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Additional Resources on Handicapping

Handicap Index Calculation

The Handicap Index formula is based on the best (lowest) Handicap Differentials in a player's scoring record. If a player's scoring record contains 20 or more scores, the best 10 Handicap Differentials of the most recent 20 scores are used to calculate the Handicap Index. As the number of scores in the scoring record decreases, the percentage of scores used also is reduced from the maximum of the best 50 percent. Thus, the accuracy of a player's Handicap Index is directly proportional to the number of acceptable scores posted. Handicap Indexes are calculated using the USGA formula on the 1st and 15th of each month and updated on players’ records. A scoring record of at least (5) scores is required in order to establish a Handicap Index.

The following procedures illustrate how an authorized golf association, golf club, and computation service calculate a player's Handicap Index:

Step 1: Use the table below to determine the number of Handicap Differentials to use

Step 2: Identify the Lowest Handicap Differentials to be used

Step 3: Average those Handicap Differentials

Step 4: Multiply the average by .96

Step 5: Delete all numbers after the tenths' digit

Handicap Designations

  • R=’Reduced’ Handicap Index due to Exceptional Tournament Scores. 
  • M=’Modified’ Handicap Index which has been adjusted by the club Handicap Committee
  • L=’Local’ Handicap Index which exceeds maximum handicap value within the USGA Handicapping System (36.4-Men, 40.4-Women) 

Reduction of Handicap Index Based on Exceptional Tournament Scores

The following procedure must be used as an alternate calculation of a Handicap Index for players with two or more eligible tournament scores. A player's Handicap Index may be reduced under this procedure when a player has a minimum of two eligible tournament score differentials that are at least 3.0 better than the player's Handicap Index as originally calculated under Section 10-2.

The Handicap Committee or handicap computation service must apply the following steps to determine if a reduction to a player’s assigned Handicap Index is necessary.

Step 1: Identify the players’ lowest two eligible Tournament (T) Score Differentials within the past 12 months.

Step 2: Subtract the second lowest differential from the Handicap Index, as calculated originally under Section 10-2. Continue with the next step if the result is 3.0 or greater.

Step 3: Average the two lowest tournament score differentials.

Step 4: Subtract that average from the player's originally calculated Handicap Index.

Step 5: Using the number (rounded to the nearest tenths place from step 4) and the total number of tournament scores in the player's record within the past 12 months, use the Handicap Reduction Table (below) to determine if player’s Handicap Index is to be reduced.

Step 6: Subtract the table value from the player's originally calculated Handicap Index. The result of that subtraction will be the player's officially assigned Handicap Index and indentified with the letter R to identify that it has been ‘Reduced’ under Section 10-3, USGA Handicap System Manual, due to Exceptional Tournament Scores.

Duration and Variation of Reduction

Handicap Index reduction for exceptional tournament scores is calculated at each handicap revision and may vary from revision to revision based on a number of factors. These factors may include the following:

  • Additional tournament scores; 
  • Expiration of eligible tournament scores; 
  • Fluctuation of originally calculated handicap index in relation to the two lowest T-Scores. 

Handicap Committee Review of Reduction

The Handicap Committee must review all reductions. As a result of review, the Handicap Committee may:

  • Continue to allow the reduction to run its normal course, as described in Section 10-3d, or
  • Further reduce the Handicap Index. For example, the committee may conclude that the player's performance continues to be better than the potential ability indicated by the 10-3 reduction. In that case, the committee replaces the reduced Handicap Index with an even lower reduced Handicap Index, continuing to review the reduction after each revision period, or
  • Override the reduction. For example, the committee may cancel the reduction to a Handicap Index for a player who has been injured and whose reduction was based on early tournament scores prior to the injury. In that case, the reduction is inconsistent with the player's scoring record. The committee replaces the reduced Handicap Index with the Handicap Index calculated originally under Section 10-2 and ceases designating it with an R. The committee will have the option to continue to override after each revision period for as long as at least two exceptional tournament scores continue to trigger a 10-3 reduction. 
  • Adjust the amount of the reduction. The Handicap Committee may decide that the player's full 10-3 reduction does not reflect their potential ability, but a reduction is still necessary. In this case, the Handicap Committee may modify the amount of the reduction and the player's Handicap Index as calculated by Section 10-2.

More Information

Competing from Different Tees

Can players compete against each other equitably while playing from different sets of tees? Yes. The USGA Handicap System is setup in such a way to allow players of varying skill levels to not only play against each other from the same course and set of tees, but also when players use different sets of tees. The procedure to calculate player Course Handicaps, compensating for the varying levels of difficulty between the tees being utilized, is outlined in Section 3-5 of the USGA Handicap System Manual and explained below.

Step 1: Each player converts their Handicap Index through the Course Handicap Conversion Chart of the set of tees they are playing.

Step 2: Calculate the difference in Course Rating values between the tees and round to the nearest whole number. This value may either: be added onto the originally converted Course Handicap of the players using the higher rated (more difficult) set of tees, or, subtracted from the converted Course Handicap of the players using the lower rated (easier) set of tees.

Provided this two step process is utilized to calculate final Course Handicap values for all players, they may play against each other on an equitable basis for the round even though they are playing from different sets of tees.

See Example

USGA Position Paper on Competing from Different Tees

USGA Handicapping Publications

Handicap System Reference Guide

Handicap System in Brief