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 2 DEFINITIONS

Active Season

An "active season" is the period during which scores made in an area will be accepted for handicap purposes determined by the authorized golf association having jurisdiction in a given area.

Adjusted Gross Score

An "adjusted gross score" is a player's gross score adjusted under USGA Handicap System procedures for unfinished holes, conceded strokes, holes not played or not played under the Rules of Golf, or Equitable Stroke Control. (See Section 4.)

Authorized Golf Association

An "authorized golf association" is a not-for-profit entity that is recognized as having exempt status under Section 501 (c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code and has been licensed by the USGA to utilize the USGA Handicap System and/or the USGA Course Rating System within a certain state or region. It is an organization comprised of golf clubs or golfers, operated under bylaws, and in existence for the purpose of supporting USGA core programs and services for amateur golfers, and otherwise promoting the best interests and preserving the true spirit of the game of golf. See minimum requirements to be licensed by the USGA in the United States as an authorized golf association, which can be viewed on the USGA website at www.usga.org.

Bogey Golfer

A male "bogey golfer" is a player who has a Course Handicap of approximately 20 on a course of standard difficulty. He can hit tee shots an average of 200 yards and reach a 370-yard hole in two shots at sea level. A female bogey golfer is a player who has a Course Handicap of approximately 24 on a course of standard difficulty. She can hit tee shots an average of 150 yards and reach a 280-yard hole in two shots.

Bogey Rating

A "Bogey Rating" is the USGA's mark of the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for the bogey golfer under normal course and weather conditions. It is based on yardage, effective playing length, and other obstacles to the extent that they affect the scoring ability of the bogey golfer.

Course Handicap

A "Course Handicap" is the USGA's mark that indicates the number of handicap strokes a player receives from a specific set of tees at the course being played to adjust the player's scoring ability to the level of scratch or zero-handicap golf. For a player with a plus Course Handicap, it is the number of handicap strokes a player gives to adjust the player's scoring ability to the level of scratch or zero-handicap golf. A Course Handicap is determined by applying the player's Handicap Index to a Course Handicap Table or Course Handicap Formula. (See Section 10-4.) A player's Course Handicap is expressed as a whole number. The result of any conditions of the competition, handicap allowance, or competition from a different USGA Course Rating that changes a Course Handicap is considered to be the Course Handicap.

Course Handicap Table

A "Course Handicap Table" is a chart that converts a Handicap Index to a Course Handicap based on the Slope Rating for a specific set of tees.

Course Rating (See USGA Course Rating.)

Differential, Handicap (See Handicap Differential.)

Eligible Tournament Score

An "eligible tournament score" is a tournament score made either within the last 12 months or within the player's current 20-score history.

Equitable Stroke Control (ESC)

"Equitable Stroke Control" (ESC) is the downward adjustment of individual hole scores for handicap purposes in order to make handicaps more representative of a player's potential ability. ESC sets a maximum number that a player can post on any hole depending on the player's Course Handicap. ESC is used only when a player's actual or most likely score exceeds the player's maximum number based on the table in Section 4-3.

Golf Association

See authorized golf association.

Golf Club

A "golf club" is an organization of at least ten individual members* that operates under bylaws with Committees (especially a Handicap Committee) to supervise golf activities, provide peer review, and maintain the integrity of the USGA Handicap System (see Club Compliance Checklist, Section 8-2m and Decision 2/7). A golf club must be licensed by the USGA to utilize the USGA Handicap System. A club can obtain a license directly from the USGA or in conjunction with its membership in an authorized golf association that is already licensed by the USGA and that has jurisdiction in the geographic area that includes the principal location of the golf club. (See Appendix F.)

*For administrative reasons, some authorized golf associations may require a golf club to have more than the USGA minimum of ten members in order for the golf club to be a member of the authorized golf association.

Members of a golf club must have a reasonable and regular opportunity to play golf with each other. They must be able to return scores personally, and these scores must be readily available for inspection by others, including, but not limited to, fellow members and the club's Handicap Committee.

A golf club is one of three (3) Types:

Type 1. The members of a Type 1 club are located at a single specific golf course with a valid USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating where a majority of the club's events are played and where the club's scoring records reside; or

Type 2. The members of a Type 2 club are affiliated, or known to one another, via a business, fraternal, ethnic, or social organization. The majority of the club members had an affiliation prior to organizing the club; or

Type 3. The members of a Type 3 club had no prior affiliation and a majority of the recruiting and sign up of the membership is done by solicitation to the public (e.g., newspaper, Internet).

