Confused About Handicaps? What Is a Good Handicap In Golf?

A good handicap in golf varies based on skill and experience. For men, it generally ranges from 12 to 20, and for women, it’s between 20 and 32. Ultimately, a ‘good’ handicap reflects your ability to consistently perform well on different courses, but remember, golf is about personal growth and enjoying the game.”

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Key Takeaways

  • A good golf handicap is subjective and generally ranges from 12 to 20 for men and 20 to 32 for women.
  • The World Handicap System (WHS) unifies golfers globally, making handicaps more consistent.
  • Improving your handicap requires focused practice, understanding course difficulty, and using proper equipment.
  • Professional golfers usually have a handicap close to zero, reflecting their high skill levels.
  • Common mistakes like ignoring slope rating and not tracking stats can negatively affect your handicap.


Golf is a game of skill, precision, and patience where players must navigate their way around a course filled with challenges and obstacles. One of the most crucial aspects of golf is the handicap system.

A player’s handicap determines their level of skill and helps level the playing field for all players, regardless of their skill levels. The World Handicap System (WHS) was introduced in 2020 to unify golfers around the world under one handicapping system.

This new system replaced the previous handicapping systems used in different regions worldwide and created a more consistent approach to calculating golf handicaps. The GHIN phone app is an excellent tool for managing your handicap index and staying up-to-date on any revisions made by your local handicap committee.

A player’s handicap index represents their current skill level, which can be determined based on their performance over time. To calculate your golf handicap, you need to know your course rating, slope rating, and score from each round played.

"The formula involves taking 96% of your average score from your ten best rounds out of your last twenty rounds played. High handicaps are typically assigned to novice or beginner players, while low-handicappers are experienced players who have mastered many aspects of their golf game."

The formula involves taking 96% of your average score from your ten best rounds out of your last twenty rounds played. High handicaps are typically assigned to novice or beginner players who are still learning how to play the game.

Players with high handicaps receive more strokes per hole than low handicappers to help compensate for their lack of experience or skill levels. Low-handicappers are typically experienced players who have mastered many aspects of their golf game, such as driving distance accuracy, fairways hit, greens-in-regulation, short game skills, etcetera; these players will be looking at even par or better scores on an average round.

Check out this video below from Golf Ascending‘s YouTube channel on how the golf handicap works:

The concept behind a good handicap is subjective; however, it can be argued that someone with a plus handicap or close to it would be considered an elite golfer who can consistently shoot under-par scores in most rounds. The top players on the PGA Tour are known for their low handicaps, which reflect their exceptional skill levels and consistent performance on the course.

There is no doubt that improving your golf handicap requires a lot of dedication, practice, and patience. Developing a solid short game, working to improve your swing mechanics, and being aware of course difficulty ratings will help you become a well-rounded golfer.

Handicap revision takes place every two weeks to ensure that your index reflects your current level of play accurately. Understanding what constitutes a good handicap in golf is crucial if you want to improve your game effectively.

While it’s not necessary to have a low handicap to enjoy the sport fully, it can be satisfying to know that you’re capable of playing at an elite level. Remember that golf is about having fun and enjoying the journey, regardless of where your handicap may land!

Boy hitting golf ball on golf course

Understanding Golf Handicap

Do you know what a golf handicap is and how it works?

If not, let me enlighten you. A golf handicap is a system that allows golfers of all skill levels to compete against each other on a level playing field.

It helps to equalize the playing field so that a beginner golfer has a fair chance of winning against a pro golfer. The golf handicap system works by calculating your “handicap index”, which is essentially your average score in relation to par for the course.

The system takes into consideration the difficulty of the course and adjusts your handicap index accordingly. This means that if you play on an easier course and score well, your handicap will be adjusted to reflect that you should be able to play just as well on a more challenging course.

