If You Want a Golf Handicap, You Need a Certain Number of Scores

If you want to establish a golf handicap, you need just five scores to get a USGA Handicap Index, but only one of your scores counts. As you add scores, the handicap formula uses more of your scores. Once you have 20 or more scores, the handicap formula uses 10 of the last 20 scores to calculate your USGA Handicap Index.

Figuring Out the Formula

The calculation is a bit complex. The United States Golf Association is just one of six world bodies that have systems for establishing and maintaining handicaps, but the USGA is by far the predominate organization. The trademarked USGA Handicap System applies a formula to each score based on the difficulty of the golf course played. The resulting number is your handicap differential.

To calculate your handicap, the system uses the lowest differentials. So, for example, if you have just five scores, your handicap will be based on the one lowest differential, but if you have 20 or more scores, it will be based on the 10 lowest differentials of your last 20 scores.

Here's how many of your score differentials are used for your handicap based on the total scores:

• Five or six scores—the lowest differential
• Seven or eight scores—the two lowest differentials
• Nine or 10 scores—the three lowest differentials
• 11 or 12 scores—the four lowest differentials
• 13 or 14 scores—the five lowest differentials
• 15 or 16 scores—the six lowest differentials
• 17 scores—the seven lowest differentials
• 18 scores—the eight lowest differentials
• 19 scores—the nine lowest differentials
• 20 scores—the 10 lowest differentials