Golf Index & Golf Handicap

Formulas & Calculators

Welcome to the Page on Your Golf Index & Your Golf Handicap

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The Golf Handicap that you bring to any course you play is determined by your Golf Index as calculated from a weighted average of your most recent rounds played.

The very first thing you must understand right out of the gate is that your Golf Index and your Course Handicap are NOT the same thing. Yet they are tied closely together as one is used to calculate the other.

  1. Your Golf Index takes an adjusted average of a number of your most recent scores as illustrated in the Table Below
  2. Your Course Handicap is then calculated using your Golf Index relative to any individual course difficulty based on its course slope.

The big thing to remember is that your Golf Index does not necessarily care what you shoot for an “average” score – your index is only interested in the potential of what you can score. That is why the USGA says that a golfer will shoot to their index roughly only once every five rounds.

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It may seem complicated when you factor in that to determine your Golf Index you’ll need to know your Adjusted Score for the round (as determined by the rules of Equitable Stroke Control), and the Rating and the Slope of the course you just played, but with the Right Calculators, the process is simplified and easy to follow.

You can skip straight to those Calculators if you already have a good understanding of how the index and handicap system works. Or, you can read on for a brief education or a short review. 

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Ready to get started?

Here are some Terms & Definitions that will help

  • Gross score - The “actual” score you receive on each hole - with ALL strokes counted!!golf handicap
  • Adjusted score - The total number of strokes taken on each hole after applying the rules of Equitable Stroke Control
  • Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) – The maximum score any player can post on any one individual hole in relation to the player’s ability and course handicap
  • Handicap Differential - The difference between a player’s “Adjusted Score and the course difficulty.
  • Handicap Index - The computed average of a weighted selection of a player’s handicap differentials carried to one decimal place.

Max USGA Handicap Index - 18 holes
 For Men/36.4 - For Women/40.4

Max USGA Handicap Index - 9 holes
For Men/18.2 - For Women/20.2  

  • Course Handicap - The whole number adjustment of a player’s Handicap Index for a specific course based on its predetermined level of difficulty as rated by its slope.

Now all we gotta do is get from the Gross Scores to a Course Handicap so every player can compete fairly against all other players of varying ability.

  1. Turn your Gross Scores into Adjusted Scores (per ESC).
  2. Calculate your Handicap Differential using your total Adjusted Scores.
  3. Find your Handicap Index through a weighted average of your most recent round’s Differentials.
  4. Then plug that number into the formula along with the course slope to determine your Course Handicap for any course you want to play.

We’re going to give you the formulas for all these calculations, but also try to keep the explanations as simple as possible by following the process you could take after playing a round of golf. After all, you’ve got the Calculators below to do all the heavy lifting, so the formulas presented here are really just to help you understand what’s going on behind the Oz’s curtain.

  • Go out and play a round of golf and keep your “actual” (gross) score, then adjust each hole score for Equitable Stroke Control, (or you can do that as you go along).
  • Now add up your 18 hole total and that turns your Total Gross Score into your Total Score adjusted for ESC (and that’s the easy part).
  • The first calculation is to use your Adjusted Score to determine your Handicap Differential. You’ll need to know the Course Rating & Slope (can be found printed on most score cards), because the formula for this calculation is - “Handicap differential = (Adjusted Score - course rating) × 113/course slope” – an example of this formula follows and would be adjusted for whichever tees were played and their corresponding Rating & Slope:
              Golfer’s Adjusted Sore: 88golf handicap
              Course rating: 72.1golf handicap
              Course slope: 128golf handicap
              Following the formula above – (88 - 72.1) x 113/128 –
              The Handicap Differential
    is 14
  • The Handicap Index is then calculated using the average of your most recent round’s Differentials as determined in the Table Below multiplied by .96
  • Finally, your Course Handicap is then determined by using the formula of “Course Handicap = Handicap index x Course Slope / 113” (the course rating is not used to determine a course handicap) – an example of this formula follows and would be adjusted for whichever tees were played and their corresponding Rating & Slope:
              Golfers Handicap Index: 9golf handicap
              Gross score: 88golf handicap
              Course rating: 72.1golf handicap
              Course slope: 128golf handicap 
              Following the formula above – 9 x 128/113 = 10, and the
              net score would be 88 − 10 = 78.

And that’s it!! Pretty simple huh?? Now visit the calculators below and start plugging in some numbers to see where you stand.

GHIN a USGA Service

Golf Handicap Calculators

Calculator Instructions

The three calculators below are for determining:

  1. Handicap Differentials
  2. Handicap Indexes
  3. Course Handicaps
Total scores Use
3, 4 or 5 Lowest 1
6 Lowest 2
7 or 8 Lowest 2
9 to 11 Lowest 3
12 to 14 Lowest 4
15 or 16 Lowest 5
17 or 18 Lowest 6
19 Lowest 7
20 Lowest 8

Use the chart to the right to determine the number of scores you’ll use based on the total number of rounds you have played and scores you have kept to calculate your Handicap Differential. You will need:

  1. Your Adjusted Score for each of the rounds you will use
  2. The Course Rating.
  3. The Course Slope (from the courses you have played for each round and you should find those numbers on the score card).

Enter those three numbers into the appropriate fields in the Handicap Differential Calculator below and hit the "Calculate" button. You’ll see the result in the next field, and you can then move that result down into the next series of fields in the Handicap Index Calculator by clicking the "Add" button. Then repeat that process for as many times as you have scores to use up to a maximum of ten.

Once you’ve got your Handicap Index you can move that result down into the Course Handicap Calculator. Then enter the slope of the course and hit that "Calculate" button. Of course, if you already know your Handicap Index, then you can skip right to the Course Handicap Calculator

  • These calculators are for your enjoyment and an opportunity to see in action the formulas you just learned or reviewed above. They cannot be used to provide official handicaps.
  • They work just as well with 9-hole scores and handicaps too - Just enter the adjusted 9-hole score and the course rating – Use the 18-hole slope unless the course provides a specific 9-hole slope.
  • A return of "NaN" means that something wrong or unacceptable was entered into one or more fields. Try resetting the calculator, or reloading the page.

Handicap Differential Calculator

Adjusted Score
Course Rating
Handicap Differential

Handicap Index Calculator

(Do not remove 0.0 from unused fields)
1234 5 Index
6789 10

Course Handicap Calculator

Your Index
Course Slope
Course Handicap

Equitable Stroke Control

Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) is a balancing practice used to eliminate the "blow-up" holes that could negatively skew a players score and resulting index calculations. The maximum score that a player can post on any hole is based on the player's Course Handicap.

In the event a player does not have an established handicap then scores are adjusted using the maximum hole score for the highest Course Handicap. Once that player's Handicap Index is established the ESC table below can be employed to keep everything fair and "equitable".

Course Handicap Maximum Score per Hole
up to 9 Double Bogey
10 through 19 7
20 through 29 8
30 through 39 9
40 or higher 10

Now that you've got your Index all dialed in, it's time to take your game to the course.

Use the link below to book your next round and then check back here to get your Handicap for that course once you know the Course Slope

And check the page for Great Golf Games to take to the course to add some drama and excitement to your rounds

Have fun and hit 'em straight!!

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