Determining Handicap Strokes in a Man vs. Woman Golf Match

Examples for playing from different tees and the same tees

Most golf matches take place between golfers who are playing from tees that have the same USGA Course Rating for each.

But if a man and a woman want to play a match against each other under the USGA Handicap System, using their handicap indexes to determine course handicaps, and then applying those strokes to their respective scores, it creates a different situation: The course ratings will be different for the golfers involved in such a match.

That's true whether the man and woman are playing from different tees (obviously, different tees have different ratings) or from the same tees (tees are rated differently for men and for women).

How does that affect the number of handicap strokes each golfer receives? Does it change either golfer's course handicap?

Yes, it does: The golfer playing from the higher USGA Course Rating will receive extra strokes. That's because a higher course rating indicates a more difficult set of playing conditions for that golfer.

Let's explain the adjustment and show two examples.

Handicap Strokes for Man vs. Woman from Different Tees

(Note that the following applies to any match involving golfers playing from different sets of tees - man vs. woman, man vs. man or woman vs. woman.)

Jermaine (our boy golfer) and Miranda (our girl golfer) are playing a match, with Jermaine using the middle tees and Miranda the forward tees.

Both calculate their course handicaps in the normal fashion. Let's say that Jermaine has a course handicap of 11 and Miranda of 13.

Next, they compare the course ratings for the tees they are playing. Jermaine obviously looks at the men's course rating for the middle tees, while Miranda looks at the women's course rating for the forward tees.

Let's say that the course rating for Jermaine's tees is 70.3, while the course rating for Miranda's tees is 71.9. This means that Miranda is playing the more difficult course, according to the USGA Course Rating system, and so she deserves extra strokes.

How many? Subtract the lower course rating (Jermaine's, in this case) from the higher (Miranda's). So: 71.9 minus 70.3.

The difference is 1.6. Round up to 2, and Miranda gets another two strokes. Her course handicap goes from 13 to 15.

Handicap Strokes for Man vs. Woman from the Same Tees

Now consider two other golfers, Allen and Beverly. They are playing from the same set of tees, the middle tees, and Allen has a course handicap of 18 while Beverly has a course handicap of 9.

The procedure is exactly the same: Start by comparing the course ratings. But wait: If they are playing from the same tees, isn't the course rating the same for both? No: tees are rated separately for men and for women.

So Allen checks the men's course rating and Beverly the women's course rating for the middle tees. Let's say the men's rating is 72.7 and the women's rating is 76.6.

What's the difference? 76.6 minus 72.7 equals 3.9. Round up to 4, and Beverly gets an additional four strokes. Her course handicap of 9 goes up to 13.

Men vs. Women in the Manual

Note that these situations are covered in the USGA Handicap Manual. Go to the Handicapping section of usga.org, open the USGA Handicap Manual and go to Section 3-5 to read more.