Note: Within the context of the USGA Handicap System a member is defined as one who is affiliated with a licensed golf club for the purpose of obtaining a Handicap Index.

Gross Score

A "gross score" is the number of actual strokes plus any penalty strokes taken by a player. (See adjusted gross score.)

Handicap Allowance

A "handicap allowance" is the percentage of the Course Handicap recommended for a handicap competition. Allowances vary for different forms of competition and are designed to produce equitable competitions. (See Section 9-4.)

Handicap Committee

A "Handicap Committee" is the Committee of a golf club that ensures compliance with the USGA Handicap System, including peer review. A majority of the Handicap Committee, including the chairperson, must be members of the club; club employees may serve on the Handicap Committee, but an employee may not serve as chairperson.

Handicap Differential

A "Handicap Differential" is the difference between a player's adjusted gross score and the USGA Course Rating of the course on which the score was made, multiplied by 113, then divided by the Slope Rating from the tees played and rounded to the nearest tenth, e.g., 12.8.

Handicap Index

A "Handicap Index" is the USGA's service mark used to indicate a measurement of a player's potential ability on a course of standard playing difficulty. It is expressed as a number taken to one decimal place (e.g., 10.4) and is used for conversion to a Course Handicap. (See Section 10.)

Handicap-Stroke Hole

A "handicap-stroke hole" is a hole on which a player is entitled to apply a handicap stroke or strokes to a gross score. (See Sections 9-3a and 17.)

Handicap Type

Throughout this manual, different types of handicaps are identified by letter designations. Each "handicap type" is identified as follows:

L = Local handicap

M = Handicap modified by the Handicap Committee

N = Nine-hole Handicap Index

NL = Local nine-hole handicap

R =
Handicap automatically reduced for exceptional tournament performance

SL = Short Course Handicap

WD = Handicap withdrawn by the Handicap Committee

Inactive Season

An "inactive season" is the period during which scores made in an area are not accepted for handicap purposes determined by the authorized golf association having jurisdiction in a given area.

Index (See Handicap Index.)

Local Handicap

A "local handicap" is either a handicap that is above the maximum Handicap Index limit (Section 3-4), a handicap that is revised more frequently than allowed (Section 8-3) or a handicap based on a player's temporary disability. A local handicap is not a Handicap Index, and it must be identified by the letter "L" to indicate that it is for local use only. A local handicap is expressed as a number taken to one decimal place and is used to convert to a Course Handicap (e.g., 41.5L). (See handicap type, trend handicap, and Section 3-3.)

Most Likely Score

A "most likely score" is the score a player must post for handicap purposes if a hole is started but not completed or if the player is conceded a stroke. The most likely score consists of the number of strokes already taken plus, in the player's best judgment, the number of strokes the player would take to complete the hole from that position more than half the time. This number may not exceed the player's Equitable Stroke Control limit. (See Section 4-3.)

Net Score

A "net score" is a player's score after handicap strokes have been subtracted from the player's gross score. A plus handicap player adds handicap strokes to the player's gross score to yield a net score.

Override

An "override" is a Handicap Committee's action to cancel a tournament score reduction (Section 10-3). An override is not to be used as a preventive measure to block an anticipated Section 10-3 reduction.

Par

"Par" is the score that an expert player would be expected to make for a given hole. Par means expert play under ordinary weather conditions, allowing two strokes on the putting green. Par is not a significant factor in either the USGA Handicap System or USGA Course Rating System. (See Section 16.)

Peer Review

"Peer review" is the ability of golfers 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.

There are two essential elements of peer review:

1. Members of a golf club must have a reasonable and regular opportunity to play together (see Decision 2/8).

2. Access must be provided to scoring records, as well as to a Handicap Index list, for inspection by others, including, but not limited to, fellow club members. There are two forms of scoring record display:

General - A General scoring record must provide the six most recent revisions of the player's Handicap Index, along with scores, score types, ratings, differentials and dates (month and year only) relating to the most recent handicap revision. This must be made available to those involved in peer review.

Complete - A Complete scoring record must provide the six most recent revisions of the player's Handicap Index, along with scores*, score types, ratings, differentials and dates (month, day and year) relating to the most recent handicap revision. This must be made available to fellow club members, the club Handicap Committee and competition officials of any competition in which the player is going to participate.

