Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Calculate Your Golf Handicap

How to Get a Handicap Card
golf handicap

Now that you understand how golf handicaps are calculated, you might be interested in obtaining your own handicap index. In the United States, the USGA controls all aspects of this process through two entities: an authorized golf association and a golf club.

Authorized golf associations usually have jurisdiction over numerous golf clubs in a certain district, region or state. Georgia, for example, has one authorized golf association, the Georgia State Golf Association, which has more than 330 member clubs. Both the authorized golf association and the golf club must be licensed by the USGA to utilize the USGA Handicap System.

To obtain an official USGA Handicap Index, you must first join a golf club. Once you have done this, you must post a score for each round played. Your post should include the following information:

  • Player's name
  • Date
  • Course name
  • USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating of the course played
  • Adjusted gross score
  • Score type (for tournament scores only)

To ensure that the handicapping system remains fair, only post full and accurate information, preferably in person and immediately after you finish the round. Selectively posting scores to skew your handicap up or down is a violation of USGA rules and will result in a penalty administered by the club's Handicap Committee. If unposted scores are unusually low, the committee will post a score equal to the player's lowest round; if unreported scores are unusually high, the committee will post a score equal to the player's highest round. A player who continually misreports or fails to report scores may have his or her handicap index withdrawn.

Once you have posted five scores, the club can issue you a handicap index. This number will be printed on a card along with your name, authorized golf association, golf club, issue date, number of scores posted and score history. Your club's authorized golf association will revise your scoring history and handicap index periodically, usually once a month or once every two weeks. Your index is valid at any USGA-rated golf course, so get out and enjoy the links!