How To Calculate A Golf Handicap  

How To Calculate A Golf Handicap

The handicap system takes a game that has such a vast array of players, with varying skills, attributes, and experience, and creates a level playing field. It is based purely on your own performances and allows you to compete in tournament-style formats. It really is the great equaliser. 

But with that said, there is no denying it can seem like an abstract number. So, let’s unpack how you work out your handicap.  

What Is A Handicap? 

Your handicap is, in its most basic form, an assessment of your golfing ability. But its value is more than that. It allows you to track your improvement in the game, giving you a tangible, numerical number that you can lower with every round of golf. 

Most of us aim to become ‘scratch golfers’, which is a handicap of zero. But, it can’t be done without a lot of hard work on your game, and for a select few, you could become ‘plus markers’. This is the group of golfers with a “+” handicap who have to add shots to their final scorecard. 

When scoring your round of golf, your handicap will allow you to understand your performance relative to the Gold Coast public golf course par. This is done by subtracting (or adding) your handicap.  

So, if you have a handicap of 19 you get to take 19 shots off your scorecard. This is also the system used in most competitions so that players of different skill levels can compete on an even playing field. 

Handicapping Systems 

There were always different handicapping systems in use around the world, and they weren’t always aligned, which made competing on an equal footing difficult. In 2020, the World Handicapping System (WHS) was launched in an effort to unify the six major systems. 

In Australia, the WHS is governed by Golf Australia.  

How Is Your Handicap Calculated? 

In order to get an official Golf Australia handicap, you will need to join a club. Then, you need to submit a minimum of three 18-hole round scorecards to the resident handicapper at your club before a new handicap can be calculated and issued. 

For your rounds to qualify, you need to play with a marker. This is a playing partner who marks and signs your scorecard.  

Handicap Index 

A handicap index is a number, worked out to one decimal point, that indicates a golfer’s skill level. It is worked out relative to the scoring ability of a scratch golfer on a standard course. More skilled golfers will have a lower handicap index. 

This number is used to determine your course handicap and is especially useful if you regularly play different courses.  

The WHS calculates your Handicap Index by working out the average of your eight best “Score Differentials” in your last 20 rounds of golf. The score differential is calculated by working out the difference between your final adjusted gross score and the “Course Rating” – taking into consideration the “Slope Rating”.  

Your adjusted gross score accounts for holes where players exceed their maximum scores. It also accounts for holes that were not played or completed.  

Course Rating 

A course rating is assigned to indicate the average “good score” for a scratch golfer. These ratings are based on things including course length, obstacles, altitude, length of rough, and the size and contours of the green. 

Some courses even adjust for changes on any given day. For a par 72, the Course Rating usually ranges from 67 to 77.  

In terms of your handicap, this rating is key to working out your Score Differential. 

Slope Rating 

Different to the Course Rating, the Slope Rating describes the relative difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer rather than a scratch golfer.  

Slope rating can range from 55 to 155 (the higher the rating the more difficult the course) with a standard rating of around 113. And this rating is considered when working out your Gross Adjusted Score on any given course. 

Course Handicap 

For a lot of major handicapping systems, a golfer won’t necessarily use their exact handicap. Instead, they will use it to work out their Course Handicap.  

Some Gold Coast golf courses may simply round up your handicap to the nearest whole number. But, if you’re playing a course with a slope rating, it can be a little more complicated to work out. 

The exact calculation varies depending on Handicapping System, but here in Australia, the formula is as follows: 

(Handicap Index X slope rating)/113 = Course Handicap. 


The handicap system is a great way to make competing fun, especially if you’re playing against someone more skilled than you are. But, it is a system that can review your handicap after every game. So, the best way to improve your handicap is to work on your game and your technique will shave shots off your game and get you closer to the “Scratch Golfer’ title. 

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