Handicap for competition from a particular set of tees.

3-1. Obtaining a Handicap Index

In order to obtain a Handicap Index, a player must join a golf club and post adjusted gross scores. These scores are subject to peer review. After at least five scores have been posted, the club will be eligible to issue a Handicap Index to the player in accordance with the USGA Handicap System.

3-2. Using a Handicap Index

A Handicap Index, issued by a golf club, is a number that represents the potential ability of a player on a course with a Slope Rating of 113. The Handicap Index is updated and reissued at established revision dates set by authorized golf associations. A player is responsible for knowing the Handicap Index issued to the player at the most recent revision. A player must convert a Handicap Index to a Course Handicap. For example, a Handicap Index of 16.2 would convert to a Course Handicap of 20 at a course with a Slope Rating of 140, using the sample Course Handicap Table in this section. (See Decisions 3-2/1, 3-2/2.)

3-3. Course Handicap

A Course Handicap is the number of handicap strokes a player receives from a particular set of tees at the course being played.

To convert a Handicap Index to a Course Handicap, a player takes the Handicap Index to a Course Handicap Table to find the corresponding Course Handicap. Each set of rated tees will have a different Course Handicap Table for men and women based on its Slope Rating. It is the player's responsibility to determine the correct Course Handicap, and to know the holes at which handicap strokes are to be given or received. (See sample Course Handicap Table, Section 3-6, and "The Rules of Golf," Rule 6-2).

A player's Course Handicap is determined by multiplying a Handicap Index by the Slope Rating of the course played and then dividing by 113. (See Section 10-4.) The resulting figure is rounded off to the nearest whole number (.5 or more is rounded upward).

A player who has a net score that is equal to the USGA Course Rating for the tees played "has played to that player's handicap." In general, this will occur about once every four or five rounds.

A Course Handicap Table is designed to determine a Course Handicap. It is for use only with the USGA Handicap System by an authorized golf association and a golf club that has a valid USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating.

Note: The Course Handicap Table should include the USGA Course Rating for the corresponding tee (See sample Course Handicap Table on page 19).

 

COURSE HANDICAP TABLE

Issued by the XYZ Golf Association
CLUB NAME ABC GOLF CLUB TEES BACK
SLOPE RATING 140 USGA COURSE RATING 72.7 BOGEY RATING 98.7

For: X Men   __Women

Handicap IndexCourse HandicapHandicap IndexCourse Handicap
+3.5 to +2.9+416.6 to 17.321
+2.8 to +2.7+317.4 to 18.122
+2.0 to +1.3+218.2 to 18.923
+1.2 to +5+119.0 to 19.724
+.4 to.4019.8 to 20.525
.5 to 1.2120.6 to 21.326
1.3 to 2.0221.4 to 22.127
2.1 to 2.8322.2 to 23.028
2.9 to 3.6423.1 to 23.829
3.7 to 4.4523.9 to 24.630
4.5 to 5.2624.7 to 25.431
5.3 to 6.0725.5 to 26.232
6.1 to 6.8826.3 to 27.033
6.9 to 7.6927.1 to 27.834
7.7 to 8.41027.9 to 28.635
8.5 to 9.21128.7 to 29.436
9.3 to 10.01229.5 to 30.237
10.1 to 10.81330.3 to 31.038
10.9 to 11.71431.1 to 31.839
11.8 to 12.51531.9 to 32.640
12.6 to 13.31632.7 to 33.441
13.4 to 14.11733.5 to 34.342
14.2 to 14.91834.4 to 35.143
15.0 to 15.71935.2 to 35.944
15.8 to 16.52036.0 to 36.4 45

INSTRUCTIONS

. When using the table, find the range containing the Handicap Index in the left column. The Course Handicap is the corresponding number in the right column.

. The table above is a sample. Make sure that the table you use is for the tees that you play for a particular round.


3-4. Maximum Handicap Index

The maximum Handicap Index is 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women. (See Section 10-5d.)

Note: A maximum Handicap Index will convert to a Course Handicap that exceeds these numbers on golf courses with a Slope Rating greater than 113.

Example: A player with a Handicap Index of 36.4 will have a Course Handicap of 43 on a course with a Slope Rating of 133.

A player may have a local handicap above these limits, but it must be identified as a local handicap by the letter "L" following the number on a handicap card or report (e.g., 41.5L). When such local handicaps are used for inter-club play, the USGA recommends that they be reduced to the maximum Handicap Index as specified.

3-5. Players Competing from Different Tees or Men and Women from Same Tees

a. Different Tees: Men vs. Men; Women vs. Women; Women vs. Men

Different tees usually have different Ratings. Because a USGA Course Rating reflects the probable score of a scratch golfer, the higher-rated course is more difficult, and the player playing from the set of tees with the higher USGA Course Rating receives additional stroke(s) equal to the difference between each USGA Course Rating, with .5 or greater rounded upward. The additional stroke(s) are added to the Course Handicap of the player playing from the higher-rated set of tees. (See Decision 3-5/1.)

