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How is Golf Handicap Index Calculated? Here's the Formula

Golf Handicap FAQ

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The golf handicap calculation is something that most golfers never have to worry about. If you carry an official USGA Handicap Index, the calculation is performed for you by other people (or, far more likely, by a computer). You can also get an automated, unofficial idea of your handicap by trying our golf handicap calculator.

But you want the nuts and bolts of the handicap formula, don't you? You want to know the math behind figuring handicaps. OK, you asked for it, you got it.

Golf Handicap Calculation - Step 1

A minimum of five scores and a maximum of 20 is required to get started. Remember, when posting scores for handicaps, you must use your adjusted gross scores. For each score, the USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating for the courses played are also required.

Using those figures, Step 1 is calculating the handicap differential for each round entered using this formula:

(Score - Course Rating) x 113 / Slope Rating

For example, let's say the score is 85, the course rating 72.2, the slope 131. The formula would be (85 - 72.2) x 113 / 131.

This differential is calculated for each round entered.

(Note: The number 113 represents the slope rating of a golf course of average difficulty, as set by the USGA.)

Golf Handicap Calculation - Step 2

Determine how many differentials are being used. Not every differential that results from Step 1 will be used in the next step. If only five rounds are entered, only the lowest differential will be used. If 20 rounds are entered, only the 10 lowest differentials are used. A chart at the bottom of this page shows how many differentials are used based on the number of rounds entered.

Golf Handicap Calculation - Step 3

Get an average of the differentials used by adding them together and dividing by the number used (i.e., if five differentials are used, add them up and divide by five).

Multiply the result by .96 (96-percent). Drop all the digits after the tenths (do not round off) and the result is handicap index. Or, to put it formula form:

(Sum of differentials / number of differentials) x 0.96

Thankfully, as we said at the beginning, you don't have to do the math on your own. Your golf club's handicap committee will handle it for you, or the GHIN system if you log in to post scores.

And here's that chart we promised:

Number of Differentials Used

Rounds Entered Differentials Used
5-6 1 lowest
7-8 2 lowest
9-10 3 lowest
11-12 4 lowest
13-14 5 lowest
15-16 6 lowest
17 7 lowest
18 8 lowest
19 9 lowest
20 10 lowest
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