Activities Sports & Athletics Golf Handicap FAQ Questions and Answers about the USGA Golf Handicap System Share PINTEREST Email Print Mark Runnacles/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 March 17, 2017 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.) Related: An overview of the USGA Handicap System 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: What is a scratch golfer?Are "handicap" and "handicap index" the same thing?How do I establish a handicap index?How is handicap index calculated?Is having a handicap index required?What is course handicap?How do I use my handicap index on the golf course?If you play golf alone, can you still post that score for your handicap?Do I have to join a golf club to get an official handicap?What is course rating?What is slope rating?How are course rating and slope rating determined?How do I know on which holes to take strokes?How are strokes determined in a match between a man and a woman?How are strokes allocated in singles match play?Why is my score usually higher than my handicap?Can I turn in a score that includes incomplete holes?Can I turn in incomplete or 9-hole rounds?What is the highest handicap a golfer can have?What is Equitable Stroke Control?How do I know my ESC limits if I don't yet have a handicap index?What is handicap differential?How many rounds are required to establish a USGA Handicap Index?What is GHIN? ... 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.