How is the golf handicap calculated?

In the golf world, a player’s handicap represents their average score for a round of 18 holes. It doesn’t mean that every hole is scored as a birdie, a bogey or worse. What it means is that players with higher handicap scores will have more strokes subtracted from their total score than those with lower handicaps.

Before 2020

The number of strokes subtracted depends on the difference between their handicap and the course rating. Once you have 20 points in your scoring records, the Handicap Index is set by calculating the best 8 score differentials out of your last 20 entries.

There are various methods for calculating handicaps, but the most commonly used one is the USGA’s Course Rating (or Slope) system. A handicap index can be compiled using the following equation:

Hcp Index = (Your Course Rating – USGA Course Rating) / USGA Course Rating * 5

After 2020, a new handicap worldwide

After 2020, a new handicap system has been put in place. There are multiple objectives but the main one was to unify the global system of handicap. Before 2020, it was calculated differently from every region of the global. (USA, Europe, Australia…)

Some players were abusing the system by “having bad days”, which helped them have a higher handicap. This has been reduced in the new system by computing only half of the points if the difference is higher than 3 points for the day. The penalty for not presenting the card also doubled, from 0.1 to 0.2.

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