Article originally published in Golf Journal:
You’re standing on the first tee, headcover off the driver, tee in the ground. Thoughts swirl as you take your final practice swing. The still-blank scorecard brings a rush of optimism, along with one overarching thought: “I hope I play well today.”
But how do you define what “playing well” means? How can you set a reasonable goal for the round, especially on an unfamiliar course or a new set of tees?
The short answer: By knowing your target score. While “target score” isn’t defined within the Rules of Handicapping, it is certainly a term that every golfer with a Handicap Index® would benefit from knowing. Here are three key things to know about target score:
What is it?
A target score is the score you’ll shoot if you “play to your handicap.” If your Handicap Index is 15.0, for example, the posted score would result in a Score Differential™ of about 15.0. In other words, if you shoot your target score or better, you’ve had a great day!
How do you determine it?
Easy – simply add your Course Handicap™ to the par of the tees you’re playing. If your Course Handicap is, say, 20, and par is 70, your target score would be 90.
How often should I shoot it?
Your Handicap Index measures your demonstrated ability when you’re playing well – so to play to your handicap takes a solid performance. Generally, players shoot their target score about 15-20 percent of the time and can expect to shoot 2-4 strokes higher in most rounds.
Since your Course Handicap changes from one set of tees to another, you can also use target score to identify the most appropriate set for you. At the very least, knowing your target score before starting a round lets you better anticipate the challenge that lies ahead!