How to Get a Golf Handicap (10 Fast Methods)

how to get a golf handicap


Why Do I need a Golf Handicap?

A golf handicap is a term that is used to measure the potential of a player and has a numerical value. It is also used to calculate your net score in a game by finding the difference between the total number of strokes in one round of golf and your handicap value.

Why Do you need a Golf Handicap? Having a handicap promotes maximum equality when you are on the course and makes the game of golf all the more competitive.

Male golfers are allowed to have a maximum handicap of 36.4 while for women the value is higher at 40.4. Between two players of different handicap values, the person with a lower handicap is considered to be a better performer.

To earn yourself a handicap, you have to complete at least five rounds of the game and keep a track of your scores from Round 5 to Round 20.


The scores of your most recent 20 rounds are used to calculate your handicap.


The following are some reasons why you may want a handicap:

  1. This makes it easy for you to set goals for yourself. It makes you try consistently and improve your performance with each game while recording and tracking your scores at the same time.
  2. It can help you compare yourself with other golfers. This, in turn, is likely to develop a competitive spirit.
  3. It plays a key role in ensuring a fair game for everyone. Good, bad, and average golfers can try their hands at the same playing level.
  4. Most tournaments require players to have a handicap to give equal opportunities for all teams and players against other participants.
  5. High scores are not the only scores considered in a game. For example, the USGA takes into consideration the top ten scores of the most recent twenty rounds.
  6. All courses are not the same and some courses are more difficult to play on, than others.
  7. It can add more fun to an already fun game because of participation by players of all levels.


How to Get a Golf Handicap

You can get a golf handicap through either the traditional handicapping or online handicapping method. Read on to know more about these handicap options.

You can follow the steps given below to obtain a United States Golf Association (USGA) sanctioned or certified handicap.

  1. Become a member of a USGA certified club that offers handicapping services. The club must have a minimum of ten members and should meet the basic game requirements. Usually, the club will mention about the availability of these services on its associated golf course website.
  2. Ten members of the club shall be responsible for providing peer reviews and supervising golf activities. They will also be involved in ensuring that the integrity of the USGA Handicap System is maintained.
  3. Register yourself for a USGA handicap by paying the required local fees and handicap dues to qualify for the handicap.
  4. Make a note of your gross score in the handicapping computer for each round you complete by entering each scorecard in it. You will be given a user ID and a password to post the scores online.
  5. Complete five rounds and check with the club about your first handicap index. This is the minimum number of rounds that USGA requires you to complete, to obtain a handicapping index. The club will issue you a handicap index after a revision date.
  6. Enter the result of each round that you complete into the handicapping computer. The last twenty rounds are taken into account for your handicap index at that point in time.

You can also post your adjusted gross scores online instead of using the handicapping computer in your golf club. For this, you will have to post your scores online on the Golf Handicap and Information Network website.

This well-known network, popularly known as GHIN, is affiliated to the USGA. It operates as a handicap tracking system and is in charge of handling players’handicaps on a national level. You will have to post at least five scores.

Once you have posted twenty scores, the USGA will take into consideration your top ten scores based on the slope rating of your course and the rating of the course itself and determine your handicap.

One thing that you must keep in mind when opting for posting your scores online is that not all golf clubs allow their members to post their scores online. So, you might want to check with the golf club regarding this before you become a member there.

However as of late, the number of clubs that are taking advantage of the GHIN service is increasing by the day.

As a golf player, you can receive your traditional handicap by completing a game in a local golf course that is under the administration of a local State golf association.

The advantages and disadvantages of the USGA style of handicapping are as follows.

Advantages of USGA Handicap

  • This handicap allows golfers to play in various events such as local events, USGA events, and state golf association events. Hence, it is ideal for a traditional golfer.
  • No one will question the authenticity of your handicap if a State Association makes it official.

