WHAT IS A HANDICAP?
A handicap is a numerical rating that indicates how many extra strokes a player is expected to take per round, in comparison to the par of a course.
A golfer’s handicap is fundamentally an assessment of how well they play the game, and also provides a tangible method of tracking improvement.
A handicap is required to play in competitions and gives less proficient players a way of competing against better players, ensuring a level playing field.
HOW DOES A HANDICAP HELP ME?
It will depend on the format of competition being played, but essentially a player gets to subtract their handicap off their final score.
A golfer with a handicap of 18 gets to shave 18 shots off their final total in a stroke round, whereas a scratch golfer (a handicap of zero) doesn’t get any help.
‘Crazy good’ golfers known as 'plus markers' – those with a ‘+’ in front of their handicap – actually have to add strokes onto their final score.
HOW DO I GET A HANDICAP?
In Australia, you’ll need to join a club to obtain an official Golf Australia handicap.
Whether it’s a private club in the city, a rural club out in the bush or a social-playing club affiliated with a public course, at least three 18-hole rounds must be submitted to your club’s resident handicapper before a new handicap can be calculated and issued.
All qualifying rounds must be played with a marker (a playing partner who marks and signs your scorecard).
HOW IS MY INITIAL HANDICAP CALCULATED?
The handicapper will first create an adjusted score for each of your three qualifying rounds, which caps the maximum score per hole at three over par for men and four over par for women.
The new adjusted score is then subtracted from the Scratch Rating of the course (effectively the par of the course, with an adjustment to account for the difficulty of the course) to produce what’s called a differential.
From the three rounds submitted, the round with the lowest differential is selected, and that differential is simply multiplied by 0.93 to determine your initial handicap.
HOW DOES MY HANDICAP GET ADJUSTED?
With a handicap being your passport into official club competitions, each round presents an opportunity to revise your handicap either higher or lower.
Handicaps are calculated by averaging the eight lowest scores from the last 20 rounds played, and then multiplying the result by 0.93.
Every new round played deletes the oldest one in the 20-round span, which can explain why a handicap can change dramatically if a particularly good score drops out.
If 20 rounds haven’t yet been completed, a sliding scale formula is applied to produce handicap adjustments on the way to the 20-round benchmark.
A maximum differential (the raw competition score minus the Daily Scratch Rating) also applies - 40 for men and 50 for women.
A handicap is also limited to a five-stroke increase in a rolling 12–month timeframe.
WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO?
If all that number crunching sounds a bit too hard, don't worry.
All you have to do is submit your signed scorecards – the handicapper does the hard work for you.
If you’re playing a stableford or par format, your score is automatically converted into a stroke round before applying the Daily Stroke Rating, which is calculated by Golf Australia’s GolfLINK system.