USGA Course Rating
USGA Course Slope
18-hole score

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.

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.

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.

Calculating a golf handicap involves several steps and factors. Here is some information on how golf handicaps are calculated:

  1. Handicap Differential: The first step is to calculate the Handicap Differential for each round played. The Handicap Differential is a measure of a golfer's performance relative to the difficulty of the course they played. It is calculated using the formula: (Score – Course Rating) x 113 / Slope Rating, where “Score” is the adjusted gross score, “Course Rating” is the rating of the course played, and “Slope Rating” is a measure of the course's difficulty.
  2. Course Handicap: The Handicap Differential is used to calculate the Course Handicap, which represents the number of strokes a golfer receives on a specific course. The Course Handicap is determined using the following formula: Handicap Index x (Slope Rating / 113), rounded to the nearest whole number.
  3. Handicap Index: The Handicap Index is a measure of a golfer's potential ability and is calculated based on the best differentials from recent rounds. It is computed using a specific formula that considers the best 8 of the golfer's most recent 20 Handicap Differentials and takes into account the difficulty of the courses played.
  4. Equitable Stroke Control (ESC): To ensure that exceptionally high scores do not overly impact a golfer's handicap, the Equitable Stroke Control system is applied. ESC sets a maximum number of strokes that can be counted on each hole, based on the golfer's Course Handicap.
  5. Score Posting: Golfers are responsible for posting their scores after each round played, either manually or through an online scoring system. The scores are used to calculate the Handicap Differential and update the golfer's Handicap Index.
  6. Handicap Updates: Handicaps are typically updated on a regular basis, such as monthly or weekly, depending on the golf association or organization. The updates reflect any changes in the golfer's performance and recent rounds.

It's important to note that specific handicap calculations may vary slightly depending on the golf association or organization governing the handicap system in a particular region. Golfers should consult their local golf association or handicap authority for precise details on calculating and maintaining a handicap.

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.

Scratch Golfer: Is one who can play to a Course Handicap™ of zero on any and all rated golf courses. He (she) can hit tee shots an average of 250 (210) yards and reach a 470 (400)-yard hole in two shots.

Bogey Golfer: Is one with a Course Handicap of 20 (24). He (she) can hit tee shots an average of 200 (150) yards and can reach a 370 (280)-yard hole in two shots.

USGA Course Rating™: The USGA® mark that indicates the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers. It is based on yardage and other obstacles to the extent that they affect the scoring difficulty of the scratch golfer. Example: 68.5

Bogey Rating: Is the one number every golfer worse than a scratch should check before deciding which tees to play. This rating is the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for the bogey golfer. It is based on yardage, effective playing length and other obstacles to the extent that affect the scoring ability of the bogey golfer. To figure out this number, other than from looking at this database, the bogey golfer should take the Slope Rating®, divide it by the set factor (5.381 for men, and 4.24 for women) and add that to the Course Rating. The result is a target score for the bogey golfer, and is a truer yardstick of the challenge that lies ahead for the particular set of tees. Example: 96.3- which predicts the bogey golfer's average of his ten best (out of twenty) scores would be approximately 96.3 from this particular set of tees.

Slope Rating®: The USGA mark that indicates the measurement of the relative difficulty level for the bogey golfer compared to the Course Rating. Slope Rating is computed from the difference between the bogey rating and the Course Rating. The lowest Slope Rating is 55 and the highest is 155.