Handicap strokes are then added to each golfer’s total score based on their respective handicaps, with the goal being for players with higher handicaps to need fewer shots per hole compared to lower-handicapped players who need more shots per hole. To establish your golf handicap, you need to play at least five rounds of golf during a season and submit your scores for calculation.

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The number of rounds played determines what type of player you are: if you played fewer than 5 rounds, then you’re considered an “unestablished” player; if between 5 and 19 rounds were played, then you’re considered a “mid-handicapper”; if more than 20 rounds were played, then congratulations! You’re now an “established” player. Now let’s talk about net score versus gross score. There seems to be some confusion among average golfers about these two terms.

A gross score is simply the total number of strokes taken during a round, while a net score accounts for each golfer’s respective handicap allowance by subtracting their handicap from their gross score. In my opinion, comparing gross scores among players without considering their respective handicaps is like comparing apples to oranges.

"The golf handicap system works by calculating your 'handicap index', which is essentially your average score in relation to par for the course. Handicap strokes are then added to each golfer's total score based on their respective handicaps, aiming for players with higher handicaps to need fewer shots per hole compared to lower-handicapped players."

The net score is a much more accurate reflection of a player’s skill level and should be used when comparing players of different skill levels. Overall, the golf handicap system plays an important role in ensuring fair competition for all golfers.

It allows players of different abilities to play together without feeling like one player has an unfair advantage over another. However, it’s important to understand that a lower handicap doesn’t necessarily mean a better golfer, as top players on the PGA Tour can have higher handicaps than the average golfer due to the difficulty of the par 72 courses they play on a regular basis.

What is a Good Golf Handicap?

Golf is a game of skill and precision, and a golfer’s handicap can tell us a lot about their skill level. But what is considered a good golf handicap?

The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Some people believe that a scratch golfer, or someone with a handicap of zero, is the only true measure of an excellent golfer.

However, not everyone has the same playing field or opportunities to improve their game. Moreover, there are very few scratch golfers out there, and not every course offers an equally challenging golf game.

So it’s unfair to judge all golfers against this one metric. Instead, the answer lies in understanding net score and equitable stroke control (ESC).

These are key metrics used by the USGA handicap system to calculate a player’s handicap index. The higher your handicap index, the better your chances of having a good net score on any given day.

"A good golf handicap for male golfers generally ranges from 12 to 20, while for female golfers it ranges from 20 to 32. These numbers indicate that the average golfer can hit fairways consistently but still has room for improvement. Ultimately, what constitutes 'good' depends on individual goals and expectations from their game."

A good golf handicap for male golfers generally ranges from 12 to 20, while for female golfers it ranges from 20 to 32. These numbers indicate that the average golfer can hit fairways consistently but still has room for improvement in terms of hitting greens in regulation and limiting three-putts.

That being said, it’s important to remember that a low handicap doesn’t necessarily make someone an exceptional golfer, nor does having an average or high handicap mean they’re bad at the game. Skill levels differ between players based on many factors, such as age, physical ability, and practice time devoted to perfecting skills, among others.

Ultimately, what constitutes “good” depends on individual goals and expectations from their game. It also depends on what type of courses they play regularly and their performance during different seasons throughout the year.

Determining what makes up a “good” golf handicap should be left up to each individual player or handicap committee, with careful consideration given to fair play by considering ESC and a player’s handicap index. A player who has a handicap index that gives him a chance to post a score close to par when playing par 72 courses has certainly made it into the good category, but like every other sport, there will always be room for improvement.

Golf accessories lying on golf course grass

How to Improve Your Golf Handicap

If you’re itching to shave off some numbers from your golf handicap, you’re not alone. Improving your handicap can feel like a lofty goal, especially if you’re new to golf. 

But worry not! There are several actionable steps you can take to level up your game and lower that handicap, from understanding the scoring system to making smart equipment choices. 

Here’s a deep dive into some proven tips that will get you there.

