One of the many great things about golf is that players of all abilities are able to compete against each other. The USGA Handicap System allows players of varying abilities to compete on an equal basis using their handicap index.
In order to establish a handicap index (or handicap), you must join a licensed golf club or golf association and post adjusted gross scores. After five 18-hole equivalent scores have been posted, you will receive a handicap index. As you continue to post your scores from each round, the handicap index is calculated using the best 10 of your last 20 rounds.
The handicap index compares a player’s scoring ability to the scoring ability of a scratch golfer on a course of standard difficulty based on yardage and other obstacles that affect scoring. This number is a decimal rounded to the nearest tenth (i.e. 17.3) and is used to convert to a course handicap (i.e. 19).
Your handicap index represents your ability on a course with a slope rating of 113. Some courses have slope ratings below 113 (meaning an easier course) and more difficult courses will be higher than 113. The higher the slope rating, the more difficult the course will play. To account for different slope ratings, a player will convert a handicap index to a course handicap using a course handicap chart. This table is available at each facility and is generally posted in golf shops, locker rooms or near the handicap computer.
You are required to post your adjusted score any time you play in stroke play or match play. According to the USGA Handicapping Manual, this includes “scores made in match play, in multi-ball, or in team competitions in which players have not completed one of more holes or in which players are requested to pick up when out of contention on a hole.”
Scores that may not be posted include rounds where you played fewer than seven holes; scores played on a course that has an inactive season (winter in most northern/cold climate states); competitions that require less than 14 clubs or specify only certain clubs may be used (i.e. irons only or wooden shafts only); and when playing alone.
Since the last part about scores from a round played alone is new for 2016, there has been some confusion about the term “playing alone.” We have been asked:
Q: If I play a round of golf with people other than EWGA members, should I post that as a round that was played alone?
A: No. The new USGA new rule that makes rounds played alone ineligible for use in calculating Handicaps applies ONLY to rounds that you played completely by yourself, with no one else. All other rounds, whether they are played with EWGA members or not, even those played with perfect strangers, should be posted and NOT as played alone.
Since playing a round of golf alone doesn’t meet the definition of “peer review,” these scores are not acceptable for posting. If you are accompanied during a round with a fellow competitor, opponent, caddie, marker for a tournament or friend in a golf cart, it is not considered playing alone.