Handicapping FAQ’s

Additional information about Handicapping can be found in our Handicap Resource Centre on the Golf Ontario website.  Please feel free to browse the collection of articles, posters, and other documents to learn more about the Handicap System.  If you have any further questions, please forward them to Craig Loughry at cloughry@gao.ca

Q:  How do I sign up to get a Handicap Factor?

A:  There are two ways that you can become a Golf Ontario member.

  1. Join a Golf Ontario member club.  Once you join a golf club that is a current member in good standing with the Golf Ontario, you will receive access to the Handicap System where you can start posting your scores and receive your Handicap Factor.  For a list of Golf Ontario member clubs, please follow this link: Club Directory & Search.
  2. Join the Public Player Program.  The Public Player Program allows golfers to join the Golf Ontario / Golf Canada without being a member of a golf club.  Additional information on the Public Player Program can be found at the following link:  Public Player Program.


Q:  Now that I have a profile, how do I get a Handicap Factor?

A:  Once you have a profile, you can begin posting scores.  Sign into your account and select how you would like to post scores (as a gross score, or hole-by-hole).  At least five acceptable scores are required before a Handicap Factor can be computed.  For a definition of an acceptable score, please refer to Section 5 of the Golf Canada Handicap Manual.


Q:  What is adjusted Gross Score?

A:  Adjusted Gross Score is a player’s gross score adjusted under Handicap System procedures.  Adjustments are made for unfinished holes, holes not played (or not played under The Rules of Golf), or Equitable Stroke Control (ESC).

More information about how to adjust scores under the above conditions can be found in Section 4 of the Golf Canada Handicap Manual, as well as in the following two FAQ’s.


Q:  What is Equitable Stroke Control (ESC)?

A:  ESC is the downward adjustment of individual hole scores for handicap purposes.  This is in order to make handicaps more representative of a player’s potential ability.  ESC sets a maximum number that a player can post on any hole depending on that player’s Course Handicap.

In order to apply ESC, find your Course Handicap on the left side to determine the maximum number that you can post on any hole.


9 or LESS

Double Bogey

10 through 19


20 through 29


30 through 39


40 and over



Q:  How many scores does it take to have a Handicap Factor?

A:  The minimum number of scores that need to be posted to calculate a Handicap Factor is five.  Once you have posted 20 or more scores, the 20 most recent scores are used to determine your Handicap Factor.  Remember:  these scores must be from clubs that have official Course and Slope Ratings.


Q:  What is a Handicap Differential?

A:  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.  The Handicap Differential is calculated using the following formula:

(Adjusted Gross Score – Course Rating) x 113

Slope Rating

The result of the formula is then rounded to the nearest tenth (one decimal place)


Q:  How is a Handicap Factor calculated?

A:  A Handicap Factor is calculated based off of the best Handicap Differentials in your scoring record.  The procedure for calculating a Handicap Factor is as follows:

Step 1 – Determine the number of Handicap Differentials to use

Depending on the number of scores that you have posted, the number of differentials to be used changes.  The following chart shows the number of Handicap Differentials to use:

Number ofAcceptable Scores Differentials to be Used

5 or 6


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


Lowest 7


Lowest 8


Lowest 9


Lowest 10


As you can see, you need at least 5 scores in order to calculate a Handicap Factor.  When this is the case, you use only the lowest differential in your scoring record.  If the player’s scoring record contains 20 or more scores the lowest 10 differentials of the most recent 20 scores are used.

Step 2 – Determine Handicap Differential(s)

Add the differentials to be used (based off of the above chart and your scoring record)

Step 3 – Average the handicap Differential(s) being used

Step 4 – Multiply the average by 0.96

Step 5 – Delete all numbers after the tenths’ digit (one decimal place).

Do not round to the nearest tenth!


Q:  Where do I find my Course Handicap?

A:  A Course Handicap is calculated with the following formula

Handicap Factor x Slope Rating


An easy way to determine your Course Handicap is by looking at the Course Handicap Table.  These can be found at your club as well as on the Golf Ontario website at the following link:  Course Handicap Conversion Charts

Once you have found the Course Handicap Table that matches the Slope Rating of the tee that you will be playing, locate your Handicap Factor on the left hand side to determine you Course Handicap.


Q:  Why does my Course Handicap sometimes change from tee to tee, course to course?

A:  A player’s Course Handicap is determined by multiplying their Handicap Factor by the Slope Rating of the course played and then dividing by 113.  As such, it is subject to change based on the course that you are playing as well as your Handicap Factor at that specific time.

Different tees are created to offer a range of difficulty for the golfers based on a number of factors.  It is the same concept between different courses.  Every course is unique, and because of this, the Slope Rating will change from tee to tee, and course to course affecting your Course Handicap.

Since your Handicap Factor is based off of your 20 most recent scores, it is common for it to change over time.  As your Handicap Factor changes, it affects the Course Handicap equation, sometimes resulting in a change to your Course Handicap.


Q:  What do Course and Slope Rating mean?

