What is a Handicap?

A handicap is an indication of a player's ability. A specific formula is used to compute handicaps by factoring in a player's score and the difficulty of the course played.

Why would I want to have a Handicap?
A handicap allows players of different ability levels to compete with each other. For example, generally, if a player with a 20 handicap has a score of 100, her net score is 80 (100 - 20 = 80) while a player with a 27 handicap and a score of 107 also has a net score of 80. Using handicaps helps to even the playing field, making the game more fun.

Handicaps also travel with you. If you play a course that is more difficult than your home course, your handicap will generally be higher and, on an easier course, will generally be lower.

When should I establish a Handicap?
If you are just learning the game of golf and spend the majority of your time taking lessons or practicing, then it may be too early for you to establish a handicap. Once you start playing 9 or 18 hole rounds, you should establish your handicap. After you have obtained a handicap number from your handicapping service (GHIN, GolfNet, etc.), you will need to post scores from five 18-hole or ten 9-holes rounds of golf to get your first Handicap Index. Handicaps are only revised on the 1st and 15th of each month. Any scores posted between those dates are held in the system until the next revision.

How do I establish a Handicap?
LPGA Amateurs provides a handicap service as a part of your membership. This is included with the Handicap System (GN21) that is offered to every member affiliated with a chapter. In order to use this service you must first activate your GN21 account (found in the Member Clubhouse at www.LPGAamateurs.com). You then must enter a minimum of 5 scores (total of 90 holes) to establish your handicap.

What is a Course Handicap™?

A Course Handicap represents the number of strokes needed to play to the level of the USGA Course Rating of a particular set of tees. Golf courses vary in difficulty and each set of tees presents a different challenge. For this reason, a Course Handicap™ adjusts your Index to reflect the challenge of the particular course and tees you are playing. Your Course Handicap™ can be equal to, higher or lower than your Index depending on the Slope Rating™ of the course being played.

How do I determine my Course Handicap™?
Look for the Course Handicap™ Table for the set of tees that you will use during play. These tables can usually be found in the course clubhouse near the posting computer. If not, ask the staff for a copy. Note that there are separate tables for men and women and a table for each set of tees, so be sure to ask for the correct table - the Women's Table for the Red Tees, for example. Locate your Index on the table to find your Course Handicap™. This whole number tells you how many strokes you will be given for the course and is also used to determine the maximum number of strokes you can post for any hole (see Equitable Stroke Control below). You can also use the online USGA Course Handicap calculator. You will need to know the Slope Rating for the set of tees you are playing.

What is a Course Rating™?
A Course Rating™ represents the playing difficulty of a course for a scratch golfer (a golfer with a zero or less Handicap Index) under normal weather and course conditions.

What is a Slope Rating®?
The Slope Rating® represents the relative playing difficulty of a course for a non-scratch golfer compared to a scratch golfer. The higher the Slope Rating ®, the greater the gap in expected scores between the scratch golfer and the non-scratch player.
What is Equitable Stroke Control (ESC)?
ESC is an adjustment of individual hole scores (for handicap purposes) in order to make handicaps more representative of a player's potential ability. ESC is applied after the round and is only used when the actual score or the most likely score exceeds a player's maximum number. ESC sets a limit to the number of strokes a player can take on a hole depending on Course Handicap™. 
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