Golf is a sport that requires skill and precision, and most casual players need a handicap allowance to play evenly with their experienced friends. If you have an average handicap, you might not need to lower it, but if you’re a “high-handicapper,” it might be time to start shaving strokes off your allowance.
What is a good handicap in golf in 2023?
10 is a good handicap in golf for men, while a 15 handicap is equally good for women. Having these handicap indices puts male and female golfers among the top 1% in their respective categories. Among your golf buddies, your handicap should be five digits lower than the highest handicap.
This article will help you adjust your expectations around handicaps in golf. You’ll find out what’s realistically achievable and the time required to make significant improvements in your handicap.
You will also discover the five ways to lower your handicap. But first, let’s start with averages.
What Is The Average Handicap In Golf?
The average handicap in golf is between 13 and 15 for men and 24 and 27 for women. These handicaps are commonly accepted among hobbyists and aren’t considered to be signs of poor skill or lack of practice. In fact, you’re unlikely to find a recreational golfer with a handicap lower than 12.
An average golfer finishes his game with a score of 13 to 15 over par on a good day and 18 to 20 over par on an “okay” day. When one’s score goes beyond 20 over par, then the player is considered to be inexperienced and lacking in skill, even for an amateur.
How Common Are Handicaps In Golf?
98.5% of golfers in America have a handicap.
Even professional golfers rank on the handicap index, though they don’t play with one. It is very common to have a handicap if you play on weekends or once a month.
Daily golfers have a much lower handicap index and can even have zero handicap after a few years of golfing. It is good to aim for zero handicaps but to expect it when you’re a fresh golfer is not prudent, as it can cause frustration.
You don’t want to be discouraged by unrealistic expectations in an inclusive sport like golf.
Is It Bad To Have A Handicap In Golf?
It is not bad to have a handicap if you’re a recreational golfer.
Most golfers have a handicap, and having one isn’t a problem. The problem is having a handicap so high that your peers consider it unfair.
It is bad to have a handicap of 20 or above for men as this indicates poorer performance than the average recreational golfer. For women, a handicap of over 40 is considered bad, while a handicap below 35 is expected because of upper-body strength differences.
Your golfing buddies won’t judge you for having a handicap within the average index range. They’ll accommodate it and will encourage you to close the gap if you play often. The point of a handicap is to keep fresh players from getting carved out of group games with experienced players.
5 Ways To Lower Your Handicap
While your friends might not make you feel bad about your handicap, you might not want to resort to score subtraction to play evenly with them.
Fortunately, a handicap isn’t stationary, and almost all golfers who take a competitive approach to the sport lower their handicaps eventually.
Here are the top five ways to lower your handicap in golf:
1. Get Fitted For Equipment
In golf, you can bend yourself out of shape trying to match your swing to your equipment, or you can get equipment that fits your natural play. Getting fitted for equipment is the fastest way to improve your score and, consequently, your handicap.
2. Improve Your Drive And Your Precision
Divide your practice into precision putting and distance driving. When you amalgamate the two, it is easier to lose focus of the lacks in your long game and short game.
By improving both in different sessions, you can take your mind off the score and improve the underlying skills that can bring it down.
3. Analyze Your Game And Pinpoint Shortcomings
Once you’ve had sufficient bifurcated practice dedicated to your short game and long game, respectively, you can analyze where you’ve made progress and where you need to put more effort.
4. Be Selective With Your Practice
You’ll realize that you rack up a bulk of your score because of poor distance or poor precision. After figuring out where your game is lacking, you can start stripping everything else from your practice.
Do not play entire rounds. Instead, engage in hours of putting, chipping, and pitching if your short game is lacking. Or dedicate entire practice sessions to driving if you rack up your score because of poor yardage.
5. Play With Low-Handicappers
One of the most interesting aspects of golf is the natural handicap tilt.
On average, most players’ handicap indices tilt towards the median of their group. In a group where the average handicap is 20, those with 14 or 16 handicaps will go up in theirs.
Those with a 30 handicap will lean lower.
By switching who you play with, you can add or subtract scores from your handicap.
Is It Worth It To Lower Your Handicap In Golf?
While switching your golf group can improve your game with enough hours of play, is it the right thing to do? It depends on the context in which you take up golf.
If you’ve gotten into golf to have fun with your friends, then obsessing over your handicap to the point of playing less with them defeats the purpose of your game.
But if you got into golf with the intent of networking, then lowering your handicap can help you make a great impression on new prospects. Moreover, playing with different golfers serves your purpose.
Pros of a High Handicap
- High-handicappers have more fun – High-handicappers don’t have to worry about their score on each hole. They’re not as stressed as low-handicappers because they can shave off more points from their scores.
- Can play with better golfers without putting in the work – The beauty of the handicap index is that it allows people with different levels of experience to compete more evenly. Even if you’re a high-handicapper, you can still play with a zero handicapper and have a shot at winning.
- Save time and energy – You don’t have to put in the hours of practice required to bring down your handicap. Unless you want to play in high-visibility amateur tournaments, there isn’t any objective requirement to lower your handicap.
Cons of a High Handicap:
- It can be embarrassing – A handicap in golf can be embarrassing if it is too high. It makes a poor first impression when networking and limits you to play with those who are willing to play with a high handicapper.
- It can be less fun for your peers – Most people who do not want to play with high-handicappers dislike the time it takes a high handicapper to finish a round. Some also believe that a large enough score allowance is unfair regardless of how high one’s handicap is.
- It keeps you from playing professionally – Finally, a high handicap can keep you from competing in serious amateur events. It also shuts the door to professional golf. For you, unless you’re willing to put in the work to bring it closer to zero.
Key Takeaways: This is a Good Golf Handicap in 2023
Most pros have a five handicap but do not play with it in professional events. So, you shouldn’t expect to become a zero-handicapper in a few months. It should be to have a handicap lower than the average in your golfing group.
If you move from golf buddy to golf buddy as a links networker, you should lower your handicap to 12, which is impressive but not impossible.