What is a golf handicap?
In short, it’s a number that’s derived from your ability to play golf and your skill level.
Almost every single new golfer is going to have a fairly large handicap, but that’s okay: you’re going to improve rather rapidly if you take the time to pay attention and perform the necessary drills.
We’ll get into the jist of it in just a moment.
Just know that, on average, a new player that actually has an interest in learning the game can improve their playing to the point that they match up to others at the club in no time.
Once you’re considered a good player, your handicap doesn’t move all that often, and neither will your opponents.
What Exactly is Golf Handicap?
It’s a number that determines your skill.
Golf can be a very judgmental sport; your handicap number is going to give the first impression to other golfers (the elitists, who don’t have fun with the sport) right off the bat.
Thing is, your handicap number can change. It’s a number that defines your skill level right now, not forever.
When you go to a club, private range or public golf course, you should be able to get a handicap card. This calculates everything for you, so long as you keep tabs on your score (in an accurate manner).
The best way to figure out your handicap is by using a seemingly simple math problem. Your handicap is exactly 96% of your best ten scores out of your last twenty.
So how is this used?
Well, it’s supposed to level the playing field for golfers.
If you want to play with someone who’s significantly better than you, the handicap allows you to have a better shot—a fair chance, if you will—at beating them based on equations.
How to Lower Your Handicap
You want a lower handicap to not only look better on the cards (and rise above the almost two million men in the golfing handicap index) but to stack up against other players and be competitive.
To come out on top. That’s the whole point of keeping tabs of this system in the first place.
So what do you do to lower your handicap? There are a few ways to approach it.
#1 Get Better Equipment
I don’t want to say that having shoddy equipment will impact your game, but it’s the cold hard truth.
There are different clubs for different skill levels.
Fairway Woods are considered to be some of the best beginner clubs out there, and I personally recommend starting out with those if you’re still trying to figure out where you stand in your golfing skill level.
#2 Gauge Your Long Shot
Using a laser rangefinder on the golf course is actually one of the best ways to gauge your skill because the numbers simply don’t lie.
If you can shoot a long shot, that’s great – it means you’re building up the muscles for your backswing, and you’re physically tuning your body to golfing. That’s some good news.
Then there’s your short game to consider, which we’ll get into in a moment.
Don’t become so focused on long shots that it’s all you do, but once you can achieve certain distances, take a visit to number four on this list to really lock in your sight and focus on accuracy over everything else.
#3 Practice Your Short Game
Your short game is one of the most frustrating things in the world because, on the surface, it looks ten times easier than driving a golf ball hundreds of feet away.
This can either be ten feet from the hole on a slope or anywhere within 140 yards (standard amount) of the hole. It’s the opposite of your long game – it’s about precision overpower.
There are a ton of methods out there to help with your short game, which I why I recommend taking a look at all of them, and giving each one a shot.
What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.
#4 Accuracy Above All Else
Precision matters for all elements of golf, but especially your short game. The farther away from the hole you are, the less precise you have to be.
It’s like a bell curve: you need the power to get you close to the top, then precision to bring you back down over the bottom.
Unfortunately, many golfers focus on one over the other.
While I admit I do get a thrill from a long drive, I get competitive when it comes to whacking the ball less than 45 yards away into the hole. I become a different person and get quiet, intense.
Last but not least, you can find some pretty incredible measurement technology out there apart from a laser rangefinder to help you with various elements of your capabilities.
From swing speed to angling, you can fine-tune your skills in a variety of ways. Visit here for a list of gadgets that can give you a competitive edge.
How to Count Your Handicap?
So we gave you a math formula to calculate your handicap, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s more to it.
We take 96% of the best ten from your last twenty games. Many golfers just subtract their average score from a total of 72 (average par for all 18 holes). That’s not an accurate way to do it.
Your handicap can also be calculated differently depending on the course.
This is normally just used for USGA and R&A handicap index ratings, where things like the number of tees on the course can actually alter your score.
We know that professional golfing has more stipulations, so this should come as no surprise.
To calculate your handicap in a way that fits in line with these professional standards, you would have far too much to do—you wouldn’t get to enjoy the game.
Pros have someone else, usually an association, who handles all of those calculations for them.
Let’s get you a standard but effective handicap rating so you can actually spend time playing the game.
If you want a handicap based on fewer than ten rounds of golf, you would multiply your lowest differential by .96 to determine your handicap.
If you’re using between ten and twenty rounds of golf, you would use your lowest average and times it by .96 to determine your handicap.
After that point, you can constantly adjust your handicap based on each game. In order to calculate your standard handicap and move forward from there, follow the formula above.
Misunderstandings About Golf Handicaps
If you have a bad day, then you have a bad day.
Your handicap isn’t this magical score that’s being kept in a recording hall and updated every second.
If one day you just aren’t playing your best, then just count it as a sick day. It doesn’t count.
In addition to that, your handicap should not be calculated based solely on your last few rounds. It’s a bit more complex than that, and if you’re doing it in this fashion, you’re short-changing yourself.
Your actual handicap will matter if you’re playing for keeps, so calculate and adjust it properly and with due diligence.
Last but not least, despite the USGA being one of the main handicap indexes that people will try to use, you can’t just get it for nothing.
If you’re a USGA member (which is expensive) or a professional golfer, they provide that service, but you’re going to have to rely on your own bookkeeping in order to accurately determine your handicap.
This is where people get skeptical, and why it’s best to have someone along for the ride with you.
Not only is it more fun than playing golf alone, but it gives you some credibility.
In your handicap notes or however you record it, ask if the person helping you record it – your golf partner – will initial it for authenticity.
It’s better than just showing up and saying, “Yeah, I have a handicap of 28” and expecting everyone to believe you.
Knowing All About Golf
If you’re going to get sized up at the golf course based on your stats, you should at least know what they are and how to improve them.
I have two modes: professionally competitive, and leisurely enjoyment. Sometimes I’m playing golf to have a good time, other times I get extremely competitive.
The point is, your handicap should only influence your game if you’re trying to make it in the pro circuit.
Other than that, have fun with it, and have this information handy in the event of butting heads with the local course prude.