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HANDICAP FORMULA:

A Handicap Index is a service mark used to indicate a measurement of a player's potential ability on a course of standard difficulty. Potential ability is measured by a player's best scores, and is expressed as a number taken to one decimal place. These scores are identified by calculating the handicap differential for each score. The Handicap Index is calculated by taking 96 percent of the average of the best handicap differentials, and applying Section 10-3 for golfers with two or more eligible Tournament Scores.

How to Determine Handicap Differentials

A handicap differential is computed from four elements: adjusted gross score, Course Rating, Slope Rating and 113 (the Slope Rating of a course of standard difficulty). To determine the handicap differential, subtract the Course Rating from the adjusted gross score; multiply the difference by 113; then divide the resulting number by the Slope Rating. Round the final number to the nearest tenth.

Handicap Differential =
(Adjusted Gross Score - Course Rating) x 113 / Slope Rating

Adjusted Gross Score using equitable stroke control

Course Handicap Maximum Number Posted on Any Hole
9 or less Double Bogey
10 through 19 7
20 through 29 8
30 through 39 9
40 or more 10

a. Plus Handicap Differential

When the adjusted gross score is higher than the Course Rating, the handicap differential is a positive number. Following is an example for determining a differential using an adjusted gross score of 95 made on a course with a Course Rating of 71.5 and a Slope Rating of 125:

Adjusted Gross Score - Course Rating:
95 - 71.5 = 23.5
Difference x Standard Slope:
23.5 x 113 = 2655.5
Result / Slope Rating:
2655.5 / 125 = 21.24
Handicap Differential (rounded):
21.2

b. Minus Handicap Differential

When the adjusted gross score is lower than the Course Rating, the handicap differential is a negative number. Following is an example for determining a differential using an adjusted gross score of 69 made on a course with a Course Rating of 71.5 and a Slope Rating of 125:

Adjusted Gross Score - Course Rating:
69 - 71.5 = -2.5
Difference x Standard Slope:
-2.5 x 113 = -282.5
Result / Slope Rating:
-282.5 / 125 = -2.26
Handicap Differential (rounded):
-2.3

Handicap Index Formula

The Handicap Index Formula is based on the best handicap differentials in a player's scoring record. If a player's scoring record contains 20 or more scores, the best 10 handicap differentials of the most recent 20 scores are used to calculate the Handicap Index. The percentage of scores used in a scoring record decreases from the maximum of the best 50 percent as the number of scores in the scoring record decreases. If the scoring record contains 9 or 10 scores, only the best three scores (30 to 33 percent) in the scoring record will be used. Thus, the accuracy of a player's Handicap Index is directly proportional to the number of acceptable scores posted. A Handicap Index shall not be issued to a player who has returned fewer than five acceptable scores. The following procedures illustrate how authorized golf associations and golf clubs calculate a player's Handicap Index.

The procedure for calculating Handicap Indexes is as follows:

  1. Use the table below to determine the number of handicap differentials to use;
    Number of
    Acceptable Scores
    Differentials
    To Be Used
    5 or 6
    Lowest 1
    7 or 8
    Lowest 2
    9 or 10
    Lowest 3
    11 or 12
    Lowest 4
    13 or 14
    Lowest 5
    15 or 16
    Lowest 6
    17
    Lowest 7
    18
    Lowest 8
    19
    Lowest 9
    20
    Lowest 10
  2. Determine handicap differentials;
  3. Average the handicap differentials being used;
  4. Multiply the average by .96; *
  5. Delete all numbers after the tenths' digit. Do not round off to the nearest tenth.

    Example 1: Fewer than 20 scores (11 scores available).

    Total of lowest 4 handicap differentials:
    104.1
    Average (104.1 / 4):
    26.025
    Multiply average by .96:
    24.984
    Delete digits after tenths:
    24.9
    Handicap Index:
    24.9

    * Bonus for Excellence is the incentive that is built into the Handicap System for players to improve their golf games. It is the term used to describe the small percentage below perfect equity that is used to calculate Handicap Indexes (96%). As his Handicap Index improves (gets lower), the player has a slightly better chance of placing high or winning a handicap event.

    Example 2: Twenty Scores available. The following is a sample scoring record of a player with 20 scores.

    Total of 10 lowest differentials:
    154.8
    Average (154.8 / 10):
    15.48
    Average multiplied by .96:
    14.861
    Delete all digits after tenths:
    14.8
    Handicap Index:
    14.8

  6. Apply Section 10-3 for golfers with two or more eligible tournament scores.
Date
Adjusted
Score
Course
Rating
Slope
Rating
Handicap
Differential
3/21/97
90
70.1
116
19.4
3/12/97
91
70.1
116
20.4
2/24/97
94
72.3
123
19.9
2/20/97
*88
70.1
116
17.4
1/18/97
89
70.1
116
18.4
1/17/97
*90
72.3
123
16.3
1/16/97
*91
72.3
123
17.2
12/12/96
91
70.1
116
20.4
12/10/96
91
70.1
116
20.4
11/8/96
86
68.7
105
18.6
11/4/96
90
70.1
116
19.4
11/1/96
*92
72.3
123
18.1
10/24/96
*85
68.0
107
18.0
10/16/96
*78
68.7
105
10.0
10/12/96
*82
70.1
116
11.6
10/2/96
*84
70.1
116
13.5
9/14/96
94
72.3
123
19.9
9/5/96
93
72.3
123
19.0
9/4/96
*89
72.3
123
15.3
9/1/96
*88
70.1
116
17.4
* 10 scores with lowest handicap differentials

USGA. 2012. USGA HANDICAP FORMULA. [ONLINE] Available at: http://usga.org/Rule-Books/Handicap-System-Manual/Rule-10/. [Accessed 08 September 15].

Important Disclaimer: The Sandbagger Golf Handicap Calculator and Tracker is not prepared, approved, or licensed by the and is neither sponsored nor endorsed by USGA. is a registered trademark of the U.S. Golf Association.