Want to Establish a Handicap Index? Join the Club By Joey Flyntz, USGA

Establishing a Handicap Index allows all golfers to compete in a fair and equitable manner. (USGA/Matt Rainey)

You have bought your first set of clubs. You have been hitting balls on the practice range whenever time permits. And now you are eager to join your friends on the course. This is a common path for new golfers. However, if you want to make it a fair match, you will need to make allowances for each player’s ability. To do that, you will need to establish a Handicap Index®.

One of the biggest misconceptions about a Handicap Index is the role the USGA plays in issuing one to an individual golfer. The USGA does not issue Handicap Indexes to individuals, because the USGA does not meet the definition of a golf club. The USGA licenses clubs that follow the procedures of the USGA Handicap System™, and those clubs issue the Handicap Index. So, if you want to start playing with your friends and getting the strokes you need, find a golf club to join, or start your own.

It is important to note that a club doesn’t necessarily mean a brick-and-mortar country club, though that is one example of a club. A golf club is an organization of at least 10 individual members that operates under bylaws with committees (including a handicap committee) to supervise golf activities, provide peer review and maintain the integrity of the USGA Handicap System. Clubs can be licensed directly through the USGA or through an authorized golf association licensed by the USGA with jurisdiction in a specific geographic region. A list of all authorized golf associations can be found here.

Finding a club in your area that fits your needs can be challenging. Fortunately, the USGA has made it easy to find one close to you here.

“Using the licensed golf club listing on usga.org is a great tool to research the licensed golf clubs in your area,” said Kelly Reilly, coordinator of Handicap and Course Rating for the USGA. “There are currently 10 million people worldwide who have an established Handicap Index and more than 18,000 domestically licensed golf clubs. These clubs provide an opportunity to get in the game and start building a scoring record.”

Now that you have joined a club, you will need to play at a course with a USGA Course Rating™ and Slope Rating®, then post your scores for review by your fellow club members . Once you have posted five adjusted gross scores and a revision date passes, the club will issue you a Handicap Index. 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..

Once your Handicap Index is issued, it is important to adhere to the Rules of Golf to ensure accuracy. Click here for more detailed information about situations such as posting nine-hole scores and correctly giving strokes when players are playing from different tees. Click here to order a USGA Handicap Manual for quick reference when out on the course.

Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at jflyntz@usga.org.

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