Thanks to the USGA and the handicapping system golfers of all abilities can compete head to head on a truly level playing field. What most golfers don’t realize, is that their handicap is not their average score over par, but rather a representation of their scoring potential. So how do you know what your handicap index is? For the mathletes out there, the handicap index is calculated as follows:
(Adjusted Gross Score – Course Rating) x 113 / Course Slope = Handicap Differential
Calculate the average of your 10 lowest differentials from the 20 most recent scores and multiply by .96 The resulting number is your USGA handicap Index.
For the rest of us that gave a sigh of relief after graduating in the hopes of not having to do math anymore, the handicap index is automatically calculated for you when you register for an official handicap with the USGA. This can be done at your local golf course or through a variety of golf organizations in your area. But wait, you’re not quite done yet. When you go to play your local track, you will need to figure out your Course Handicap. This is done by taking your Handicap Index and multiplying by the Slope Rating of the tees your are playing, then dividing by 113.
So there is a little math to be done — you knew you couldn’t avoid it forever. If you don’t have a calculator handy, the course can figure out this number for you. So what does your Course Handicap do for you? Let’s say you have a course handicap of 10 and your playing partner is a five. He or she should give you a stroke on each of the five lowest handicap holes to make the match fair.
This system is a completely fair and equitable way for golfers of different skill levels to play against each other for a couple bucks, but beware of the sandbaggers. Most avid golfers have come across the rogue player carrying a 20 handicap that miraculously shoots an 80 in the club championship. Maybe he was just in the zone that day, but according to the USGA, the odds of a 20 handicapper shooting 10 strokes under their index is a staggering 1 in 37,000.
In a sport that prides itself on self-officiating, “forgetting” to enter your low scores is akin to skimming from the collection plate. So don’t be that guy. Enter all your scores from 70 to 100 and maintain the integrity of this great game. After all, you are only cheating yourself by sandbagging. And you just might find yourself left out once your golf buddies get fed up with giving their money away to you every week.
For more information on the handicap system and how to get your own handicap, visit www.usga.org.