how to calculate course handicap in golf
First of, lets get some definitions out of the way. Once we are on the same page, it will be easy to talk about how to use golf handicaps.
A handicap index (or ghin) is a number that indicates a player's skill. It is a number with one decimal place such as 12.4 or 21.7. The lower the handicap index, the more skilled the player is. What is it for? According to the USGA, there are two reasons for it.
1. Provides a way for golfers with different abilities to play and compete on a relatively even basis at any course (ie. a course that has a rating and slope).
2. Provides a rating system that indicates a player's ability relative to other golfers.
To calculate your handicap index, gather the last 20 scorecards that you have. Use a free handicap index calculator and enter these scores along with each course's slope and rating. These numbers can be found on a scorecard or if you are in doubt, call the golf course and inquire about the slope and rating for the tee box that you had played at.
Note that your handicap index will fluctuate every time you enter a new round. If your index is going down then your playing ability is getting better. If it goes up and up then it means you are playing worst than before.
Next up is the course handicap. The course handicap is the number of strokes a player receives at the specific course and at the specific tees. To calculate the course handicap, use the following formula:
course handicap = handicap index x (course rating / 113)
In match play, the player receives additional strokes on each of the hardest holes and in stroke play, the player's handicap index is subtracted from the gross score to get the net score.
There you have it, you asked and you got the answers. Now what? This is my take on the whole golf handicapping stuff. Lets say you have calculated your handicap index and it comes out to 18 which is pretty good (in my standards). You play two rounds at two different courses, one with a slope of 113 and the other with a slope of 137. From the slope of these courses, the second course is harder than the first course. (Remember the higher the slope, the harder the course) After playing 2 rounds, you score 90 and 92 respectively. Now the question is, which course did you play better at? With a handicap index, you can calculate your net score for both games. The course handicap will use the slope of each course to determine the differential so lets see what we get.
Course # 1: 18 x (113 / 113) = 18
Course # 2: 18 x (137 / 113) = 21.82 or 22 rounded up.
The net score is calculated by subtracting the course handicap from each gross score.
Course # 1: 90 - 18 = 72.
Course # 2: 92 - 22 = 70.
Based on the net scores, you had played better on the second course, even though you shot a lower (gross) score on the first course. The reason is because the course handicap took the slope of the harder course into account and you gained 4 strokes.
With a handicap index, you can also set an expectation on a course before you play it. Lets say you want to play the Stadium Course at PGA West from the Championship tees that the PGA Tour players play from.
Calculate the course handicap first:
Course Handicap = 18 x (148 / 113) = 23.57
Now add the rounded up number of 24 to the par 72 that is the course is rated for. The net score is 96. Based on your handicap index of 18, the score to beat is 96. If you come in under 96 then you had played a stellar round. However if you scored higher than 96 then you can say that the course ate you up.
Based on the USGA, they would say that 25% of the time, you would score 96 or lower on the Stadium course and 75% of the time, you would score 97 or higher.
Go calculate your handicap index and have fun with predicting your score. Finally there's a way to keep you on track with your playing ability.