Example 1: If men playing from the middle tees where the men's USGA Course Rating is 70.3 compete against men playing from the back tees where the men's USGA Course Rating is 72.6, the men playing from the back tees will add two strokes (72.6 - 70.3 = 2.3 rounded to 2 ) to their Course Handicap.

Example 2: If women playing from the forward tees from which the women's USGA Course Rating is 73.4 compete against men playing from the middle tees from which the men's USGA Course Rating is 70.9, the women will add three strokes (73.4 - 70.9 = 2.5 rounded to 3) to their Course Handicap.

b. Same Tees: Men vs. Women

Men and women playing from the same set of tees will have different ratings. Because the women's USGA Course Rating usually will be higher, women receive additional stroke(s) equal to the difference between ratings, with .5 or greater rounded upward.

Example: If women playing from the middle tees from which the women's USGA Course Rating is 77.3 compete against men playing from the middle tees from which the men's USGA Course Rating is 70.9, the women will add six strokes (77.3 - 70.9 = 6.4 rounded to 6) to their Course Handicap.

The adjustment must be added to the higher-rated tee players' Course Handicap even if it causes a Course Handicap to exceed the maximum possible for the Slope Rating of the set of tees being played. Alternatively, it is permissible to subtract the extra handicap strokes from the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with the lower USGA Course Rating.

How to Properly Apply Section 3-5:

Step 1: Calculate Course Handicap from tees played per Section 3-3.

Look up each player's Course Handicap on the appropriate gender-based Course Handicap Table for the tees played or use the Course Handicap formula:

Handicap Index x Slope Rating of tees played, and then divided by 113.

Example: A woman with a Handicap Index of 26.5 who is playing from tees with a Slope Rating of 120 has a Course Handicap of 28. (See Section 3-3 to compute a Course Handicap.)

A man with a Handicap Index of 26.5 who is playing from tees with a Slope Rating of 115 has a Course Handicap of 27. (See Section 3-3 to compute a Course Handicap.)

Step 2: Apply any handicap allowance per Section 9-4 (if applicable).

Example: Suppose the Committee in charge of a four-ball stroke play competition determines that men compete at 90 percent and women at 95 percent of Course Handicap.

The Course Handicap of 27 for the man in step 1 would be reduced to 24 handicap strokes (27 x .90 = 24.3, with the difference of .4 or less rounded downward to 24 strokes).

The Course Handicap of 28 for the woman in step 1 would be reduced to 27 handicap strokes (28 x .95 = 26.6, with the difference of .5 or greater rounded upward to 27 strokes).

Step 3: Calculate the difference in USGA Course Rating from tees played, with any difference of .5 or greater rounded upward.

Example: Suppose the man in step 2 is playing from the middle tees from which the USGA Course Rating is 73.7 and the woman is playing from the front tees from which the USGA Course Rating is 69.8.

USGA Course Rating 73.7 - USGA Course Rating 69.8 = 3.9, with the difference of .5 or greater rounded upward to 4 strokes.

Add the extra handicap strokes from step 3 to the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with the higher USGA Course Rating. Alternatively, it is permissible to subtract the extra handicap strokes from the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with the lower USGA Course Rating. (See Decision 3-5/1.)

Example: A man playing the tees with the higher USGA Course Rating (73.7), adds 4 strokes to his Course Handicap and competes off 28 strokes (24 + 4 = 28 strokes), while the woman in steps 2 and 3 competes off 27 strokes.

Alternatively, the woman could be reduced to a Course Handicap of 23 strokes (27 - 4 = 23 strokes), while the man in steps 2 and 3 competes off 24 strokes.

Note: Strokes given or received under the procedures in steps 2 and 3 above are to be disregarded when applying ESC for handicap purposes. (See Section 4-3, Examples 2 and 3.) Example: After a Section 3-5 adjustment, a player has added three strokes to a Course Handicap of 25. The Course Handicap when applying Equitable Stroke Control is 25. The correct handicap for competition is 28. (See Section 3-6.)

 

See Appendix D for a sample letter explaining Sections 3-5 and 9-3c.

3-6. Applying Handicaps Correctly in Competitions

Rule 6-2 of "The Rules of Golf" requires players to apply handicaps correctly in competition. The correct handicap for competition should mean the Course Handicap adjusted for any strokes given or received as a result of handicap allowance, condition of competition, players competing from different tees,
or men and women from the same tees. (See Sections 9-4 and 3-5.)

a. Match Play

Before starting a match in a handicap competition, each player should determine from one another the player's respective Course Handicap. If a player begins a match having declared a Course Handicap higher than that to which the player is entitled and this affects the number of strokes given or received, the player is disqualified; otherwise, the player must play off the declared Course Handicap.

b. Stroke Play

In any round of a handicap competition, the player must ensure that the player's Course Handicap is recorded on the score card before it is returned to the Committee. If no Course Handicap is recorded on the score card before it is returned (Rule 6-6b), or if the recorded Course Handicap is higher than that to which the player is entitled and this affects the number of strokes received, the player is disqualified; otherwise, the score stands.

Note: It is the player's responsibility to know the holes at which handicap strokes are to be given or received.

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