Disadvantages of USGA Handicap

  • The cost for obtaining the handicap differs from club to club and can range anywhere from USD 25 to USD 60 depending on what the club wishes to charge.
  • Access to mobile and online platforms tends to vary according to the golf course affiliation and the State Association.
  • There is no way to track and analyze data other than having a handicapping and recording your scores.


How to Get a Golf Handicap Online

You can always opt for getting an online handicap if you do not want to choose the traditional method of getting a handicap. Several websites can help you to get a handicap through them. Most of them charge a nominal fee or no fee at all for providing this service. They charge a premium if you want to take advantage of all the features.


The advantages and disadvantages of getting a handicap online are as follows.

Advantages of Online Golf Handicap

  • This handicap can be mostly obtained free of cost. This makes it a good option for those who consider a handicap as just a number. They do not see the need for a traditional handicap for which some golfers pay USD 25 to USD 60.
  • These handicaps are more often than not offered by technology companies with fast mobile or online access that gives additional statistics, related analytics or tracking details, as well as premium services like scorecard picture importing and GPS.


Disadvantages of Online Golf Handicap

  • Online handicaps need not be official all the time, meaning that they are not offered by legitimate sources. Because such handicaps are not USGA compliant, many competitive events and tournaments will not accept them and deny you the opportunity of playing in such matches.
  • There are websites that collect your game details and sell them to a third party. You may not even know who will get access to your data. It is advisable to be wary of such services.


How to Get a Golf Handicap Card

You can keep a handicap card with you to show it where it might be required. This can be quite helpful when you are planning to play a tournament. This card is usually issued by golfing associations and highlights your playing ability.

A handicap card will feature several details such as a player handicap, an actual handicap, the player’s name, and information about the club he belongs to. It serves as proof of your ability to play at a specific level. It is worth noting that a golf handicap card also has a validity date.

To get a USGA handicap card, you must first get a handicap index according to the norms specified by the association. Once you get your handicap index, you can do the following to get your handicap card.

  • Check with the club about the least number of club events that you should take part in to be eligible for qualifying for a USGA certified handicap card. Often, you will be required to complete at least three rounds and one club event. This is in accordance with the USGA’s peer-enforcement policy.
  • After you are done with the required handicap establishment requirements and minimum club level activities, your club president will help you get a USGA handicap index card by coordinating with the USGA.

When you reserve a tee at a golf course, it is advisable that you check out with the course staff about a handicap limit and if your card makes you eligible for playing in open competitions.

Some golf clubs are particular about handicap cards being issued by traditional golf clubs. This insistence is left to the discretion of each club and there are no official rules governing this.

You can seek the assistance of MyScorecard to avail of your USGA handicap index. The agency has hundreds of open and private USGA authorized clubs in its database for you to shortlist your club.

The clubs have the required license to issue official handicap cards to their members.

To become a club member, you must stay within 50 miles of where the club is located. You can join more than one club fulfilling this requirement.

There is no extra cost to become a part of a USGA licensed club. The cost is included in your membership fees. It is worth noting that the USGA handicaps get updated once or twice in a month on revision dates.

If you have met the association’s requirements, MyScorecard will update your USGA handicap card automatically on each revision date. The agency allows you to print your handicap card online or allows USGA licensed clubs to issue plastic cards for a small fee.


How to Get a Golf Handicap Without Joining a Club

You can also get a golf handicap without joining a golf club. Having an official USGA handicap is ideal if you want to take your golf to the next level. You can get this without joining a club in the following ways:

  1. Sign up with a public golf course
  2. Join a golf league
  3. Join the USGA online handicap program
  4. Apply for a handicap online


Sign-up with a public course

According to the USGA, this is defined as a Type 1 Club. This sign-up means that you do not have to take up membership with a private club to get an official handicap.

Almost all public courses are entitled to offer handicap services. You can check out the list of golf associations recognized by USGA to know the available golf courses in your neighborhood.

This option requires you to make a payment ranging between $25 and $50. The exact amount is decided by the course.  