Understand the Handicap System

  • The USGA handicap system takes into account your last 20 rounds.
  • Each hole has a maximum score of 10, and these scores get adjusted based on the course and slope ratings.
  • Knowing how the system works can help you identify what aspects of your game need improvement. 

Practice, Practice, Practice

  • Consistency is key. Aim for at least 30 minutes of focused practice every day.
  • Work on different facets of your game: driving, chipping, and putting. 

Invest in Quality Equipment

Check out this video below from Golf Sidekick EXTRAS‘s YouTube channel talking about what a good handicap in golf is:

Up Your Course Game

  • Regularly playing challenging courses like Par 72 or ones with high course ratings can push your skills to new heights.
  • These courses will force you to improve metrics like tee-off accuracy and putting under pressure. 

Focus on Key Metrics

  • Pay attention to metrics like driving distance, putting accuracy, and greens in regulation (GIR).
  • These metrics give you concrete goals to work toward and measure your progress.

Improving your golf handicap is a journey that requires both understanding and action. It’s not just about grasping how the handicap system works, but also about dedicating time to practice and making wise choices in your equipment. 

By pushing your boundaries and taking on more challenging courses, you’ll not only see a reduction in your handicap but also gain a new level of confidence and skill in your game. So gear up, hit the greens, and watch those handicap numbers drop!

Golfer setting up putt on golf green

The Role of Equipment in Golf Handicap

Golf is a sport that requires a lot of skill, technique, and practice. But let’s not forget the role that equipment plays in golf handicaps.

Golf equipment can make a huge difference in a player’s game and their ability to maintain or improve their handicap. One of the most important pieces of golf equipment is the club.

Golf club shafts come in different weights, stiffnesses, and materials, which can affect how far and accurately you can hit the ball. For example, if you have a slow swing speed, you may benefit from using clubs with lighter shafts to create more clubhead speed for better distance.

This is especially true for women’s handicaps since they tend to have slower swing speeds than men. Another thing to consider when it comes to golf equipment is the type of ball you use.

The choice of ball can impact your distance off the tee as well as your precision around the greens. If you’re an average golfer looking to improve your handicap, it’s important to choose a ball that suits your swing speed and playing style.

The type of tees you use on a golf course can also affect your handicap. Using appropriate tees based on your skill level ensures that you’re playing from distances that suit your game.

For high-handicap players or beginners just starting out on their golfing journey, using forward tees takes some pressure off them while gradually allowing them to develop their skills. Last but definitely not least is evaluating how much each club in one’s bag will cost, because it places considerable stress on one’s finances too.

An average golfer must ensure that they get value for every penny spent on their clubs, from drivers to putters. Golfers must consider several factors when selecting their equipment, including shoes, as this ultimately affects one’s performance and, consequently, one’s good golf handicap.

Golf clubs lying on golf course around hole

Professional Golfers and Their Handicaps

When it comes to the handicaps of professional golfers, the story isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Sure, the majority of pros have a handicap index hovering around zero. But did you know that some pros have handicaps that aren’t exactly zero, yet they still play at an elite level? Let’s dig into the complexities of professional golfers and their handicaps, and why some of them might not meet the “zero handicap” stereotype.

The Zero-Handicap Norm:

  • Most professional golfers have a handicap index of 0 or very close to it.
  • This is because they are among the best players in the world and need to perform at a top-tier level consistently.

The Elite Exceptions:

  • Some pros may not have a zero handicap but still play at an elite level.
  • These players often have low handicaps like +3 or +4, which is still remarkably impressive.

Tour-Specific Rating Systems:

  • Many professional golfers are rated by their own respective tours, rather than using the general handicap system.

High-Stakes Courses:

  • Pros often play on challenging courses like Par 72s with slope ratings over 140.
  • This can affect handicap calculations, making low handicaps even more commendable.

Consistency is Key:

  • Inconsistent performance and fluctuating handicaps are signs that a golfer may not be cut out for the professional level.
  • If a player can’t maintain a low handicap, they should perhaps rethink their pro status.

