Golf Handicap FAQ

Questions and Answers about the USGA Golf Handicap System

Male scratch golfer in silhouette
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This golf handicap FAQ covers the USGA Handicap System. If you run into terms you don't understand, check the Golf Handicap Glossary. To compute your unofficial handicap index, there are free handicap index calculators. To get a course handicap, use a free course handicap calculator

(The USGA Handicap System is used in that part of the world governed by the USGA, plus many other places. The list of countries using USGA handicaps is viewable here. Other countries may use their own handicapping systems, such as the CONGU system used in Great Britain and Ireland. If you have questions about other handicapping systems, please consult your local golf association.)

Answers to Common Questions About USGA Handicaps

Here is the list of questions we've compiled - questions that golfers most commonly have about handicaps and the USGA Handicap System. Click on a question to read the answer:

... and More Golf Handicap FAQs

Why Is 'Slope Rating' Called 'Slope'?
Slope. It doesn't make much sense, given what it means. But, hey, they had to call it something!

There is an actual reason why slope rating is called that, though. Slope rating accounts for the fact that the more difficult a golf course is, the greater the descrepancy is between the scores of stronger and weaker players.

If you take the data that backs up that observation (name, scores and course ratings) and plot that data on a graph, you'll get a line that slopes ever more sharply upward. Slopes upward.

Hey, why not call it slope!

Can I Play in a Tournament Without an Official Handicap?
If you're an amateur or recreational golfer and you want to play a tournament, but the tournament requires you to provide a handicap number, can you enter? In many cases no, but in some cases yes - depending on who's running the tournament and what type of tournament it is.

If it's, for example, a city championship flighted by handicap, you'll probably need proof of a handicap index.

But if it's something more along the lines of a charity tournament, a corporate outing, a golf association playday, it's best to check with tournament organizers and ask. There are multiple methods of providing golfers an ex-post-facto, 1-day handicap equivalent, things such as Peoria System, Callaway System and System 36.