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 4 ADJUSTING HOLE SCORES

4-1/1. Explanation of "Most Likely Score" for Holes Not Completed

Q: Section 4, adjusting hole scores, says that a player who starts but does not complete a hole records for handicap purposes the "most likely score." This score must not exceed the player's maximum number under Equitable Stroke Control. Clarify the meaning of most likely score.

A: Most likely score is a judgment that each player must make based on the player's own game. It consists of the number of strokes already taken plus, in the player's best judgment, the number of strokes needed to complete the hole from that position more than half the time. The player must evaluate each situation based on what the player can reasonably expect to score. 

Finally, the player compares the most likely score to the maximum permitted under Equitable Stroke Control and enters the lower of the two. For example, if most likely score is 8 but the applicable ESC maximum is 7, the player enters a score, for handicap purposes, of X-7.

4-2/1. Explaining the Phrase "Principles of the Rules of Golf" in Accordance with "The USGA Handicap System" Manual

Q: What is meant by the phrase "in accordance with the principles of the Rules of Golf" in "The USGA Handicap System" manual?

A: The phrase "in accordance with the principles of the Rules of Golf " refers to situations where the player has played a hole in such a manner that the score would be sufficiently accurate to be used for handicap computation purposes. Occasionally, holes are not played strictly in accordance with the Rules of Golf. Thus, flexibility has been provided in the USGA Handicap System for a score to remain acceptable for handicap posting purposes in certain situations. This policy better ascertains the player's potential ability by attempting to capture more scores for handicap purposes than just those made in accordance with the Rules of Golf. For example, a player starting but not finishing a hole in stroke play (e.g., picking up before holing out) records the "most likely score" for handicap purposes (see Section 4-1).

If a player uses a distance (only) measuring device or plays a round under preferred lies, regardless of the Local Rule established, the score remains acceptable for handicap purposes. (See Decision 5-1e/2 and Section 7.) This policy also includes situations that are generally out of the player's control, such as incorrectly installed hole liners or an incorrectly marked golf course. (See Section 15-5.) (NEW) 

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