What is a Golf Handicap?

As properly defined, a golf handicap is a numerical measure of an amateur golfer's playing ability. A golf handicap can be used to calculate a so-called "net" score from the number of actual strokes played, thus allowing players with differing proficiency skills to play against each on equal terms. Golf handicaps are administrated by golf clubs or national golf associations.

As recommended by SAGA (The South African Golf Association), golf handicaps should be calculated at the most twice a month. As recommended by SALGU (The South African Ladies Golf Union), handicaps should also be calculated twice a month, and be posted on the 1st and 15th of every new month.

How Handicaps are Calculated:

There are three key steps which form part of the golf handicap calculation process. And so, in order to correctly calculate your golf handicap, take note of the following and apply what is mentioned in the below-listed steps to your personal golfing statistics:

  • Step 1:

    A minimum of five scores and a maximum of 20 is required to get started. For each score, the USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating for the courses played are also required. Using those figures, calculate the handicap differential for each round entered using this formula:

    (Score - Course Rating) x 113 / Slope Rating

    For example, let's say the score is 85, the course rating 72.2, the slope 131.

    This differential is calculated for each round entered.

  • Step 2:

  • Figure out how many differentials are being used. Not every differential that results from Step 1 will be used in the next step. If only five rounds are entered, only the lowest differential will be used. If 20 rounds are entered, only the 10 lowest differentials are used. A chart below shows how many differentials are used based on the number of rounds entered.

  • Step 3:

    Get an average of the differentials used by adding them together and dividing by the number used (i.e., if five differentials are used, add them up and divide by five).

    Multiply the result by .96 (96-percent). Drop all the digits after the tenths (do not round off) and the result is handicap index.
Number of Differentials Used Rounds Entered Differentials Used
5-6 1 lowest
7-8 2 lowest
9-10 3 lowest
11-12 4 lowest
13-14 5 lowest
15-16 6 lowest
17 7 lowest
18 8 lowest
19 9 lowest
18 8 lowest
20 10 lowest

The following is stipulated in the SAGA handicap manual as implemented with effect from 1st January 2003 and regards the appropriate manner of calculating golf handicaps in South Africa:

  1. Forward Tees for 65 Years + :

    If a player over the age of 65 takes the option of being allowed to play off the forward tees his adjusted score for handicap purposes shall be determined using the regular club rating.

  2. Two Overs:

    As from 1 January 2003 the SAGA changed the rule on maximum strokes allowed per hole. A golfer may take as many double drops as his/her handicap allows.

    For example: If you are a 10 handicap you may take your double drops as they occur until you have taken 10 doubles, thereafter you may only take a single drop with a ring. If you are a 17 handicap you can take a double drop on any hole that they occur unless you have taken a maximum of 17 doubles already. This rule will apply to all golfers no matter what handicap.

  3. Handicap Window:

    The handicap window is extended to the best 10 scores of the last 20 scores.

  4. Handicap Revision:

    The handicaps must be revised at least monthly.

  5. Penalty Scores:

    Should a player fail to return a score on the handicap system he shall have a differential equal to the best of his last differentials recorded as a penalty score. Should a player persist in this practice, disciplinary measures as described in the SAGA Handicapping Manual should be instituted.

  6. How to Compute Handicaps: (This section replaces the relevant section in the old handicap booklet).

    Compute golf handicaps in the following ways:
    • Lowest 10 of Last 20 Differentials
    • Substitute SAGA for SAGF
    • Substitute 10 for 6 and 20 for 12
  7. Formula Used:

    Sum { 10 best from latest 20 diffs } X 85% ( 115% ) = Handicap ( +H’C’s)

  8. Fewer than 20 Differentials:

    A handicap shall not be issued to a player who has returned fewer than 5 scores.

  9. Nine Hole Scores:
    • A 9-hole course played twice consecutively constitutes a stipulated
      18-hole round - same day and session – 9-hole courses.
    • The following will also constitute a stipulated 18-hole round : ( new )
      2 consecutive 9-holes played on the same 9 or 18 hole course
        1. on different sessions (e.g. AM / PM of the same day )
        2. on different dates ( e.g. Saturday /Sunday )
    • Provided that no other round of golf is played between the two 9-hole rounds
    • Not accepted for handicap purposes ( Important )
      1. 1 x 9 holes
      2. 1 x 9-holes played multiplied by two.
      3. Playing 9 holes with 2 balls (2 scores from different sets of tee