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My Golf Scorecard: Understanding your card | Score big on the green (part 2)


A golfer looks up the slope and course rating for the tees he played from on the scorecard to determine his handicap for the round. The player’s score is reduced by the course rating, which is then multiplied by the slope for the tees used and divided by 113. The resultant number represents the round’s handicap.


A player’s total USGA handicap is calculated using at least five scores and up to 20 of their most recent rounds.

To determine the player’s total handicap, the average value of a predetermined number of those points is calculated.

The top 10 scores are used when there are 20 total. Nine rounds are used if 19 rounds have already been completed. Up until the best score for a golfer with either five or six rounds, the average is calculated using two fewer cards than the player has scores for.


Handicaps are used by amateur golfers all around the world. They enable competitive games between players with greatly divergent ability levels. In contrast to stroke play, the recorded score in a match is not the exact number of strokes used. When competing in a match-play event, handicaps are applied somewhat differently.


The USGA releases two different kinds of handicap indexes: nine-hole indexes, which have a (N) after the number, and 18-hole indexes, which are what most players envision when they hear the word “Handicap Index.”

For 18-hole matches, multiply your nine-hole handicap index by two. For nine-hole matches, divide your index by two if you only have an 18-hole index.



A golf handicap is a number that is given to a player that accurately reflects their level of ability and the approximate number of strokes needed to reach even par. The better the golfer, and vice versa, the smaller their handicap.

The golf handicap system was created as a way to gauge a player’s talent level by weighing scores from several rounds against the relative difficulty of the courses they were playing. Golfers can compete against players of various skill levels and talents by using handicaps. When and if a player receives strokes on a hole during a competition, they can use the stroke index of the course.

A golfer with a handicap of 0 is referred to as a “scratch golfer,” and on a USGA-approved course, they may expect to shoot even par. A “bogey golfer,” on the other hand, will have a handicap of 18, meaning that his score indicates that he averaged a bogey on each of the 18 holes of the course, giving him a score of 18 over par and a handicap of 18. Men can have handicaps up to 36, while women can have handicaps up to 40, according to the USGA. A large handicap is typically defined as one of 20 or more.


Your handicap in stroke play is rather obvious because it indicates how many strokes you receive from the field. However, there are only two players in a singles match. The player with the lowest handicap plays at scratch, which means he receives no handicap strokes, and establishes the baseline handicap.

By deducting the other player’s handicap from his own, the other player receives his handicap strokes. Take the scenario where your course handicap is 15 and your opponent’s is 6. Your handicap is 9 and your opponent is playing scratch after deducting 6 from 15.


On the scorecard, a handicap number is listed for each hole.

For each hole where you are given a handicap stroke, you deduct one stroke from your total score to determine your net score. For instance, if you score nine strokes, you deduct one stroke from your total for each of the nine holes with the highest handicaps, which are holes with a handicap of “1” through “9”.

If you are allowed more than 18 strokes, deduct the extra strokes from the hardest holes in descending order of difficulty. For instance, if you were given 20 handicap strokes, you would receive two strokes on the “1” and “2” handicap holes and one stroke on the remaining holes.


4 golfers playing golf.

A four-ball (or better ball of partners) game consists of two two-player teams. Each player uses his or her own ball, and each team takes the average of its two players’ greatest scores. The participant with the lowest handicap competes at even money.

The handicap of the best player is deducted from the handicaps of the other players. When your partner is a 6 and you are a 15, for instance, your opponents are a 7 and a 9. When playing scratch with a partner, you get 9 strokes while your opponents receive 1 and 3 strokes, respectively.


A golf course’s nine holes are ranked from hardest to easy using the stroke index.

While the back nine holes are given even numbers from 2 to 18, the front nine holes are given odd numbers from 1 to 17, with a lower number denoting a harder hole. Since there are no repeating numbers, each nine is graded from simplest to most difficult.

It is easy to decide the winner of a strokeplay match involving players with different handicaps; simply subtract each player’s handicap from their gross score to arrive at their net score.

Since stroke index was created for match play, it is uncommon for the opening hole to have a low stroke index in the event that the match is tied after 18 holes and sudden death ensues. The same holds true for clubs where matches occasionally begin on the 10th hole.


The players only need to deduct the higher handicap player’s score from the total when allocating handicap strokes for a round. The stroke index is utilized in match play or skins, where scores from each hole are taken into account. A player would only deduct a stroke from her score on holes with a stroke index of seven or lower, for instance, if she is down seven strokes against her opponent. Handicaps above 18 can be scored similarly, with a discrepancy of 23 for example being resolved by awarding one stroke on holes numbered 6 through 18, and two strokes on the five hardest holes.

These stroke indexes were created to support match play games with handicaps.

For two main reasons, the last hole—which can refer to both the 9th and the 18th—is frequently rarely of low index. One is that golfers don’t like taking a shot in a hole that might be important. The other is that many games do not go to 18 shots, thus the player that receives shots might not get to use all of their allotment.

The stroke indices 9, 10, 11, and 12 should be assigned to holes 1, 9, 10, and 18 in whichever order is deemed suitable, unless there are strong reasons to the contrary.

Many clubs assign all the odd stroke indices to one nine and the even ones to the other nine in order to evenly distribute the stroke indices throughout the hole.

The first two index holes should be located close to the middle of each nine, and the first six strokes shouldn’t be assigned to holes that are next to one another. In order to prevent a player receiving 10 strokes from receiving strokes on three consecutive holes, the 7th through 10th indices should be assigned.


You can see from these examples that stroke index is not just a straightforward evaluation of a hole’s difficulty.

However, compared to match play, which has fewer clubs, Stableford competitions—in which clubs typically participate—use stroke index more frequently.

It does not really matter where the stroke indexes are distributed in a stableford game. Some clubs have two sets of stroke indexes, one for match play and the other for Stableford, as a result. The Stableford ranking is a more direct way to measure how difficult each hole is. Additionally, the “Handicap Stroke Index” is frequently utilized for par, bogey, and stableford contests. The requirement for an even and balanced distribution of strokes is less important in certain types of stroke play competition.

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