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USGA Handicap System

The "USGA Handicap System" is the USGA's mark that denotes the USGA's method of evaluating golf skills so that players of differing abilities can compete on an equitable basis.

The purpose of the USGA Handicap System is to make the game of golf more enjoyable by enabling players of differing abilities to compete on an equitable basis. The System provides a fair Course Handicap for each player, regardless of ability, and adjusts a player's Handicap Index up or down as the player's game changes. At the same time, the System disregards high scores that bear little relation to the player's potential ability and promotes continuity by making a Handicap Index continuous from one playing season or year to the next. A Handicap Index is useful for all forms of play, and is issued only to individuals who are members of a licensed golf club.

Two basic premises underlie the USGA Handicap System, namely that each player will try to make the best score at every hole in every round, regardless of where the round is played, and that the player will post every acceptable round for peer review. The player and the player's Handicap Committee have joint responsibility for adhering to these premises.

A Handicap Index, issued by a golf club or authorized golf association (through its member clubs), indicates a player's skill and is a number taken to one decimal place, e.g., 10.4.

A Handicap Index compares a player's scoring ability to the scoring ability of a scratch golfer on a course of standard difficulty. A player posts scores along with the appropriate USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating to make up the scoring record. A Handicap Index is computed from no more than 20 scores plus any eligible tournament scores. It reflects the player's potential because it is based upon the best handicap differentials posted for a given number of rounds, ideally the best 10 of the last 20 rounds.

A Handicap Index is portable from course to course, as well as from one set of tees to another set of tees on the same course. A player converts a Handicap Index to a Course Handicap based on the Slope Rating of the tees played.

Maximum Handicap Index;
The maximum Handicap Index is 54.0 for men and women. Note: A maximum Handicap Index will convert to a Course Handicap that exceeds these numbers on golf courses with a Slope Rating greater than 113. Example: A player with a Handicap Index of 36.4 will have a Course Handicap of 43 on a course with a Slope Rating of 133.

No player has an inherent right to a Handicap Index without providing full evidence of his ability to the Handicap Committee at his golf club.