What is a golf handicap and why do I want one?

A golf handicap sounds like a fault in your game, which is not something any of us needs unless we want our scores to go higher.

Image of woman's hand in castIn fact, it can be helpful to have a golf handicap. It allows you to enter tournaments and to have a fair match against just about anyone.

Simply put, your handicap is the number of strokes you add to the scorecard par on a golf course to equal the score you hope to have that day. For example, if par is 72, as is typical on most 18-hole courses, and your handicap at the course is 20, you are trying to shoot 92 or better. That means that someone with a 10 handicap would give you 10 strokes in a competition.

Tournaments will ask for your handicap, and there are online calculators to help you figure out a fair number based on your past scores. But the most accurate, official handicap comes via the USGA index, a one-decimal-point number established by posting every one of your scores in the USGA’s computer system, called GHIN.

Once you have a USGA index, you can plug that into a golf course computer to determine your handicap from the set of tees you want to play. So you and your significant other can have a fair contest for which of you gets to hold the remote tonight while the other cooks dinner!

Join a club, get a USGA index. Visit your state or regional golf association to get a list of clubs that might be looking for someone just like you to join. Then you can play against anyone, anywhere, any time.

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