What is a Handicap in Golf? Best Guide of 2022

If you are just starting in the world of golf, you have surely heard players ask themselves what their handicap is more than once. So, you may wonder what is a handicap in golf?. The Handicap is one of the most basic concepts that you must understand when entering the world of golf.

Therefore, we are going to explain what a handicap is and how to calculate it. That way, when they ask you about yours, you can answer with certainty.

What is a handicap in golf?

Handicap is an Anglo-Saxon word and its meaning is “disadvantage”. In simple words, it is a number that allows us to quickly understand the golfer’s ability; or on the contrary, the disadvantage that the amateurs have.

This figure is obtained by relating the number of strokes that the golfer needs to achieve a certain course and the course par, which are the strokes already stipulated to achieve that distance.

Later we will explain the formula to calculate it, but first, we are going to review some concepts that we have to take into account for it.

The Field Pair

Your HCP (handicap) in golf is linked to the par of the course, so it is important to know a little about this concept. The par of a course is a standardized value that is determined by the golf federation on duty. Therefore, when you want to know your handicap you should be guided by the federation of your country.

The USGA system (United State Golf Association) is the main one; but, in Spain and other European countries, the EGA (European Golf Association) system is usually used.

What these systems do is establish a score or par depending on the difficulty of the course. For this calculation, they take into account the valuation of the field and slope.

Hole Rating

The Hole rating is a figure that expresses the difficulty of a playing field for professionals, also called scratch or 0 value handicap players. That is, it is the average number of strokes that this person must give to hit the hole in a good game.

This value, which is usually between 67 and 77, is obtained by evaluating the course’s obstacles and their difficulty, as well as the distance between each hole. The higher the score, the more difficult the course.

Hole Handicaps

No hole is the same as another, there are simpler and more complex ones, and that is precisely what this value reflects. The score ranges from number 1 to 18, with 1 being the most difficult hole on the entire course. The evaluation of each hole is carried out by the different golf clubs, according to the regulations that have been approved in each country.


While the hole rating refers to experienced players, the slope takes beginners into account for its analysis. The slope determines the relative difficulty of the course for them when compared to the professionals.

Therefore, factors that practically only interfere with the execution of amateurs are taken into account. Such is the case with the existence of trees, water, the width of streets, the size of the grass, and other topographic features.

This assessment is very useful for the player since by practicing on a course with a high slope, his scorecard and his handicaps can improve. The extra shots achieved in this aspect can make a beginner more competitive.

How to calculate the handicap

I hope you have understood now that what is a handicap in golf, let’s move to it’s calculation. The calculation of the handicap is quite simple, it is obtained from the subtraction between the number of shots you use to travel the course and the par of the course. So, if you ask yourself “what handicap do I have?” you have to first consult the handicap or par of the course in the corresponding golf federation, and then play a game and write down the number of strokes you made to achieve the hole.

Subtracting these two numbers will give you your handicap score. For example, if the field pair is 70 and you have achieved it in 88 shots, you have a final score of 88 – 70 = 18.

What is the handicap of a beginner?

The handicap in golf has a range of values ​​that goes from number 48 to 0. The number 0 indicates that it is a fairly experienced or professional player, and the higher the number, the less experience the golfer has. Therefore, it would not be surprising if a beginner has a golf handicap of 48. The normal thing is that those who are just starting have more than 30 and decrease it with practice.

Now that you know what the golf handicap is and how important it is to know it, you can begin to get an idea of ​​your performance and the experience of your competition. But don’t worry or be too embarrassed, these values ​​can change over time. With more practice, your handicap will improve!

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