Appendix C: Handicap Allowances

Handicap allowances are designed to provide equity for players of all levels of ability in each format of play, over both 9 holes and 18 holes.

Handicap allowances are applied to the Course Handicap as the final step in calculating a player’s Playing Handicap (see Rule 6.1 Course Handicap Calculation and Rule 6.2 Playing Handicap Calculation).

The National Association is responsible for establishing handicap allowances or it can delegate this responsibility to a Regional Golf Association or golf club.

The following table sets out the recommended handicap allowances based on medium-sized field net events. The allowances may be adjusted based on field size and the desired equity (see Interpretation C/1C/1 – Impact of Field Size on Recommended Handicap Allowance ):

Format of Play

Type of Round

Recommended Handicap Allowance

Stroke play

Individual

95%

Individual Stableford

95%

Individual Par/Bogey

95%

Individual Maximum Score

95%

Four-Ball

85%

Four-Ball Stableford

85%

Four-Ball Par/Bogey

90%

Match Play

Individual

100%

Four-Ball

90%

Other

Foursomes

50% of combined team handicap

Greensomes

60% low handicap + 40% high handicap

Pinehurst/Chapman

60% low handicap + 40% high handicap

Best 1 of 4 stroke play

75%

Best 2 of 4 stroke play

85%

Best 3 of 4 stroke play

100%

All 4 of 4 stroke play

100%

Scramble (4 players)

25%/20%/15%/10%
from lowest to highest handicap

Scramble (2 players)

35% low/15% high

Total score of 2 match play

100%

Best 1 of 4 Par/Bogey

75%

Best 2 of 4 Par/Bogey

80%

Best 3 of 4 Par/Bogey

90%

4 of 4 Par/Bogey

100%

Handicap Competitions:

For organized competitions, the Committee should specify the handicap allowance within the Terms of the Competition. 

In general, after handicap allowances have been applied in stroke play formats, a player receives their full Playing Handicap.

In general, after handicap allowances have been applied in match play formats, the player with the lowest Playing Handicap plays off zero strokes relative to the other player(s).  The other player(s) receive(s) the difference between their own Playing Handicap and that of the player with the lowest Playing Handicap.

Plus Playing Handicaps:

Unless otherwise specified by the Committee, players with a ‘plus’ Playing Handicap give strokes back to the course, beginning at the hole with stroke index 18. For example, a player with a Playing Handicap of +2 would give strokes back to the course at the holes with stroke index 18 and 17.

When handicap allowances are applied, a player with a plus Playing Handicap moves up towards zero including rounding. This is to maintain the same relative difference between Playing Handicaps.

Extra Holes:

Handicap allowances are designed to create equity over 9 or 18 holes. The Terms of the Competition should specify where handicap strokes should be applied if extra holes are required to determine the winner or other finishing positions (see Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, Committee Procedures, Section 7A).

APPENDIX C Interpretations:

C/1 – Impact of Field Size on Recommended Handicap Allowance

Field sizes have an impact on equity and should be considered when determining handicap allowances for a specific event and format of play.

The recommended handicap allowance for all individual stroke play formats of play is set at 95% for medium-sized field net events, of at least 30 players. For a field size of fewer than 30 players, the recommendation would be to increase the handicap allowance to 100%.

C/2 – Examples of How to Allocate Strokes in Handicap Competitions When Handicap Allowances Apply

Player

Singles Match Play
Playing Handicap
100% Handicap Allowance

Four-Ball Match Play
Playing Handicap
90% Handicap Allowance

A

10

9

B

18

16

C

27

24

D

39

35

Example 1: In singles match play between player A and player B, player A plays off zero (0) strokes and player B receives 8 strokes in the match.

Example 2: In four-ball match play, player A would play off zero (0) strokes, player B would receive 7 strokes, player C would receive 15 strokes and player D would receive 26 strokes.

Note: The strokes received in Four-Ball match play remain the same even if the lowest handicap player is unable to play.

C/3 – Examples of How to Allocate Strokes in Handicap Competitions Involving Plus Handicap Players and When Handicap Allowances Apply

The following illustration indicates how an 85% handicap allowance is applied to two teams playing in a Four-Ball stroke play competition with Course Handicaps of +4 (player A), 16 (player B), 7 (player C) and 26 (player D):

The 85% handicap allowance results in a 17-stroke difference between partners for Team 1 and a 16-stroke difference between partners for Team 2. This is approximately 85% of the difference between the Course Handicaps, and maintains relative equity.

When applying a handicap allowance, any reduction will always result in a Playing Handicap closer to zero, including for players with a plus Handicap Index.

Examples:

Player Course Handicap

Four-Ball Stroke Play
Playing Handicap
85% Handicap Allowance

Four-Ball Match Play
Playing Handicap
90% Handicap Allowance

A +4 +3 +4
B 16 14 14
C 7 6 6
D 26 22 23

Example 1: In Four-Ball stroke play, player A gives 3 strokes back to the course, player B receives 14 strokes, player C receives 6 strokes and player D receives 22 strokes.

Example 2: In Four-Ball match play, player A plays off zero (0) strokes, player B receives 18 strokes, player C receives 10 strokes and player D receives 27 strokes.