Instead of “why should I get a handicap?”, if you’re even close to a serious golfer it’s more of a “why wouldn’t I get a handicap?” Thanks to the handicap system established by the USGA (United State Golf Association), there is a way to accurately track your progress as a golfer.
Some of the members at Bushwood CC in Caddyshack might prefer comparing themselves to other golfers by height. We like something that actually has to do with golf.
I play at a course where par is 70. I look awfully good reporting back that I broke 80. The problem comes because that same score to par wouldn’t have the same prestige at a different course.
Nine over can be 79 and 83, one looks better than the other. Same goes for breaking 90 and 100. That’s like finding out someone who brags about getting straight A’s in school uses a grading system where 85 is an A+. It just doesn’t add up.
If you want to know how much better you’ve gotten, a handicap is the most effective way of tracking your results. Most importantly, if you want to know if you’re better than another golfer, this is the best method of comparison.
What is a handicap?
When you play golf, you keep track of your score. After the round, you enter your score into the handicap system. After five rounds, the system gives you a number; that’s your handicap index. Compare this number with how easy or difficult the course you’re playing is and that’s your handicap.
Five is the minimum number of scores needed to establish a handicap. Once you have your index, you still need to keep entering scores in. After 20 rounds, your handicap index is made up of your 10 best. Put in another new score and the oldest of your 20 is replaced. By setting a limit on how many rounds your handicap can go back, it provides better insight to how you’re doing as a golfer now.
What happens when I pay too well?
Suppose you have a stretch of a few weeks where you play incredible. Your handicap goes down (maybe too far). Having a low handicap is great, but it’s not always representative of how good you actually are. Play enough rounds to get those scores out and they won’t haunt you when you enter a tournament and play average.
Ultimately, when you ask yourself “why should I get a handicap?” it’s more of a decision to start tracking your progress as a golfer. You can compare yourself against yourself or other golfers. Even better, you can see how well you do at your home course versus other courses.
Slope and Rating
The two main components of assigning difficulty are slope and rating. Each course (and set of tees) have a slope and rating that allows you to compare it to other courses.
Slope has a scale of 55 to 155. If a course has a 55 rating, it is the easiest course (there’s not many of these). If it’s rated 155, prepare for a long, agonizing day on the course. Slope rating is more of a comparison of how well an average golfer will do compared to a very good golfer on the same course.
Course rating is a physical analysis of the course and how difficult it is to play. Length is the primary concern when calculating rating. Hazards, sand traps and other natural challenges are also taken into consideration.
What should slope and rating mean to me?
If the ratings seem a bit too high for your skill level, you can always move up a set of tees. Nothing is worse than being on a course that you don’t stand a chance on. Have some fun on the course, always move up a set of tees if you’re in doubt.
Combining these numbers lets you know how many shots over par you can expect to shoot. The more difficult the course, the higher you can expect your score to be.
With this system, your answer to why should I get a handicap is so that you have a legitimate rebuttal when your buddies accuse you of being a sandbagger. With a handicap, you can back up that your five-over round really was just an anomaly and not you pulling one over on them.
How can I get a handicap?
First you asked yourself “why should I get a handicap?”, and now you want to know “how can I get a handicap?” It’s a natural thought progression and one that almost every golfer has gone through. You, Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, everyone else you watch on TV. You’re pretty much the same now. That’s how this works.
Establishing a handicap is easier now than any other time in golf history. In the past, having a handicap was more exclusive and required membership at an individual golf course. With golf growing and more people getting involved, the USGA knew that like with everything else, they needed to make it more accessible.
Nowadays, getting a handicap is as easy as finding a local allied golf association or going to your local course and getting it through them. For more information about where to go, the USGA can help you out.
Getting a handicap will cost you money, no matter where you choose to get yours. Most of the time it’s a small fee, similar to the cost of a round or two. As you watch your handicap index shrink, it trumps whatever you paid at the beginning of the season to get into the system.
Score posting season
If you live in a place where you can play golf year-round, please don’t brag about it. If you live in a place that experiences all four seasons, you know it’s not possible to play golf during certain parts of the year. In these times, you cannot post a score to your handicap.
Even when you can somehow manage to get on the course, your score isn’t going to be an accurate representation of how well you played. During these rare times, you can actually blame the course for why your score went up.
If you have questions about when you can post a score in your state, the USGA has you covered again.