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HANDICAP FAQ’S

Update in progress!!

Fundamentals of Handicapping

My Handicap Index changed under the World Handicap System. Why?

Starting in 2020, your Handicap Index is based on the modernized Rules of Handicapping and is more responsive to good scores by averaging your eight best scores out of your most recent 20. Under the previous USGA Handicap System, the best 10 of 20 scores with a .96 multiplier was used. In most cases for golfers in the U.S., any change to the Handicap Index was minimal, i.e., tenths of a stroke. (Rule 5.2, Rules of Handicapping)

I recently posted scores, but my Handicap Index has not changed. Why?

Once you have 20 scores in your scoring record, your Handicap Index is calculated by averaging your 8 best Score Differentials out of your most recent 20, which means 12 of your last 20 scores are not used in the calculation. If your Handicap Index remains unchanged after posting score(s), it is most likely because the same 8 scores are still being used in your 8 best of 20 calculation. (Rule 5.2, Rules of Handicapping)

How many scores do I have to post before I get a Handicap Index?

In order to establish a Handicap Index, a total of 54 holes must be played and posted to your scoring record. These scores can be made up of any combination of 9- or 18-hole rounds. 9-hole scores are combined in the order that they are received to form 18-hole Score Differentials that are used to calculate your Handicap Index. Once you have posted a total of three 18-hole Score Differentials, a Handicap Index will be issued to you the very next day. (Rule 4.5, Rules of Handicapping)

Someone asks me what my handicap is when we are standing on the first tee. What do I tell them?

Start with your Handicap Index! This drives everything. Your Handicap Index forms the basis for your Course and Playing Handicap.

Course Rating, Slope Rating and par are used to determine your Course Handicap, which represents the number of strokes you need to play to par.

Your Playing Handicap is the actual number of strokes you give or receive for the round being played. It is typically the same number as your Course Handicap. However, one exception is when a term of the competition applies, such as a handicap allowance used for equity in certain formats of play. Another exception is for match play, where the player with the lowest Playing Handicap plays off zero strokes and the other players(s) receive the difference. (Rules 5.2, 6.1, 6.2 and Appendix C, Rules of Handicapping)

Handicap Index Calculation 101

How is a Handicap Index calculated?

Once you have 20 scores in your scoring record, your Handicap Index is calculated by first averaging the best 8 Score Differentials out of your most recent 20 scores. This value may be adjusted due to built-in safeguards that are applied when:

  • You submit an exceptional score, which is 7.0 strokes or better than your Handicap Index at the time the round is played, or
  • Your 8 of 20 calculation is 3.0 or more strokes above your Low Handicap Index from the previous 365 days.

If either one of those safeguards are applied, it will be clearly identified in your scoring record. (Rule 5, Rules of Handicapping)

What is a score differential and how is it calculated?

 A score of 80 on a difficult course may be a better performance than a 77 on an easier one, and it is the Score Differential calculation that allows this to be captured.

A Score Differential measures the performance of a round in relation to the relative difficulty of the course that was played, measured by the Course Rating and Slope Rating. The result of the daily Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) is also included in the Score Differential calculation, which may provide an adjustment if course and/or weather conditions significantly impacted scores on that day.

A Score Differential is calculated using the following formula:

(113 / Slope Rating) x (Adjusted Gross Score – Course Rating – PCC adjustment)

There may be additional adjustments to the Score Differential, such as an Exceptional Score Reduction or Committee-applied adjustment. These would be clearly identified within the scoring record.

(Rule 5.1, 5.9 and 7.1a, Rules of Handicapping)

I always play the same tees at the same course. Is my Handicap Index “established” from that set?

No. Every time a score is posted, it is converted into a Score Differential that evaluates your performance as if it were made on a course of standard difficulty. As a result, your Handicap Index is a portable number and, each time you play, it’s converted into a Playing Handicap as if you are playing that course for the very first time. (Rule 5, Rules of Handicapping)

What is the maximum Handicap Index?

The maximum Handicap Index is 54.0 for all players.

The Committee in charge of a competition may implement a lower maximum limit through a term of the competition and a Committee may also set a maximum Course/Playing Handicap to be used for the competition. (Rule 5.3, Rules of Handicapping)

How often is a Handicap Index updated?

A Handicap Index is updated the day after a score is posted, at midnight local time based on the location of your Allied Golf Association. As a result, players are expected to post their scores the day they play. (Rule 5.4, Rules of Handicapping)

Handicap Index Safeguards

What is the Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) and how does it work?

At the end of each day, the Playing Conditions Calculation takes place automatically to determine if scores made at the course were significantly higher or lower than the expected scores of the players who made them, primarily due to weather and/or course set up.

If scores were abnormally low or high, a PCC adjustment between -1 and +3 will be applied to the Score Differentials of everyone who played that day. A negative (-) adjustment means the course played easier than expected and a positive (+) adjustment means the course played more difficult than expected. A PCC of 0 means the course played as expected, which will be the case on most days.

