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Video:How Does the USGA Handicap System Work?

with Todd Kolb

The USGA Handicap System uses a calculation based on your average golf scores to create an index that effects how you will score on various courses. Learn more about the USGA Handicap System in this video from About.com.See Transcript

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Transcript:How Does the USGA Handicap System Work?

PGA Professional Todd Kolb with About.com; we're going to talk about how the USGA Handicap System works.

What is a Handicap in Golf?

The United States Golf Association—better known as the USGA—has what we call a handicap system. Now the first thing that I would like you to know is the purpose of the handicap system is to allow golfers of a variety of skill levels to compete on a level playing field. Now, how the process or system works is relatively simple. The first thing you do is you establish a handicap, which can basically done at any local golf course. 

You start to enter scores, and what the calculation is going to do is take your scores, average those out, do a couple of little changes to it, and it's going to give you what we call a “Handicap Index.” Now, that index will be a number, and what you'll be able to do with that number is take it to any golf course, and it's going to give you a handicap for that course. 

How Does a Handicap Work at a Golf Course?

So let's go through an example. Let's say my handicap index is 7.5, and I go to play at a golf course. They'll have a chart; I'll look at that chart and look for 7.5, and to the right of that will be the number—or the handicap—for that particular golf course. So, generally speaking, if it's a really difficult golf course, instead of my Handicap Index being 7.5 it might be 8 or 9 or 10. If the golf course is maybe easier than the course I normally play, that handicap will be a little bit lower. So once that process takes place, I can compete with any level of golfer. 

How Do You Get a Golf Handicap?

So once again, the USGA—United States Golf Association—has a system in place. You get a handicap; you sign up for it; you enter scores. The system does a calculation that basically averages your scores with a little bit of minor changes and gives you a Handicap Index. That index can be taken to any golf course to give you a course handicap specific to that golf course, which will allow you to play with any level of golfer at any place in the country that has the USGA Handicap System.  

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