USGA Course Rating
USGA Course Slope
18-hole score

Could you get a base hit against a Major League pitcher? Outscore an NBA shooting guard in a game of one-on-one? Return the serve of a top-ranked tennis player? Perhaps not. As a golfer, on the other hand, you’d actually stand a chance of beating a professional over 18 holes. Not straight-up, of course, but with the proper number of handicap strokes.

The handicap system is one of many things that make golf a uniquely satisfying sport. Administered by the game’s governing bodies – the USGA and R&A – the system assigns a number (in strokes) to each golfer based on his scores. A player with a higher handicap receives compensatory strokes from a lower-handicap opponent, leveling the playing field in head-to-head competition.

You’re not required to have a handicap to play golf. But it sure comes in handy. When you’re playing an informal match against a friend, for instance, handicaps allow you to conduct a fair competition. Most tournaments, whether team or individual, require you to at least provide an estimated handicap.

Beyond competition, keeping a handicap allows you to set goals and track your progress (or lack thereof). Improving skills should lead to lower scores, dropping your handicap.

In short, anyone who plays regularly – say, a minimum of once per month – should definitely record all their scores and monitor their handicap. makes it easy with our simple handicap tracking tool.

In the spaces provided, enter the course rating and slope rating of the course and tees you played; these figures should be listed on the scorecard. If not, consult the USGA’s Course & Slope Rating Database for U.S. courses. Elsewhere, your national golf association (e.g., Golf Australia or Golf Canada) should provide a similar listing.

Next, enter your adjusted gross score for 18 holes. Once you’ve entered five scores, the calculator will provide your handicap index, which will fluctuate with each new score entered. Your handicap is based on a maximum of your 20 most recent scores. Once you’ve entered 20, the next score will bump your oldest one from the table, and so on.

With our calculator, you can also compute your personal course handicap for a specific course by simply entering the slope rating. The higher the slope, the more difficult the course and the higher your course handicap. When playing the course, this is the number used to determine how many strokes you get (or give) in competition.

Glossary Terms

Adjusted Gross Score: A golfer’s gross (total) score for 18 holes adjusted to account for “equitable stroke control.” The adjusted gross score, which can only be the same as or lower than the actual gross score, is used to calculate a player’s handicap.

Course Handicap: The number of handicap strokes a player receives on a specific course and specific tee set. Course handicap is always a whole number and may be higher or lower than the player’s handicap index based on the course/tee slope rating. The player whose course handicap is a 12, for example, would subtract 12 strokes from his adjusted gross score to determine his net score on the course played.

Equitable Stroke Control (ESC): Method of adjusting a golfer’s gross score downward when his actual or most likely score (if he did not finish the hole) exceeds a specified maximum. The lower a golfer’s course handicap, the fewer maximum strokes he can take on a given hole. For example, a golfer with a course handicap of 9 or less cannot record a score higher than double bogey on any hole. ESC is used only for calculating adjusted gross scores for handicap purposes. Typically, the method is not used in competition.