Golf Handicap

What is a handicap?
The Handicap System in Golf allows people of very different golfing abilities to compete with each other. Other sports do have a ‘handicap’ system, but nowhere does it work as effectively as in the game of golf. Basically, this is the number of strokes a player receives, over and above the ‘par’ for a course. The higherthe handicap, the more strokes received. The highest ‘official’ handicaps are currently 28 (men) and 45 (women).

A very good golfer plays off ‘scratch’ (zero handicap) or even a ‘plus’ handicap!

How does it work?

funny golf guyIf a player plays off an 18 handicap, then he/she would receive 1 shot per hole over and above the course par.

If the handicap is lower than 18, the Stroke Index is used to determine on which holes the strokes are received. In the above example, a 15 handicap player (man) would get an extra stroke at all of the holes where the S.I is 15 or less – so no strokes at the 4th, 7th and 15th.

If the handicap is higher than 18, they would receive a second shot at the holes where the stroke index is equal to or less than the handicap – 18. So a 20-handicapper would get an extra shot at the 5th and 14th holes.

Let’s take an example of a player who has a 9 handicap playing against a 16-handicapper in a Matchplay singles match. They would take the difference between their handicaps (7) and apply the ¾ of difference principle = 5.25 – rounded to the nearest full number thus = 5. The 16 handicap player would get an extra stroke over his opponent at the first 5 stroke index numbered holes on the course.

Handicaps are administered by the Golf Clubs themselves, according to rules laid down by their responsible national union. Officially, there is no other way, despite the claims of a number of bodies to being able to award official handicaps. Most golf clubs have a committee (council) member responsible for this. A players handicap can be varied upwards or downwards as a result of his/her performance in ‘qualifying competitions’. The committee also has the right under the rules of golf to make merit adjustments to a members handicap.

Handicap levels fall into 4 categories for men and 6 for ladies, as follows:

Handicap range:

    1. 0 – 5
    2. 6 – 12
    3. 13 – 20
    4. 21 – 28
    5. 29 – 40
    6. 41 – 45

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