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Want to Establish a Handicap Index? Join the ClubUpdated March 14, 2022

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

You have purchased your first set of clubs, and you have been hitting balls on the practice range or perhaps on a golf simulator. Now, you are eager to join your friends on the course and have a fair game. This is a common pathway for new golfers. However, to make it fair, you will need to get a Handicap Index®, which allows for an adjustment based upon each player’s ability.

But how do you go about getting one? Simply click here to join a growing community of golfers in your area, contact a local course that you play often, or start your own golf club with at least nine friends.

So, just to be clear, a club does not necessarily mean a brick-and-mortar facility or a country 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 World Handicap System™. Clubs can be authorized through an Allied Golf Association (AGA) with jurisdiction in a specific geographic region, or directly through the USGA (if a Type 2 or Type 3 club). A list of AGAs can be found here, and your local AGA will be able to help you find a club that best suits your needs or help you form your own club.

An authorized golf club listing is also available to help you find a club that is close to home, here.

There are approximately 15 million golfers worldwide who have a Handicap Index and there are more than 16,000 authorized clubs within the United States. These clubs provide an opportunity to get in the game and start tracking your progress.

Once you have joined a club, you just need to play and post scores from a total of 54 holes, made up of any combination of 9 or 18-hole rounds, and you will have a Handicap Index the very next day!

With that said, there are a few things to keep in mind while starting out:

  1. Only scores made at courses with a valid Course Rating™ and Slope Rating® are acceptable for handicap purposes. But do not worry – nearly all courses within the United States and around the world are rated.

  2. The maximum hole score for handicap purposes during your first three rounds is limited to Par + 5. After that, your maximum hole score becomes a Net Double Bogey, equal to Double Bogey PLUS any handicap strokes you receive based on your Course Handicap™. To make it easy, we recommend posting your scores using the hole-by-hole option, which will allow this adjustment to take place automatically!

  3. For a nine-hole score to be acceptable, you must play at least 7 holes and to post an 18-hole score, at least 14 holes must be played. The score for the un-played holes? Par PLUS any handicap strokes you receive based on your Course Handicap.

  4. Match play scores are also acceptable! When a stroke is conceded or you do not hole out when the format of play allows, you can record your most likely score. A most likely score is equal to the number of strokes already taken (including penalty strokes) plus the number of strokes you would most likely require to complete the hole.

  5. While establishing and maintaining a Handicap Index, it is important to adhere to the Rules of Golf and Rules of Handicapping to ensure accuracy.

Looking for more information? Click here for a digital copy of the Handicapping Reference Guide – which is a quick read that covers what you need to know before, during and after a round. See you on the course!