How to Calculate Your Golf Handicap

Measuring your golf handicap index means that you want to know your potential playing ability, but did you know that most golfers assume the handicap is just the average score they play? When you calculate your golf handicap it contains more than just an average score. Now you know the fact, let’s continue. In this article I will give you advice on which calculator you should use and how the handicap calculating works. Also I will explain how to lower your handicap score by providing you some guidelines. The point of the handicap (by USGA): “make the game of golf more enjoyable by enabling players of differing abilities to compete on an equitable basis.”

Table of Contents

Golf Handicap Calculator

I will explain the functionality behind the calculators later on in this article, but if you only search for a golf handicap calculator then this piece of content is the most interesting for you to read. When you want to determine your 9-hole course handicap, I would recommend you to click here. It brings you to the website: “” and it contains a nice free handicap calculator for you to determine your 9-hole course handicap. 

Calculate your Golf Handicap at Randa

If you want you can calculate your 18-hole course handicap at “” either, but I recommend you to use the “USGA calculator” for that instead. USGA mainly focuses on the determination of 18-hole course handicaps. For the 18-hole only free handicap calculator, click here.

Handicap Calculator USGA

Related Terminology

I have selected some terms for you before I take you to the calculation steps. To fully understand the steps I recommend you to know the terminology first, so here they are:

Adjusted Gross Score: “An “adjusted gross score” is a player’s gross score adjusted under USGA Handicap System procedures for unfinished holes, conceded strokes, holes not played or not played under the Rules of Golf, or Equitable Stroke Control.” – USGA

Course Rating: “A USGA Course Rating is the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers under normal course and weather conditions. It is expressed as the number of strokes taken to one decimal place (72.5), and is based on yardage and other obstacles to the extent that they affect the scoring difficulty of the scratch golfer.” – USGA

Slope Rating: A “Slope Rating” is the USGA’s mark that indicates the measurement of the relative difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers compared to the USGA Course Rating (e.g., compared to the difficulty of a course for scratch golfers. A Slope Rating is computed from the difference between the Bogey Rating and the USGA Course Rating. The lowest Slope Rating is 55 and the highest is 155. A golf course of standard playing difficulty has a Slope Rating of 113.” – USGA

Handicap Differential: “A “Handicap Differential” is the difference between a player’s adjusted gross score and the USGA 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, e.g., 12.8.” – USGA

Formula: Handicap Differential = (Adjusted Gross Score – Course Rating) x 113 ÷ Slope Rating [result rounded to nearest tenth]

Handicap Index: “A Handicap  Index is a number used to represent your potential scoring ability, which is always expressed as a number taken to one decimal place (e.g. 10.4). This number is used to calculate how many strokes you would potentially need to adjust your score back to par, and allows golfers of all skill levels to compete on an even playing field. For example, if you have a Handicap Index of 21.3, it means you generally shoot about 21 strokes over par on an average course.” – SCGA

Course Handicap: Course Handicap = Handicap Index x Slope Rating / 113

Let’s Calculate your Golf Handicap

So now you know the terms of the calculation process from the previous piece of content, I have selected the steps of the process here for you. These steps are suitable for 9- and 18-hole Course Handicap calculations. Reading these steps is a very good way to understand the working of the handicap calculators. In this piece of the content I’ll give you the seven steps of the process.

If you want you can check out the video below to help you understanding this article a bit more:

1. Begin with Converting Gross Scores to Adjusted Gross Scores

Use the Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) from USGA for getting the Adjusted Gross Score. The ESC is used to downwardly adjust the individual hole scores for handicapping purposes. All of this is because we want to represent a golfer’s playing ability. ESC imposes a maximum number of strokes that can be entered for every given hole. The maximum number of each hole is based on the Course Handicap of the golfer and is obtained from the numbers shown below:

Step 1 Table

Here is an example for you to better understand this step. A player with a Course Handicap of 18, did score a nine on one of the course holes. Players with a handicap ranging from 10 up to 19 have a maximum score of seven on any hole, so that nine is downwardly adjusted to seven. If you have done the adjustments for every hole if it was necessary, you sum up the 18 holes and then you have the Adjusted Gross Score.

2. Golf Handicap Differential Calculation for Each Score

The next step is to compute the Handicap Differential for each score that’s in the Handicap Index calculation. You will get the differentials by a formula. The formula of this calculation is:

(Adjusted Gross Score – Course Rating) * 113 / Slope Rating = Handicap Differential

After the calculation of the Handicap Differential you have to round the number to the nearest tenth.

3. Select the Lowest Differentials

When you’re going to the third step, you want to select the lowest Handicap Differentials. Look at the table below, you could use it when selecting the lowest or best differentials. Have you entered more than 20 scores? Then you select the 10 best of the latest 20 differentials used for the calculation. You have to record at least five scores.

Table Step 2

4. Make an Average of the Selected Differentials

If you have at least 10 scores available you can calculate the average of the lowest or best three Handicap Differentials. When you have 15 scores you want to make an average of six differentials, lowest or best. Always make an average of 10 differentials if you have at least 20 of them. Try to get your most recent scores every time.

5. Multiply the Average by 96%

The fifth step of calculating the golf Handicap Index is to multiply the average of the net Handicap Differential by 96%, this is the percentage used by USGA. This step almost speaks for itself, but you have to do this step before we can go to step six.

6. Calculate the Golf Handicap Index

If you have done step five correctly you want to delete digits after the tenths for the number you have calculated in the previous step. Do NOT round off to the nearest tenths place. When you’ve completed this step you finally have the Handicap Index.

Example calculation of the Handicap Index followed by the USGA system:
1. A golfer has 14 scores available.
2. The sum of the lowest five differentials is 78.3.
3. So the average is (78.3 / 5 =) 15.66.
4. Multiply the average by 96%: 15.0336 is the result.
5. Delete digits after thents, so the Handicap Index here is: 15.0.

7. Finally: Calculate the Course Handicap (Handicap Index x Slope)

The number of strokes a golf player needs to complete a particular course is called the Course Handicap. This final step is meant to calculate the course handicap. Multiply the Handicap Index by the Slope Rating and divide it by 113. Round off the result to a whole number. 

The formula: Handicap Index * (Slope Rating of Tee on Course / 113) = Course Handicap, so Handicap Index X slope / 113.

An example of the Course Handicap calculation when you assume an Handicap Index of 15 and a Slope Rating of 120:

15 * (120 / 113) = 15.92, so the Course Handicap here is 15.

Know you know the calculation for the Course Handicap. It’s fun to know and to use, but you can always go to the calculators on the USGA and Randa page. You can calculate a 18- and 9-hole Course Handicap on both sites, but I recommend you to use the USGA site for the 18-hole course calculation and Randa for the 9-hole course calculation.

Lower Your Handicap?

When you think you can do better at playing golf and you want to lower your handicap I will suggest you to practice a LOT and gather a lot of information about techniques on the internet. You can read our guide: “How to Play Golf: The Beginner Guide” if you are a starting golf player or a beginner. We have articles on our site for everyone that will help to become a better golf player. Like always: Practice is the key for succes.


This article helps you to find the best handicap calculator for you. The terms & steps of the process behind the calculator are also explained in this article. You can either choose to calculate your course handicap by following the steps or by going to the websites I’ve recommended. Stay practicing the sport and feel welcome to our site to gather your information.


Calculator – 
Randa – 
Practical Golf – 
Golf Software – 
American Golf –,to%20obtain%20your%20handicap%20differential

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