*The course name for each score should appear in any "Complete" scoring record display and must be included for a Type 3 club.

Penalty Score

A "penalty score" is a score posted by the Handicap Committee for a player who does not return a score or otherwise does not observe the spirit of the USGA Handicap System. (See Section 8-4b and 8-4c(iv) .)

Plus Handicap (See Course Handicap.)

Preferred Lies (Winter Rules)

"Preferred Lies" (winter rules) is a local rule that may be adopted by the Committee in charge of the competition or the Committee in charge of the course, in the event of adverse conditions that are so general throughout a course that improving the lie of the ball in a specified way would promote fair play or help protect the course. (See Section 7 and "The Rules of Golf," Appendix I.)

Score Type

A "score type" indicates specific aspects of a score within a player's scoring record and should be designated in the following manner:

A = Away

AI = Away Internet

C = Combined Nines

I = Internet

P = Penalty

T = Tournament

TI = Tournament Internet

The designated letter(s) must immediately follow the adjusted gross score if the score type is either a tournament score or an Internet-posted score.

Scoring Record

A "scoring record" is a file of up to twenty of the most recent scores posted by a player, plus any eligible tournament scores, along with appropriate USGA Course Rating, Slope Rating, course*, and date of each score.

*Type 1 and Type 2 golf club recommendation. Type 3 golf club requirement.

Scratch Golfer

A "scratch golfer" is a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any and all rated golf courses. A male scratch golfer, for rating purposes, can hit tee shots an average of 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots at sea level. A female scratch golfer, for rating purposes, can hit tee shots an average of 210 yards and can reach a 400-yard hole in two shots at sea level.

Slope Rating

A "Slope Rating" is the USGA's mark that indicates the measurement of the relative difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers compared to the USGA Course Rating (e.g., compared to the difficulty of a course for scratch golfers). A Slope Rating is computed from the difference between the Bogey Rating and the USGA Course Rating. The lowest Slope Rating is 55 and the highest is 155. A golf course of standard playing difficulty has a Slope Rating of 113.

Stipulated Round

A "stipulated round" consists of playing the holes of the course in their correct sequence unless otherwise authorized by the Committee in charge of the competition. The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorized by the Committee. The Committee may, for the purpose of settling a tie, extend the stipulated round to as many holes as are required for a match to be won. (See "The Rules of Golf," Definitions and Rule 2-3.)

Stroke Hole (See Handicap-Stroke Hole.)

Tournament Score

A "tournament score" is a score made in a competition organized and conducted by the Committee in charge of the competition. The competition must identify a winner(s) based on a stipulated round(s), and must be played under the principles of the Rules of Golf.

Using the above definition as a guideline, the Committee (preferably the Handicap Committee in consultation with the Committee in charge of the competition) must determine in advance if these conditions are met and announce in advance whether the score must be identified by the letter "T" when posted.

Routine events, such as regular play days, normally are not to be designated as T-scores because they are not significant in the traditions, schedules, formats, and membership of the club. (See eligible tournament score.)

Examples of inter-club competition scores that may be posted as tournament scores when they meet the above conditions are: competitions restricted by age, member-guest competitions, team matches, qualifying rounds for city, state, and national competitions, and competitions conducted by golf associations.

Examples of intra-club competition scores that may be posted as tournament scores when they meet the above conditions are low gross-low net competitions, four-ball match or stroke-play competitions, Stableford competitions, and club championships which are stroke or match play, scratch, or with handicap.

Trend Handicap

A "trend handicap" is an estimate of a handicap. It may include un-reviewed scores posted since the previous revision. The trend is not a Handicap Index, (See local handicap). A Trend Handicap must be identified by the letter "L" to indicate it is a local handicap.

USGA Course Rating

A "USGA Course Rating" is the USGA's mark that indicates the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for a scratch golfer under normal course and weather conditions. It is expressed as strokes taken to one decimal place, and is based on yardage and other obstacles to the extent that they affect the scoring ability of a scratch golfer. (See Section 13.)

USGA Handicap Index (See Handicap Index)

USGA Handicap System

The "USGA Handicap System" is the USGA's mark that denotes the USGA's method of evaluating golf skills so that players of differing abilities can compete on an equitable basis.

Winter Rules (See Preferred Lies.)


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