A:  Course Rating is an evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for a scratch golfer.  This evaluation is based on normal course and weather conditions, yardage and other obstacles to the extent that they affect the scoring ability of a scratch golfer.

Slope Rating indicates the measurement of relative difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers compared to the Course Rating.  Slope Rating is computed from the difference between the Bogey Rating (playing difficulty for the bogey golfer) and Course Rating.


Q:  How does Golf Ontario come up with the Course and Slope Ratings?

A:  Course and Slope Rating are determined through a process that considers the following components.

Effective playing length – obtained from official measurements of the course and an evaluation of the factors that cause the course to play significantly longer or shorter.  These factors include Roll, Elevation, Dogleg/Forced Lay-up, Prevailing Wind, and Altitude.

Yardage ratings for both the scratch and bogey golfer – determined by applying the effective playing length to the appropriate yardage rating formulas

Course Rating – this is the scratch yardage rating of a course modified by the obstacle factors as they affect the scratch golfer.  Obstacle factors include Topography, Fairway, Green Target, Recoverability and Rough, Bunkers, Out of Bounds/Extreme Rough, Water Hazards, Trees, Green Surface, and Psychological.

Bogey Rating - this is the bogey yardage rating of a course modified by the obstacle factors as they affect the bogey golfer

Slope Rating – this is the difference between the Bogey Rating and the Course Rating multiplied by 5.381 for men and 4.24 for women


Q:  Why aren’t my scores showing up in my scoring profile?

A:  If you are posting your scores at a club terminal and scores are not showing up on your online scoring profile (and vice versa, if you post scores online and they do not appear in your scoring profile on the club terminal), it is most likely that the club needs to perform an online update.  Online updates need to be performed regularly so that scoring information can be synched in both club and online databases.  Ask at your club to see when the last data transmission was completed, or suggest that the club performs an online update daily.


Q:  What does the “R” beside my handicap factor mean?

A:  An “R” beside your Handicap Factor means that your factor has been reduced based on exceptional tournament scores.  This adjustment is made when a player has a minimum of two eligible tournament score differentials that are at least 3.0 better than the players Handicap Factor.  For detailed examples and calculations about reductions based on exceptional tournament scores, please refer to section 10-3 of the Golf Canada Handicap Manual


Q:  Some of my scores have letters beside them in my scoring record.  What do they mean?

A:  The letters beside scores indicate specific characteristics of that score and/or how it was posted.

A         =          Away

AI        =          Away Internet

C         =          Combined Nines

CI        =          Combined Nines Internet

I           =          Internet

P          =          Penalty

T           =          Tournament

TI          =          Tournament Internet


Q:  What scores do I have to post for Handicap purposes?

A:  Fair handicapping depends upon full and accurate information regarding a player’s potential scoring ability as reflected by a complete scoring record.  Every player must be responsible for returning all acceptable scores as outline below.

  • All 9 hole scores, all 18 hole scores played under The Rules of Golf on courses with a Course and Slope Rating
  • If 7 to 12 holes are played, you must post a 9 hole score
  • If 13 holes or more are played, you must post an 18 hole score
  • Scores from both match play and stroke play must be posted for handicap purposes.
  • A player who is disqualified from a competition, but has an acceptable score must still record an adjusted gross score for handicap purposes

Scores made under the following conditions are not acceptable for handicap purposes, and must not be entered:

  • When fewer than 7 holes are played
  • When made on a course in an area in which an inactive season is in effect
  • When the length of the course is less than 3,000 yards for 18 holes (less than 1,500 yards for 9 holes)
  • When, as a condition of competition, the maximum number of clubs allowed is less than 14, or types of clubs are limited (ex. An “irons only” competition)
  • When scores are made on a course with no Course or Slope Rating or equivalent
  • With respect to Rule 14-3 (“The Rules of Golf”), when an artificial device or piece of unusual equipment is used during the execution of a stroke or when equipment is used in an unusual manner during the execution of a stroke.


Q:  What score do I post for holes that I didn’t play, or didn’t finish?

A:  Under the Handicap System, each player is required to record a hole score for a hole not finished, not played, or not played under The Rules of Golf.

When a hole is started but not finished (including conceded strokes), the player must record for handicap purposes the most likely score.  The most likely score consists of the number of strokes already taken plus, in a player’s best judgment, the number of strokes that it would take to complete the hole from that position more than half the time.  When recording this score, the number should be preceded by an “X” (ex. X-4).

When a player does not play a hole or plays it other than under The Rules of Golf, the score recorded for that hole for handicap purposes must be par plus any handicap strokes the player is entitled to.  When recording this score, the number should be preceded by an “X”.  For example:  A player with a Course Handicap of 10 receives a handicap stroke on the first 10 allocated stroke holes.  If that player does not play one of those holes, the player must record a score of par plus one.

Please note:  These adjusted hole scores may not exceed the player’s Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) limit (as defined in Section 4-3 of the Golf Canada Handicap Manual, and also explained in the following FAQ).


Q:  When is the active season for Ontario?

A:  The active season in Ontario is from April 15th – October 31st.

