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Handicap FAQs

What is the USGA Handicap System™?
The purpose of the USGA Handicap System is to make the game of golf more enjoyable by enabling golfers of differing abilities to compete on an equitable basis. The System provides fair Course Handicaps™ for players regardless of ability, and adjusts a player's USGA Handicap Index® up or down as his game changes. At the same time, it disregards high scores that bear little relation to the player's potential scoring ability and promotes continuity by making handicaps continuous from one playing season or year to the next. A USGA Handicap Index is useful for all forms of play, and is issued only to individuals who are members of a lecensed golf club.

Two basic premises underlie the USGA Handicap System, namely that each player will try to make the best score at every hole in every round, regardless of where the round is played, and that the player will post every acceptable round for peer review. The player and the player's Handicap Committee have joint responsibility for adhering to these premises.

What is a USGA Handicap Index®?
A USGA Handicap Index, issued by a golf club or authorized golf association, indicates a golfer's skill and comes in the form of a number taken to one decimal place, e.g. 9.2. A USGA Handicap Index is issued only to individuals who are members of a licensed golf club.

A USGA Handicap Index compares a player's scoring ability to the scoring ability of an expert amateur on a course of standard difficulty. A player posts his scores along with the appropriate USGA Ratings to make up his scoring record. A Handicap Index is computed from no more than 20 scores plus eligible scores in the scoring record. It reflects the player's potential because it is based upon the best scores posted for a given number of rounds, ideally the best 10 of the last 20 rounds.

A USGA Handicap Index travels well from course to course, as well as from one set of tees to other sets of tees on the same course. A player's Handicap Index determines the number of strokes a player receives depending upon the length and difficulty of the course he plays.

A player locates his USGA Handicap Index on the appropriate Course Handicap Table and finds his corresponding Course Handicap. Course Handicap Tables are posted in the clubhouse or near the first tee. There will be a Course Handicap Table for each set of tees used by men and by women. Course Handicap is the number of strokes a player receives based upon the relative difficulty (Slope Rating) of the course.

What does the letter(s) next to my USGA Handicap Index represent?
L = USGA Handicap Index exceeds 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women
M = USGA Handicap Index modified by Handicap Committee
N = Nine-hole USGA Handicap Index
NL = Nine-hole USGA Handicap Index exceeds 18.2 for men and 20.2 for women
R = USGA Handicap Index automatically reduced for Exceptional Tournament Performance
WD = USGA Handicap Index withdrawn by Handicap Committee

What does the letter(s) after each score represent?
The letter(s) immediately following an adjusted gross score indicates specific aspects of a score within a player's scoring record and are designated in the following manner:
A = Away
AI = Away Internet
C = Combined
CI = Combined Internet (at least one nine-hole score posted via Internet)
I = Internet
P = Penalty
T = Tournament
TI = Tournament Internet

What scores are acceptable for posting purposes?
Scores must be made in accordance with the principles of the Rules of Golf (play the ball as it lies).

2. If a player starts but does not complete a hole or is conceded a stroke, he shall record for handicap purposes the score he most likely would have made.

3. If a player does not play a hole or plays it other than under the principles of the Rules of Golf (except for preferred lies), his score for that hole for handicap purposes shall be par plus any handicap strokes he is entitled to receive on the hole. When recording this hole score, precede the score with an "X".

4. A player must adjust his gross score using Equitable Stroke Control (ESC). ESC sets a maximum number that a player can post on any hole depending on the player's Course Handicap.

Course Handicap
Maximum Number On Any Hole
9 or less
Double Bogey
10 through 19
20 through 29
30 through 39
40 or more

5. A golfer shall post a score as an 18-hole round when 13 or more holes are played and as a nine-hole score when 7 or more holes are played.

6. Adjusted gross scores from all courses with USGA Course and Slope Ratings, made at home and away, shall be posted by the player, along with the appropriate USGA Course Ratings and USGA Slope Ratings. Away scores from courses with USGA Ratings made in any state or foreign country during its active season shall be reported.

7. Scores in both match play and stroke play, including those made in team competitions, shall be posted. Scores made in team competitions in which players are requested to pick up when out of contention shall be posted for handicap purposes.

8. A player who is disqualified from a competition, but has an acceptable score, shall record his adjusted gross score for handicap purposes.

How can I get an erroneous score corrected in my score history?
To correct an erroneous score in your score history, contact the Handicap Chairperson at your club. They can make the corrections and transmit them to the GHIN Enterprise Server. Once this is completed, your score history on the server will be corrected. You will see the changes on the next revision date.

Why was my USGA Handicap Index reduced?
Section 10-3 of the USGA Handicap System automatically reduces a player's USGA Handicap Index based on exceptional tournament scores. In order for the reduction to take place, a player must have two or more eligible tournament scores and a minimum of two tournament score differentials that are at least three strokes better than the player's current USGA Handicap Index. An eligible tournament score is any tournament score made either within the last 12 months or within the player's current 20-score history.