The handicap system is a major advantage that makes golf great and fair. The aim of handicapping is to enable golfers of differing abilities and skills to play together and compete against each other on a fair and equitable basis. The handicap (net) scoring are almost unique in the sports world.


Definitions of the Handicap Index

A Handicap Index is a term used to describe a golfer’s skill level. It might seem like a confusing concept to those new to the sport. Fortunately, there are few definitions describing handicap, and clear formulas used to calculate it.

  • According to the USGA, a course handicap index “indicates the number of handicap strokes a player receives from a specific set of tees at the course being played to adjust the player’s scoring ability to the level of scratch or zero-handicap golfer”.
  • The United States Golf Teachers Federation (USGTF) defines handicap index as “a measure of player’s current ability over an entire round of golf, signified by a number. The lower the number, the better the golfer is”.
  • The World Handicap System (WHS) defines handicap index as “the measure of a player’s demonstrated ability calculated against the Slope Rating of a golf course of standard playing difficulty (that is, a course with a Slope Rating of 113)“.
  • In simply words: “a handicap index essentially signifies how many strokes above or below par a golfer should be able to play a 18-hole round of golf”.



By the end of 2019, six golf organizations around the world were using six different handicap systems.

Handicap, Rules of Handicapping WHS in English

In 2020-2021, all of these different handicap systems were replaced by one unified World Handicap System (WHS).

See more details about WHS on the next here …

Many National Associations have translated the Rules of Handicapping into local languages and issued them in a version adapted to the rules established in their territory. Examples of local editions that can be downloaded from official websites of golf associations and/or golf organizations are shown below.

In 2024, an update to the Handicap Rules was released. Some National Associations have already published new version of the Rules (marked as 2024), and some are still publishing the 2020 version (marked as 2020).


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update: March 2024