A common misconception is that a handicap is based on your average score. In reality a handicap is based on an average of a players best scores, generally the top 40%.
A handicap is calculated using the players scores and particular ratings of the golf course. To establish, golfers will submit their scores through a golfcanada.com membership. These are made available as part of your clubs annual dues or can be purchased separately through the Golf Canada website.
Golf courses range in difficulty and as a result a player’s handicap may vary from one course to another. Each course will have “Handicap Conversion Tables” where golfers can cross reference their handicap index to any course and the particular tee length played from.
Most tournaments will require players to have a valid handicap index in order to compete. This allows the tournament committee to set groupings of players based on their handicap to best suit the tournament format.
A regular stroke play tournament will reward player(s) with the lowest score - their gross score as well as the players with the best score relative to their handicap - referred to as their net score.
Not only does a handicap allow one another to compete together fairly, but more importantly it becomes a benchmark for all golfers to try and improve upon. Golfers who play at the highest level are referred to as playing to scratch or having a handicap of zero.
Recent statistics show that scratch golfers make up only 1.5%, and golfers who can frequently break a score of 80 are around the top 20% of players. About 75% of golfers are able to play bogey golf, with a handicap index of 18 or better. These statistics are based on data provided by the United States Golf Association.
Next year, a “World Handicap System” will be introduced to provide a more balanced and consistent system to the many handicap systems presently being used around the world. The aim of the new system is to encourage more golfers to obtain and maintain a handicap. It will also enable golfers of different abilities, genders and nationalities to transport their handicap globally.
Many clubs have a golf course mobile app equipped with an electronic scorecard, which can be linked directly to the Golf Canada handicap membership.
— Larry Ramstad