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Golf Handicap FAQ

Questions and Answers about the USGA Golf Handicap System


Two men making notes on golf score cards
Photo and Co/The Image Bank/Getty Images

This golf handicap FAQ covers the USGA Handicap System. If you run into terms you don't understand, check the Golf Handicap Glossary. To compute your unofficial handicap index, use this free handicap index calculator. To get a course handicap, use this free course handicap calculator

(The USGA Handicap System is used in that part of the world governed by the USGA, plus many other places. The list of countries using USGA handicaps is viewable here. Other countries may use their own handicapping systems, such as the CONGU system used in Great Britain and Ireland. If you have questions about other handicapping systems, please consult your local golf association.)

An overview of the USGA Handicap System

Are "handicap" and "handicap index" the same thing?

How do I establish a handicap index?

How is handicap index calculated?

Is having a handicap index required?

What is course handicap?

How do I use my handicap index on the golf course?

What is the purpose of the handicap system?

Do I have to join a golf club to get an official handicap?

Can I start my own club for handicapping purposes?

What is course rating?

What is slope rating?

How are course rating and slope rating determined?

Why is slope rating called "slope"?

How do I know on which holes to take strokes?

How are strokes determined in a match in which the golfers are playing from different tees?

How are strokes determined in a match between a man and a woman?

How are strokes allocated in singles match play?

Why is my score usually higher than my handicap?

Can I turn in a score that includes incomplete holes?

Can I turn in incomplete or 9-hole rounds?

Is it true the USGA has per-hole maximum scores?

What is Equitable Stroke Control?

How do I know my ESC limits if I don't yet have a handicap index?

What is handicap differential?

How many rounds are required to establish a USGA Handicap Index?

What is GHIN?

How can I obtain USGA publications on handicapping?

• Can I play in a tournament without an official handicap?
See: Peoria System and Callaway System

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