Activities Sports & Athletics 'Adjusted Gross Score' (and Who Needs to Care About It) Most golfers can ignore it, but those with USGA Handicaps need to know Share PINTEREST Email Print The scores golfers report as part of the USGA Handicap System are adjusted gross scores. Reg Charity/Corbis/Getty Images Sports & Athletics Golf Basics History Gear Golf Courses Famous Golfers Golf Tournaments Baseball Basketball Bicycling Billiards Bodybuilding Bowling Boxing Car Racing Cheerleading Cricket Extreme Sports Football Gymnastics Ice Hockey Martial Arts Professional Wrestling Skateboarding Skating Paintball Soccer Swimming & Diving Table Tennis Tennis Track & Field Volleyball Other Activities Learn More By Brent Kelley Brent Kelley is an award-winning sports journalist and golf expert with over 30 years in print and online journalism. our editorial process Brent Kelley Updated November 04, 2019 Adjusted gross score is the score that golfers who have USGA Handicap Indexes turn in for handicap purposes. Golfers who don't have a USGA Handicap Index don't need to worry about or use adjusted gross scores. An adjusted gross score in golf is one that is computed using the per-hole maximum scores described in the USGA's equitable stroke control (ESC) guidelines. Sounds complicated, but don't worry: the gist of it is that the USGA puts a limit on how high a score a golfer can take on an individual hole during a handicap round. How Adjusted Gross Score Is Used in Golf Again, you need concern yourself with the adjusted gross score only if you have a USGA Handicap Index. USGA Handicap Indexes are calculated using a golfer's 20 most recent rounds of golf. Golfers who have handicaps report their scores following the round. In the USGA handicap calculation, however, golfers don't report their gross scores (the actual number of strokes played), but their adjusted gross scores. And those adjusted gross scores are used to calculate handicap. How to Get Your Adjusted Gross Score First, you have to know your course handicap for the golf course being played. Then, you need to consult the equitable stroke control guidelines, which tell golfers what the maximum single-hole score they can report is for a round turned in for USGA handicap purposes. Luckily, there's a chart. Here are the per-hole maximums under ESC: Course Handicap Maximum Score 0-9 Double Bogey 10-19 7 20-29 8 30-39 9 40 or more 10 So let's say Golfer A has a course handicap of 17. She knows from this chart that the score she turns in for handicap purposes can't contain any holes with scores higher than 7. But, whoops, Golfer A got a 9 on the sixth hole. Ouch! That 9 counts—she doesn't get to ignore it. If she's playing in a tournament, or playing against a friend or wagering on her round, that 9 is what matters. That's her gross score on Hole 6. But after the round, when she turns in her score for handicap purposes, that 9 becomes a 7. The 7 is her adjusted gross score for Hole 6, and that's what she uses when reporting her score for handicaps. What's the Point of All That? The purpose of the USGA Handicap System (or any other golf handicap system) is not just to tell you what your average golf score is, but to represent your potential for scoring. When you are playing at your best, what is your level of play, your potential best scoring? That's what handicaps seek to represent. And a blow-up hole, or disaster hole—that 9 above, a 12 here, a 10 there—can throw off one's handicap. The USGA's answer to that is to impose the maximum per-hole scores in the ESC guidelines and to require golfers to report their adjusted gross scores, rather than actual scores, for handicap purposes. Equitable Stroke Control in Golf and Maximum Scores Per Hole How Golf Handicaps Work: Overview of Their Role and Function What You Need to Know About Golf's World Handicap System If You Want a Golf Handicap, You Need a Certain Number of Scores What Is the Highest Handicap a Golfer Can Have? Explaining 'Gross Score' In Golf A Net Score in Golf and How to Calculate It How Is Golf Handicap Index Calculated? Here's the Formula Course Handicap: What Is It and How Is It Used? Using the Callaway System Method for a 1-Day Golf Handicap Are 9-Hole Golf Scores or Incomplete Rounds OK for Handicap Scores? Handicap Differential in Golf What Do the Numbers on the ‘Handicap’ Row of the Scorecard Represent? How the System 36 Handicap Formula Works in Golf Golf Calculators to Estimate Your Handicap What Is a Scratch Golfer?