Establish a Handicap

The terminology of "Handicap Index" changed to "Handicap Factor" in 2000. Handicap Factor is the same as Handicap Index for Golf Canada/GAO members.
The Handicap Formula

Before getting to the actual Handicap Factor formula itself, we must understand the elements it is comprised of. Listed below are the factors which help make up the formula and a description of each.

Adjusted Gross Score

Adjusted gross score is a player's gross score adjusted under Handicap System procedures for unfinished holes, conceded strokes and holes not played, or not played under the principles of the Rules of Golf, or adjusted under Equitable Stroke Control. (See Section 4-3 of the Handicap System Manual.)

Handicap Differential

A handicap differential is the difference between a player's adjusted gross score and the Course Rating of the course on which the score was made, multiplied by 113, then divided by the Slope Rating from the tees played and rounded to the nearest tenth. Handicap differentials are expressed as a number rounded to one decimal place, (i.e. 12.8).

Handicap Factor

A Handicap Factor is used to indicate a measurement of a player’s potential scoring ability on a course of standard playing difficulty. It is expressed as a number taken to one decimal place and is used for conversion to a Course Handicap. (See Section 10 of the Handicap System Manual.)

Course Handicap

A Course Handicap is the number of handicap strokes a player receives from a specific set of tees at the course being played to adjust their scoring ability to the level of scratch or 0-handicap golf. For a player with a plus Course Handicap, it is the number of artificial strokes the player gives to adjust their scoring ability to the level of scratch or 0-handicap golf. A Course Handicap is determined by applying the player's Handicap Factor to a Course Handicap Table or Course Handicap Formula. (See Section 10-4.) A player's Course Handicap is expressed as a whole number of strokes.

Course Handicap Table

A Course Handicap Table is a chart that converts a Handicap Factor to a Course Handicap based on the Slope Rating for the set of tees played. (See Sections 3-3, 8-2d and 10-4.)

Equitable Stroke Control (ESC)

Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) is the downward adjustment of individual hole scores for handicap purposes in order to make handicaps more representative of a player's potential scoring ability. ESC sets a maximum number that a player can post on any hole depending on the player's Course Handicap. ESC is used only when a player's actual or most likely score exceeds his maximum number based on the table in Section 4-3 of the Handicap System Manual.

a) Reduction of hole scores, for handicap purposes only, in accordance with the formula below, is called Equitable Stroke Control. Each gross score must be adjusted by the player in accordance with the ESC formula before it is returned for handicap purposes.

b) A score for any hole is reduced to a specified number of strokes over par, for handicap purposes only, as follows:

COURSE HANDICAP MAXIMUM NUMBER ON ANY HOLE

9 or LESS

Double Bogey

10 through 19

7

20 through 29

8

30 through 39

9

40 and over

10

Example: A player with a Course Handicap of 6 has a maximum number of par plus two strokes (double bogey) for any hole. A player with a Course Handicap of 13 has a maximum number of 7 for any hole regardless of par. A player with a Course Handicap of 42 has a maximum number of 10 for any hole.

c) Scores that include reasonable conceded putts are acceptable and should be recorded, except the ESC shall apply when the score exceeds that allowed by the formula.

A Handicap Factor determined from scores to which ESC has not been applied may not be termed a Handicap Factor.  Under no circumstances shall the procedures be used by a player to manipulate his/her Handicap Factor. If a player uses this section for such purposes, his/her Handicap Factor shall be adjusted or revoked by the Handicap Committee under Section 8-4 of the Handicap System Manual.

We are now prepared for the actual formula itself. Below is an excerpt from Section 10 of the Handicap System Manual.

A Handicap Factor is a number that represents the potential scoring ability of a player on a course of standard difficulty. Potential scoring ability is measured by a player's best scores, and is expressed as a number taken to one decimal place. These scores are identified by calculating the handicap differential for each score. The Handicap Factor is calculated by taking 96 percent of the average of the best handicap differentials, and applying Section 10-3 for golfers with two or more eligible tournament scores.

10-1. How to Determine Handicap Differentials

A Handicap Differential is computed from four elements: adjusted gross score, Course Rating, Slope Rating and 113 (the Slope Rating of a course of standard difficulty). To determine the handicap differential, subtract the Course Rating from the adjusted gross score; multiply the difference by 113; then divide the resulting number by the Slope Rating. Round the final number to the nearest tenth.

Handicap Differential = (Adjusted Gross Score - Course Rating) x 113 divided by the Slope Rating

a. Plus Handicap Differential
When the adjusted gross score is higher than the Course Rating, the handicap differential is a positive number. Following is an example for determining a differential using an adjusted gross score of 95 made on a course with a Course Rating of 71.5 and a Slope Rating of 125:

Adjusted Gross Score - Course Rating: 95 - 71.5 = 23.5
Difference x Standard Slope: 23.5 x 113 = 2655.5
Result / Slope Rating: 2655.5/125 = 21.244
Handicap Differential (rounded): 21.2

b. Minus Handicap Differential
When the adjusted gross score is lower than the Course Rating, the handicap differential is a negative number. Following is an example for determining a differential using an adjusted gross score of 69 made on a course with a Course Rating of 71.5 and a Slope Rating of 125:

Adjusted Gross Score - Course Rating: 69 - 71.5 = -2.5
Difference x Standard Slope: -2.5 x 113 = -282.5
Result / Slope Rating: -282.5/125 = -2.26
Handicap Differential (rounded): -2.3

10-2. Handicap Factor Formula

The Handicap Factor Formula is based on the best handicap differentials in a player's scoring record. If a player's scoring record contains 20 or more scores, then the best 10 handicap differentials of the most recent 20 scores are used to calculate his Handicap Factor. The percentage of scores used in a scoring record decreases from the maximum of the best 50 percent as the number of scores in the scoring record decreases. If the scoring record contains 9 or 10 scores, then only the best three scores (30 to 33 percent) in the scoring record will be used. Thus, the accuracy of a player's Handicap Factor is directly proportional to the number of acceptable scores he has posted. A Handicap Factor shall not be issued to a player who has returned fewer than five acceptable scores. The following procedure illustrates how authorized golf associations and golf clubs calculate a player's Handicap Factor if the number of acceptable scores in the player's record is less than 20.

The procedure for calculating a Handicap Factor is as follows:
(I) Use the following table to determine the number of handicap differentials to use;

Number of Acceptable Scores Differentials to be Used

5 or 6

Lowest

7 or 8

Lowest 2

9 or 10

Lowest 3

11 or 12

Lowest 4

13 or 14

Lowest 5

15 or 16

Lowest 6

17

Lowest 7

18

Lowest 8

19

Lowest 9

20

Lowest 10

(ii) Determine handicap differentials;
(iii) Average the handicap differentials being used;
(iv) Multiply the average by .96;*
(v) Delete all numbers after the tenth digit. Do not round off to the nearest tenth.

Example 1:
11 scores available.
Total of lowest 4 handicap differentials: 103.5 Average (103.5 divided by 4): 25.875
Multiply average by .96: 24.84
Delete digits after tenths: 24.8
Handicap Factor: 24.8

Note: Bonus for Excellence is the incentive that is built into the Handicap System, for players to improve their games. It is the term used to describe the small percentage below perfect equity that is used to calculate Handicap Factors (96%). As your Handicap Factor improves (gets lower), you have a slightly better chance of placing high or winning a handicap event.

If you have any questions about Handicapping, please email Craig Loughry, Director of Handicapping; cloughry@gao.ca