Active seasons for other provinces/states may be different.  For a full list of provincial active seasons, please click here (link to active seasons document).  For a full list of active seasons in the United States, please click here (link to U.S active seasons document)


Q:  I used to belong to a golf club, but now I don’t.  Can I still use my Handicap Factor from when I was a member?

A:  Yes you can, as long as you sign up as a Public Player.  Once you sign up, your scores will be transferred to your new profile and you can continue posting to your scoring record with your previous Handicap Factor.


Q:  How do I apply Handicap stroke hole allowances?

A:  Handicap stroke hole allowances are based off of Course Handicap.  Use the Course Handicap Table to determine your Course Handicap from the set of tees to be played.  You will receive extra strokes on each of the handicap holes up to your Course Handicap.


If a player has a Course Handicap of 10, that player will receive one extra stroke on handicap holes 1-10.  If a player has a Course Handicap of 25, that player will receive two extra strokes on handicap holes 1-7, and one extra stroke on handicap holes 8-18.


Q:  Who should I talk to about a Handicapping issue at my club?

A:  Ask at your pro shop to see who is responsible for Handicapping at the club.  The Head Professional or Director of Golf may be able to help you.  If your club has a Handicap Committee in place, the Handicap Chairperson is a wealth of information and should be consulted.

If the issue requires further attention, contact Craig Loughry at cloughry@gao.ca


Q:  I hardly ever play to my Handicap Factor.  Is my factor wrong?

A:  No it is not.  Research tells us that the average player is expected to play to his/her Course Handicap no more than 25% of the time.  With the best score in the most recent 20 being on average only two strokes better than his/her Course Handicap.

How do you know what you need to score to play to your Handicap?  It’s called your target score, and is calculated by adding your Course Handicap to the Course Rating of the tees to be played.


Q:  How do I calculate how many strokes I get when playing against another golfer?

A:  There are a few simple steps (and a little bit of math!) to do to determine the number of strokes to be received.

Step 1 – Calculate the Course Handicap from tees played

Use the Course Handicap Table or Handicap formula for this.

Step 2 – Apply any handicap allowance (if applicable)

This will only be applicable if you are playing in a competition where the committee in charge determines that players compete at a specific percentage of Course Handicap.

Step 3 – Calculate the difference in Course Rating from tees played, with any difference of 0.5 or greater rounded upward

Subtract the lower Course Rating from the higher (if playing from different tees, or if playing with both men and women).  Once you have determined this, combine it with the difference in Course Handicaps.


A woman has a Handicap Factor of 26.5 and is playing from tees with a Slope Rating of 120 and Course Rating of 69.8

A man has a Handicap Factor of 26.5 is playing from tees with a Slope Rating of 115 and Course Rating of 73.7

Step 1 determines the Course Handicap for the woman to be 28 and the man’s is 27

If there was a handicap allowance as set out by the committee in charge of competition, the percentage would be multiplied by each Course Handicap.  We will assume a 90% allowance for men and 95% allowance for women.  This changes the women’s Course Handicap to 27 and the man’s to 24.

Step 3 calculates the differences in Course Rating.

Course Rating 73.7 – Course Rating 69.8 = 3.9 rounded up to 4 strokes

The woman’s Course Rating (27) minus additional strokes (4) = 23 strokes

The man’s Course Rating (24) plus additional strokes (4) = 28 strokes


Q:  Can I post scores from a course that doesn’t have a Course or Slope rating?

A:  No, in order to post scores for Handicap purposes, the course must be a member in good standing with their regional golf association.  You can only post scores from rounds played on a course with a Course and Slope Rating (or equivalent if rounds are played internationally).


Q:  How can I learn more about Handicapping?

A:  There are many great ways to learn more about Handicapping.  The Golf Ontario website has lots of information available in the Handicap Resource Centre.  Read through some of the articles, posters, documents and more to learn about everything involved with handicapping!

Another great way to learn more is by participating in a Golf Ontario Handicapping Seminar.  These seminars offer in-depth, detailed education about the Handicap System and Golf Canada Handicap Manual.  Visit the Golf Ontario website for a schedule and to see which one is closest to you!

Can’t make it to one of the seminars?  Don’t worry, because we also offer an online Handicapping Seminar that can be taken in the comfort of your own home.  This option offers the same great information about handicapping but can be taken on your own time in as many sessions as you want!  Visit the Golf Ontario website for more information, or go to the following link to register! 


Q:  How do I sign up for a Handicap Seminar?

A:  A full schedule of Handicap Seminar dates is posted on the Golf Ontario website.  Each seminar date has a link beside it that will redirect you to our secure website where you can sign up and register for the seminar that best fits your schedule.  You will be required to enter some information during the registration process (name, address, email, club affiliation, etc.) as well as payment information.  Please note, that only Visa and Mastercard are accepted through the secure website.  If other payment arrangements need to be made, please contact Craig Loughry at cloughry@gao.ca

To sign up for our online Handicapping Seminar, simply follow this link https://training.gao.ca/user/login  Register with your email and a password of your choice.  From there, click “Purchase Now” to pay for the seminar (a secure process) and you will be on your way!