The handicap landscape among professional golfers is more nuanced than it first appears. While a near-zero handicap is the norm, there are outliers who defy this standard and still compete at an extraordinary level. 

What ties them all together, however, is the relentless consistency required to play at such a high caliber. Anyone who can’t maintain that standard might need to reassess their “professional” label. In the high-stakes world of pro golf, your handicap isn’t just a number; it’s a testament to your skill and staying power on the course.

Golfer standing on golf course

Common Mistakes That Affect Your Handicap

Golf is a game where everyone wants to improve their handicap, but many golfers end up making common mistakes that negatively impact their scores. These mistakes affect your handicap, sometimes to a great extent, and if you want to play better golf and achieve a good handicap, you must avoid them.

One of the most common mistakes that golfers make is not taking the slope rating into account. The slope rating is an essential factor when it comes to determining your handicap.

It measures the difficulty of a course relative to the playing field’s average and affects how many strokes players get on each hole. If you don’t adjust for the slope rating, you could end up with an inflated handicap and struggle when playing courses with higher ratings.

Another mistake that can affect your handicap is not knowing how to calculate it properly. The golf handicap system can be confusing, especially for beginners who are just starting.

However, it’s essential to understand how the formula works and how scores are revised regularly since this directly affects your handicap index. Without knowing these details, even someone who plays well on par 72 courses may not have a lower average golf handicap than someone who knows how handicaps work.

Remember to adjust for slope rating, understand the golf handicap formula, keep track of fairway hits and greens in regulation, and utilize technology like GHIN phone apps to keep your stats accurate. By doing these things, you'll have a lower handicap index and enjoy the game more."

Not keeping track of fairways hit or greens in regulation (GIR) is another mistake that can negatively impact your scores and ultimately your handicap index. If you can’t hit fairways consistently or get GIRs often enough, you’ll find yourself struggling with longer putts or, worse yet, scrambling for par or bogey instead of getting birdies or pars naturally.

One mistake people make concerning their handicaps has nothing to do with their actual game performance: forgetting about smartphone apps like GHIN, which help them track stats such as net score, etc., instead of relying solely on handwritten records, which may be less accurate due mostly to human error. If you want to achieve a good golf handicap and play better overall, then avoiding these four common mistakes is essential.

Remember to adjust for slope rating, understand the golf handicap formula, keep track of fairway hits and greens in regulation, and utilize technology like GHIN phone apps to keep your stats accurate. By doing these things, you’ll have a lower handicap index and enjoy the game of golf more as a scratch golfer or an amateur player.

Check out this video below from Coach Shayain‘s Youtube channel:

Golfer swinging shot off tee showing moment of innertia


A good handicap in golf is subjective and depends on the individual’s skill level and golf experience. However, it is clear that having a low handicap is always desirable for any golfer, as it indicates a higher level of skill and consistency on the course.

To improve your golf handicap, focus on your weaknesses. Practice regularly, take lessons from a professional coach if necessary, and pay attention to key metrics such as fairway hits, greens in regulation, and putts per round.

Use the official golf handicap system to keep track of your progress. When it comes to equipment, remember that while having top-of-the-line gear may give you an edge on the playing field, it ultimately comes down to the player’s skill level.

Professional male golfers with low handicaps are able to achieve even par scores using standard equipment. Despite some common mistakes players make that can affect their handicap revision negatively (such as failing to apply Equitable Stroke Control), don’t let these discourage you from improving your game.

With persistence and dedication to practicing and learning about the sport of golf, anyone can attain a good handicap index. Regardless of whether you are a mid or low-handicap male or female golfer or play on Par 72 courses or less challenging courses, keep playing!

Enjoying this great sport while constantly improving yourself should be the ultimate goal. Remember that at its core, golf is about community; join a handicap committee at your local club where you may help others improve while they help you, along with playing partners who may challenge but also inspire confidence when things are not going well.

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