Definition of a Golf Club

Additional Decisions regarding Definitions of a Golf Club

Section 2 of the USGA Handicap System™ defines a golf club as follows:

A "golf club" is an organization of at least ten 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 (see Compliance Checklist, Section 8-2m; Decision 2/7). A golf club must be licensed by the USGA® to utilize the USGA Handicap System. A club can obtain a license agreement directly from the USGA or through 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.


Each golf club must determine its type. A golf club is one of three (3) types:

  1. It is located at a single specific golf course with a valid USGA Course RatingT and USGA Slope Rating® where a majority of the club's events are played and the club's scoring records reside; or
  2. Its members 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
  3. The members had no prior affiliation and a majority of the recruiting and sign-up of the membership is done by solicitation to the general public (e.g., Internet, newspaper).


Decision 2/7. Clarification of Compliance/License Issues for Golf Club Categories Described in the Golf Club Definition

"Principal Location" (applies to types 2 and 3 only)

The principal location of a golf club shall be the physical address in the city or town which the club first identified in its application for a license to utilize the USGA Handicap SystemT. So long as the golf club is in existence, the principal location shall not be changed without the prior written consent of the authorized golf association of which the golf club is a member, or if the club is not a member of a golf association, of the USGA®. Members of a golf club who are issued a Handicap Index® must be from a small defined geographic area, i.e., the residence or business address of each member of the golf club must generally be within approximately a 50 mile radius of the principal location of the golf club.

"Identification" (applies to type 3 only)

Each individual must provide proof of identification and residence to the golf club in order to be a member of the Club.

"Playing Requirements and Club Size" (applies to type 3 only)

The USGA will consider the playing requirement met if each member returns at least three scores played with other club members during the season, and at least one of those rounds is played in a club sponsored event. Anyone not meeting this minimum requirement should be dropped from the handicap rolls.

A golf club's size is limited: If membership in a club exceeds the number of available tee times offered in club sponsored events, the playing requirements cannot be met. For example, if a club has 200 members and conducts only eight organized events with a maximum of 15 players each, not all members will have played in a club sponsored event.

"Group Cohesion/Activities" (applies to all types)

In order to be able to utilize the USGA Handicap System, the golf club must have group cohesion. Group activities should go beyond playing in tournaments. There should be a group orientation policy and other functions, such as group meetings, award banquets and the like.

"Contact Information" (applies to all types)

Contact information for each member of the golf club must be made readily available to all members. ( NEW )

Club Compliance Checklist

1 Meet the USGA definition of a golf club?    
2 Have a Handicap Committee composed mostly of members and chaired by a member? (Section 8-1)    
3 Make it possible for a player to record the correct USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating with each posted score from every set of tees? (Sections 5-2, 8-2b, and 8-4c)    
4 Require the posting of all scores made at home and away? (Section 5-1)    
5 Require use of USGA procedures to adjust hole scores before posting? (Section 4)    
6 Require that nine-hole scores be posted? (Section 5-2c and 5-2d)    
7 Insist that the principles of the Rules of Golf be followed? (Section 5-1d)    
8 Follow the National Revision Schedule and posting season of the authorized golf association having jurisdiction in the region? (Section 8-3a and 8-3b)    
9 Ensure that all acceptable scores are entered correctly? (Section 5-2)    
10 Perform computations and adjustments in accordance with the USGA Handicap Formula? (Sections 8-4 and 10)    
11 Make current scoring records and a Handicap Index listing of all members readily available for inspection by others? (Section 6-3)    
12 Reduce or increase a Handicap Index of any player whose Handicap Index does not reflect the player’s potential ability? (Section 8-4c)    
13 Notify an authorized golf association when permanent changes have been made to the golf course so that the association can issue a new USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating? (Section 14-5b)    
14 Include the letter “L” after local handicaps, which exceed the USGA maximum limits of 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women? (Section 3-4)    
15 Utilize the current USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating issued by an authorized golf association? (Section 14)    
16 Have a representative from the golf club participate in a USGA Handicap System Seminar (whether conducted by the USGA or an authorized golf association) including passing a test exhibiting knowledge about the System?    
17 Have a signed license agreement in place with a local authorized golf association or the USGA prior to issuing a Handicap Index?    



If the answer to all questions is “yes,” the golf club is following the USGA Handicap System and may issue a Handicap Index.


If any answers are “no,” the authorized golf association or the USGA should be contacted to determine necessary action to achieve compliance.

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