Join a league

One thing to remember when you decide on this option is that while the USGA (or R&A) has the authority to offer official handicaps, not all leagues can do this. So, you may have to check this out before you join them. This can land you in a fix when you try to participate in competitions that are held outside the league.

However, the added advantage is that joining a league helps you to make new friends in your neighborhood and take part in competitions organized by the league.

This is undoubtedly the most expensive option if you are looking for choices other than joining a private club. The amount to join a league is typically over $100 and includes the membership fees.


Online official handicap

You can also join a USGA recognized online golf club. According to the association, this is defined as a Type 3 club. This means that the club will not have any physical course. However, joining members must reside within 50 miles of the proximity of the central location of the club.

While the distance factor may seem challenging, the good news is that there are online handicap clubs located everywhere. It’s often not difficult to find a local club near you.

This option, like joining a public course, typically requires you to make a payment starting from $25 to $50. However, you will have to make this payment every year.


Get a free online golf handicap

One main difference with the above options is that getting your handicap this way is free. However, the flip side is that most tournaments that need you to enter your handicap will not consider this handicap to be valid. Hence, it is ideal that you check out this option only if you have no plans to participate in tournaments.

If this is your preferred choice, you can consider choosing either The Grintor Diablo Golf (Both are available as websites or apps on both Google Play and Apple’s app store).

Apart from the array of features, The Grintor has a truly eye-catching official handicap option apart from allowing you to track your handicap and other stats. The Golf Digest Handicap is another free service.

If none of the above methods appeals to you, you can use one of the several free software available that is dedicated to this purpose. This takes a lot more effort and time than is usually necessary.

On the plus side, this is an easy way of helping players to track their scores in an easily manageable MS Excel file. You can also check out retail golf stores like Golf Galaxy and Golfsmith for their handicapping services.


How to Get a Golf Handicap Quickly

You can get a golf handicap quickly by following the steps given below. Ideally, you adopt the USGA requirements to be eligible to play in a wide range of tournaments.


1) Establish a handicap index

A handicap index is typically a number that will help you determine your handicap from various sets of tees, as well as at different courses. You can follow the steps given at the end of the section on how to get your golf handicap to get your handicap index.


2) Calculate the course handicap

You can change your handicap index to a course handicap depending on how difficult the course is. Often, golf clubs have a chart put up at their courses that highlight different indexes and the corresponding course handicaps in two different columns. This will help you identify your course handicap for the set of tees and location that you are going to play.

Alternatively, most courses have handicap computers that are equipped with the handicap conversion function. You can also get the slope rating of the course from the management and enter that value along with your handicap index in USGA’s online calculator.


3) Apply handicaps in stroke play

In the stroke-play events, handicaps can be applied easily. You will have to deduct your handicap from your score once the round is over. Similarly, the difference between your final score and course handicap is taken into consideration.

In team events, your handicap is applied to each hole. The scorecard ranks each hole based on difficultly. The most difficult hole is ranked 1 while the easiest hole has a rank of 18.

If you have a 7 handicap, one stroke is deducted on each of the seven toughest holes you encounter to calculate your net score. In a Better Ball of Partners match, the score of the team is calculated as the lowest net score.


4) Apply handicaps in match play

In this case, a handicap is applied per hole like the Better Ball of Partners in stroke play. However, there is one exception. The difference between players’ handicaps is used by them in a head-to-head match.

For example, if one player has a 9-course handicap and another one has a 12-course handicap, the second player gets 9 strokes, one at each of the nine toughest holes of the course. The first player will not get any handicap stroke.

If the match is between four players of different course handicaps, the three players with the highest handicaps must determine their handicap strokes with respect to the best golfer.

For instance, if the handicaps are 2, 5, 11 and 17 respectively, the first player will have to play at scratch while the other three players are entitled to 3, 9 and 15 strokes in that order.


Read more: What Is Your Golf Handicap


Ernie loves documenting interesting facts about golf.

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