The PCC:

  • Uses scoring data so no action is required by the club/course staff or golfer (except for posting scores),
  • Includes only scores made by players with a Handicap Index of 36.0 or below,
  • Considers both 9-hole and 18-hole scores in the calculation, and
  • Only takes place if at least 8 scores were posted on a given day.

(Rule 5.6, Rules of Handicapping)

I forgot to post my score the day I played. Will I still get the PCC adjustment?

The PCC only takes place once, at midnight local time, so if your score was posted after midnight it will not be included in the calculation. However, the score would still be subject to the resulting adjustment as long as you provide the correct date played. (Rule 5.6, Rules of Handicapping)

What is an Exceptional Score and what happens when I post one?

Any score that produces a Score Differential that is at least 7.0 strokes better than your Handicap Index at the time the round was played is considered exceptional and is subject to the Exceptional Score Reduction.

  • If the Score Differential is between 7.0 and 9.9 strokes better, a -1 adjustment is applied to each of the most recent 20 Score Differentials in your scoring record. This has a net impact of reducing the Handicap Index by 1 stroke.
  • If the Score Differential is 10.0 strokes or better, a -2 adjustment is applied to each of the most recent 20 Score Differentials. This has a net impact of reducing the Handicap Index by 2 strokes.

Scores made following the exceptional score will not contain the -1 or -2 adjustment (unless they are also exceptional) which will slowly diminish the impact of the reduction as you continue to post scores. Also, reductions for multiple exceptional scores are applied cumulatively. (Rule 5.9, Rules of Handicapping)

What is my Low Handicap Index and why is it displayed in my scoring record?

A Low Handicap Index is the lowest Handicap Index achieved over the 365-day period preceding the most recent score in your scoring record. The Low Handicap Index serves as a reference point against which your current Handicap Index can be compared.

A Low Handicap Index is established once you have 20 scores in your scoring record. (Rule 5.7, Rules of Handicapping)

Is there a limit on how much my Handicap Index can increase?

 To prevent extreme upward movement of a Handicap Index, every time it is updated, the new value is compared to your Low Handicap Index and:

  • If the result is more than 3.0 strokes higher, a soft cap will be applied to slow additional upward movement by 50%.
  • If the result is more than 5.0 strokes higher (after the application of the soft cap), a hard cap will be applied to restrict any additional upward movement beyond 5.0 strokes.

For example: Player A has a Low Handicap Index of 10.0 and a current 8 of 20 calculation of 13.4. Since any upward movement beyond 3.0 strokes is reduced by 50%, the player’s Handicap Index calculates at 13.2.

The Handicap Committee at the player’s club can override the soft cap or hard cap if circumstances such as injury or illness exist. (Rule 5.8, Rules of Handicapping)

Adjustment of Hole Scores

What is my maximum hole score for handicap posting purposes?

If you have an established Handicap Index, the maximum score for each hole played is limited to a net double bogey, equal to double bogey plus any handicap strokes you are entitled to receive based on your Course Handicap.

For example: A player with a Course Handicap of 15 receives one handicap stroke on holes with a stroke index of 1 through 15 on the scorecard.

On a par 4 hole with a stroke index of 10, the player’s maximum hole score is 7. Double bogey (6) + 1 handicap stroke = 7.

For players posting scores initial scores to establish a Handicap Index, the maximum hole score is limited to Par + 5. (Rule 3.1, Rules of Handicapping)

I started a hole but did not complete it. What score do I post?

When the format of play allows you to start a hole but not complete it, the score recorded for handicap purposes is your most likely score, equal to:

  • The number of strokes already taken on the hole, plus
  • Any penalty strokes incurred during the hole, plus
  • The number of strokes you would most likely require to complete the hole.

A most likely score is a reasonable assessment made by you based on the score you are most likely to make from that spot more than half the time. The following guidelines should be used to determine a most likely score:

  • If the ball lies on the putting green no more than 5 feet from the hole, add one stroke.
  • If the ball lies between 5 feet and 20 yards from the hole, add 2 or 3 additional strokes depending on the position of the ball, difficulty of the green and your ability.
  • If the ball lies more than 20 yards from the hole, add 3 or 4 additional strokes depending on the position of the ball, difficulty of the green and your ability.

(Rule 3.3, Rules of Handicapping)

I did not play a hole. What score do I post?

When a hole is not played, for example, due to darkness or construction, the score recorded for handicap purposes is net par, equal to par plus any handicap strokes you are entitled to receive based on your Course Handicap.

For example: A Player with a Course Handicap of 21 receives 1 handicap stroke on all 18 holes and 2 handicap strokes on holes with a stroke index of 1 through 3 on the scorecard.

On a par-3 hole with a stroke index of 17, the player’s net par score is 4 (3 + 1). (Rule 3.2, Rules of Handicapping)

How many holes must be played to post an acceptable score?

For a 9-hole score to be posted, at least 7 holes must be played. For an 18-hole score to be posted, at least 14 holes must be played.

