What is a Golf Handicap for a Beginner?

As an amateur golfer, you probably wonder whether you can play against pro golfers who have gone to world-class tours and events. The truth of this matter is that you can compete with the pros and even beat them in the final score. 

The handicap system is arguably the best thing to ever happen in golf. This is because the system allows players with different abilities and experiences to compete fairly on level ground. The handicap system is also the best way you, as a beginner golfer, can use to track your progress and improve on your skills. 

When asked what a golf handicap is for a beginner, the best way to answer the question is as follows. It is a standard measure for which beginner golfers can use to fairly play and compete with golfers who have better skills and even those beginners who have a lower level of mastery. 

How the Handicap System Works in Golf

Without the handicap system, it would be tough for a beginner to compete against experienced golfers. But with the system, Tiger Woods can play with you, and you will have a chance to beat him. 

There are, however, confusing theories of how the system works. What you should understand is that it provides a level playing field for different skilled players. When the system was invented back in the 1800s, the three best scores were averaged and subtracted from the highest score results. 

With changes in technology and advancement in the game, the system changed, and it is now more complicated. The difficulty of each course is currently involved in determining the final score. What happens is that the bogey rating is compared against the scratch rating to determine the slope of the course. 

How to get a Golf Handicap

At this point, you have a clue of what a golf handicap is, and you are probably wondering where to start. The first thing you need to do is acquire a golf handicap. You can do this by going to a golf course near you and request a handicap or go online.

Going to your local golf course is the traditional way, and they will be responsible for filling and completing the handicap. The State Golf Association in your area will be the one to administer the handicap to you. If you decide to go the digital way, several websites offer handicapping services either for free or at a fee. 

The tricky part is now calculating a handicap. This is the point where you would shy off if you are not so comfortable with numbers. The good thing is we live in the age of computers and they take care of such calculations. However, you can still calculate the handicap yourself. Ensure that your handicap is managed by the right regulatory body such as the USGA to make it official. 

Calculating Golf Handicaps for Beginners 

This is a beginner guide on how you can correctly calculate your handicap without the aid of computers. If you follow the steps closely, you will find the right value for your handicap. Therefore have your pen, paper, and calculator ready because we will do some mathematics. 

1. Collecting Data

For any calculations, you need data or numbers. It is therefore necessary that we get the correct data that will be used for the calculations. This involves going out to the golf course and taking some swings. Ensure that all the information is recorded accurately by writing the number of shots taken during each round. 

While some courses require a minimum of 10 rounds, you can go for as many as 20 rounds. This is because the higher the number, the better the accuracy. Do not make the mistake of exaggerating your figures because your calculations will be off.  

2. Finding Adjusted Score

This might seem challenging, but it is a straightforward process. The USGA does not have a basis for handicapping scores. Therefore you need to use a table to find where the score falls. There is a limit of numbers you can enter on every hole. This may sound challenging, but it is quite simple once you understand. 

The structure below shows how it works out for you based on your handicap. 

0-9 handicap – Maximum score of double bogey

10-19 handicap – Maximum score of 7

20 -29 handicap – Maximum score of 8

30 -39 handicap – Maximum score of 9

40 and above handicap – Maximum score of 10

3. Calculating handicap differential

When calculating the handicap differential, this is the correct formula you can use. 

HD = Handicap Differential

AGS = Adjusted Gross Score

CR= Course rating

SR= slope rating


HD = (AGS – CR) × 113/SR

The next step is to select your lowest handicap differential. This means that the top ten of the 20 most recent scores are used. You will then calculate the average of the least values from the differentials and multiply the results by 96%. 

Remember not to round off the results, so if the answer you found was 13.279, you should write it as 13.2 and not 13.3. 

4. Calculating course handicap

In summary, a course handicap is the number of strokes a golfer gets on a particular course. Therefore it can be calculated as follows. 

CH = Course handicap

HI = Handicap Index

SR = Slope Rating

CR = Course rating


CH = HI × SR/113 + (CR)

This is the 2020 update for calculating the course handicap. Formulas used previously are now no longer in use after the update. 

The Meaning of your Golf Handicap 

The best way to explain this is that it is a calculated gauze of what you can shoot on an average of 72 courses. You will find that some golfers shoot over par. In that scenario, we have a positive handicap as well. Professional golfers are usually between +4 and +6. 

Uses of Golf handicap

A golf handicap has various uses. You can use it to track your performance and how you play to understand the changes you can make whenever possible. Furthermore, you can use a golf handicap to side wager with your friends. 

You can also use it to compete in net tournaments. These tournaments allow different players with different skills to play on a level playing ground. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good handicap for a beginner?

A good handicap depends on how hard you work on improving your game. On average, the beginner’s handicap is usually somewhere in the 30s. Focus on improving for the better to get a good score finally. A handicap of 20 or even lower would be an excellent score for any beginner.

What is an average golf score for a beginner?

When golfers begin to learn different techniques, their average score usually lingers somewhere between 100 and 115. 

Do pro Golfers have a handicap?

Handicaps are designed for amateur golfers. However, to level the field when professionals are playing with amateurs, handicaps are used. 

What is a decent Handicap in golf?

The average golfer has a handicap of between 16 and 20. To get such a handicap, you need to score a 90 on the golf course

Bottom line

As a beginner, your handicap should not be a limiting factor. The average handicap for an amateur is usually in the 30s. It is best if you focus on improving your handicap. Always ensure that your equipment is in the right form and improve yourself by pushing harder. 

It is good that you now know how to calculate your handicap. What remains is working on getting better every day. If you get worse today, know that tomorrow you will get better. With the right mindset, golf is an entertaining game.

Last Updated on March 3, 2021 by Tom Fiore

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Hey ! I'm Tom. I have been playing Golf for most of my adulthood and have an experience of about 10+ Years. I love to guide people on their golf journey and share my experience of playing Golf, using products and all the tips I have for people out there ! Thanks for reading my blog.

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