Golf Instruction

 Golf Tips
 Golf Articles
 Golf Schools
 Golf Lessons
 Golf Clinics
 Golf Books
 Golf Dictionary
 Golf Handicaps
  Other methods
  Handicap Tracking
 Get More Distance

Main Menu

Ask the Pro

Golf Pro Shop


Free Gifts




Site Search

Site Map

Get a handicap and track your stats online

Golf Handicaps
How they work and how to get one

All About Handicaps
MB's Handy Handicap Calculators

So what's this handicap business all about? This can be pretty straight forward, or a lot of confusion for something that basically means "The average difference between your scores and a standard, as calculated by specified procedures and formulas."

If you already know about handicaps you can skip to the calculators. Otherwise, here's the general idea (without going into too much detail or being too precise).

Terms and Definitions

  • Raw score - The gross or unadjusted total score for a round
  • Adjusted score - The total score after Equitable Stroke Control has been applied
  • Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) - maximum allowed individual hole scores to more accurately represent a player's scoring "potential"
  • Handicap Differential - difference between adjusted scores and course difficulty
  • Handicap Index - adjusted average of handicap differentials to one decimal place
      max USGA Handicap Index -- men/36.4 -- women/40.4
      max USGA Handicap Index(N) -- men/18.2 -- women/20.2
    means 9 holes
  • Course Handicap - whole number adjustment of Handicap Index for a specific course (most courses have a chart to make this conversion)

The process starts by turning raw scores into adjusted scores (per ESC) and then calculating a Handicap Differential for each adjusted score. You then plug these differentials into the formula for a Handicap Index. Once you have a Handicap Index it can easily be converted into a Course Handicap for any specific course you play.

A Handicap Index is a number that, loosely, is a measurement of a player's potential scoring ability on a course of average difficulty, and sort of represents the difference between a player's scores and the course ratings of the golf courses he/she plays. It is figured from a player's best scores, and is calculated to one decimal place.

So if you have some scores, go ahead and try the calculators below. I think you'll find them pretty..."handy." smile

Handicap Calculators

Calculator Instructions

There are three calculators: One for Handicap Differentials, one for Handicap Indexes and one for Course Handicaps. The USGA insists that you have at least 5 raw scores to start with (and prefers 20), but for educational purposes as many as you have will work. Differentials are figured from your lowest scores.

 Total scores  Use
5 or 6 Lowest 1
7 or 8 Lowest 2
9 or 10 Lowest 3
11 or 12 Lowest 4
13 or 14 Lowest 5
15 or 16 Lowest 6
17 Lowest 7
18 Lowest 8
19 Lowest 9
20 Lowest 10

At the right is a chart to tell you how many of your scores to use depending on how many total scores you have. First let's get your handicap differential for each score. To figure a differential you'll need three things: (1) your adjusted score, (2) the course rating, and (3) the course slope (These last two should be on the scorecard).

Enter those three numbers into the appropriate fields in the calculator below and click the "Calculate..." button. The result appears in the next field. If you would like to move that result down into the next series of fields in the Handicap Index Calculator click the "Add..." button. Repeat the differentials process as many times as you have scores, or a maximum of ten.

Finally, you can move the Handicap Index result down into the Course Handicap Calculator, enter the slope of the course you want a Course Handicap for, and hit the "Calculate..." button.

There you go...instant handicap info. Who's your buddy? Who's your pal?


  • These calculators are for demonstration purposes only, not for official handicaps. They may not be accurate for all possible values and are sometimes temperamental.
  • If you ever receive the result "NaN" it means either that you entered something other than a number or decimal point in the field(s), the calculator needs to be reset (click "Reset" button) or the page may need to be reloaded.
  • The calculators work equally well with 9-hole scores and handicaps. Just enter the adjusted 9-hole score and course rating -- keep the slope the same as for 18 holes unless there is a separate 9-hole slope.

Handicap Differential Calculator

Adjusted Score
Course Rating
Handicap Differential

Handicap Index Calculator
(Leave all unfilled fields at 0.0)

1234 5 Index
6789 10

Course Handicap Calculator

Your Index
Course Slope
Course Handicap

Equitable Stroke Control

Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) is the "capping" of individual hole scores to make handicaps more indicative of a player's scoring potential. The maximum score that a player can post on any hole is based on the player's Course Handicap. In the case of a player without an established handicap scores are adjusted using the maximum hole score for the highest Course Handicap. Once your Handicap Index is established you use the ESC table below.

 Course Handicap   Maximum Score per Hole 
up to 9 Double Bogey
10 through 19 7
20 through 29 8
30 through 39 9
40 or higher 10

Other Methods

There are other handicapping formats for events where many players do not have established handicaps.

More Detailed Info...

There are specific formulas, rules and guidelines for calculation and application of Equitable Stroke Control, Differentials, Indexes and Course Handicaps. If you're interested in the official technical details you can get them straight from the "horse's mouth" at the USGA or R&A. Or check here to get an official handicap online and all the details.

No copying, reprinting or reproduction
of any material on this website without
written consent from the site's author