If more than 9 but fewer than 14 holes are played, you must post a 9-hole score – which is then combined with another 9-hole score to create an 18-hole score. (Rule 2.2, Rules of Handicapping)

Course Handicap and Playing Handicap

What is the difference between a Course Handicap and Playing Handicap?

A Course Handicap represents the number of strokes needed to play to par of the tees being played. This is the number used to adjust hole scores for net double bogey or net par.

A Playing Handicap is the actual number of strokes you receive or give during a round and is the number used for the purposes of the game or competition. This number is often the same as a Course Handicap, however, if a handicap allowance is applied, if the format is match play, or if players are competing from tees with different pars, it may be different. (Rule 6.1 and 6.2, Rules of Handicapping)

How do I calculate my Course Handicap and Playing Handicap?

A Course Handicap is calculated using the following formula, but a mobile app or Course Handicap table at the course will do the math for you:

Course Handicap = Handicap Index x (Slope Rating / 113) + (Course Rating – par)

This number is rounded to the nearest whole number when applying net double bogey or net par adjustments. Otherwise, the unrounded result is retained and used to calculate a Playing Handicap.

Playing Handicap = Course Handicap x handicap allowance.

The result is then rounded to the nearest whole number. (Rule 6.1 and 6.2, Rules of Handicapping)

When players compete from different tees, do we have to make adjustments?

Since a Course Handicap represents the number of strokes received to play to par, an adjustment is only necessary if players are competing from tees with different pars.

When par is different, the player(s) competing from the tees with the higher par simply add the difference in par to their Playing Handicap(s). (Rule 6.2b, Rules of Handicapping)

Where does rounding occur within the Playing Handicap Calculation?

To avoid multiple rounding points during the conversion of a Handicap Index into a Playing Handicap, it is recommended that the handicap allowance (if applicable) be applied to the unrounded Course Handicap, which will result in additional accuracy.

This recommendation relies on the fact that, in most cases, golf clubs and Committees have access to tournament management software that is able to run the calculations automatically – and every authorized technology provider has been instructed to use this method for consistency and accuracy. (Rule 6.1 and 6.2, Rules of Handicapping)

Posting Scores

I accidentally posted an incorrect score. How can I change it?

Simply reach out to someone on the Handicap Committee at your club. That person will be able to correct the posted score.

Are scores designated at “Competition” scores treated differently?

Scores posted with a Competition, or “C” designation are not used any differently for the purposes of calculating a Handicap Index.

The Competition score designation provides a way for Committees to evaluate if any players perform better or worse in competitive versus recreational rounds, which may be used during a Handicap Review.

I played a round by myself. Why can’t I post a score?

Peer review is the process by which either a score or a player’s Handicap Index can be confirmed or challenged, and when rounds are played without another person present, the process cannot be facilitated. (Rule 2.1, Rules of Handicapping)

Can I manually enter the Course Rating, Slope Rating and par for a course I played?

You should always use the published rating information when available, and the vast majority of courses and tees have been rated for both genders by the Allied Golf Association. However, there may be times when you must manually enter the course information in order to post a score, including when:

  • The set of tees has not been rated for your gender, or
  • The round was played outside of the United States and a course search does not find the course played

In these cases, you should first reach out to the club and/or Golf Association in the area to obtain the rating information. At that point, you can manually enter the Course Rating, Slope Rating and par along with the score details. If no Course Rating, Slope Rating and par can be determined, the score will not be acceptable for handicap purposes.

If you are playing a set of tees that is not rated for your gender, the club representative in consultation with the Allied Golf Association can determine if a temporary Course Rating and Slope Rating can be created to post your score by utilizing the table found in Appendix G of the Rules of Handicapping.

Manually entering the rating information and par should be considered a last resort, since doing so will result in the score not contributing to the Playing Conditions Calculation data pool as it would not be identified with any particular course.

The Golf Course

Who Provides the Course Rating and Slope Rating for each golf course?

The local Colorado Golf Association, with support from the USGA, is responsible for training volunteers and conducting the on-course rating of all golf courses within their jurisdiction.

The Course Rating System is the foundation of the World Handicap System, and without the dedication of the Allied Golf Association staff and volunteers, the system would not function successfully.

What is a Course Rating and what does it represent?

A Course Rating represents the score a scratch player, with a Handicap Index of 0.0, should achieve on a golf course under normal course and weather conditions. For example, a Course Rating of 71.8 would equate to a scratch player’s expected score of 72 on a good round.

The Course Rating is determined by assessing the effective length of the golf course and the obstacles and challenges that face scratch players in their respective landing zones around the course. (Appendix G, Rules of Handicapping)

What is a Slope Rating and what does it represent?

Playing length and obstacles impact higher-handicap players more than lower-handicap players, and Slope Rating measures the relative difficulty of a golf course for players who are not scratch players compared to those who are scratch players.

It is determined by comparing the Course Rating to the Bogey Rating. A course of standard difficulty has a Slope Rating of 113. (Appendix G, Rules of Handicapping)

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