What Is A High Handicap In Golf

What Is A “High Handicap” In Golf Terms?

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There are low handicappers and high handicappers in the game and one of those you really don’t want to be. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to lower your handicap on the course because a low handicap is synonymous with expertise. What is a high handicap in golf?

A high handicap in golf terms refers to a handicap rating of over 20, which is double the average casual’s handicap. When a golfer is allowed to subtract 20 or more from his scorecard, he is considered a high-handicapper.

In this article, you will learn about handicap calculation, averages, and the myths around the system. You will also learn a quick way to assess your temporary handicap if you play casually on the same course.

But before getting into handicap values, you should get an overview of the handicap system in golf, including a list of golf terms about handicap.

Golf Handicap: A Brief Overview

Golf Handicap A Brief Overview

Handicap in golf refers to the number of strokes that a golfer can subtract from his score. It is meant to be an equalizing measure that allows people with different levels of experience to compete evenly.

Golf handicap makes playing possible for beginners and engaging for intermediate golfers. Since the majority of golfers play for leisure and networking, the handicap system ensures that no party is at a steep disadvantage in a round.

The handicap system works because of a standardized method of assessment and an almost universal index. A high handicapper is someone who has a score subtraction allowance much higher than average.

Similarly, a low-handicap golfer is someone who has a near-perfect score with minimal subtraction.

How Is A Handicap Calculated In Golf?

How Is A Handicap Calculated In Golf

The USGA’s handicap guidelines suggest picking the best 8 score differentials ™ from 20 scores and getting an average. Said average is your handicap. If you don’t want to find out your handicap yourself, you can simply request an assessment from your local golf course administration.

If you don’t want USGA compliant handicap and want to independently figure out yours, then you don’t need to use the course difficulty and factors that make up differentials and can simply go ahead with the average of best 8 scores. Independent handicap calculation is simpler but doesn’t translate from course to course.

If you play with your friends only and your handicap isn’t likely to be challenged, then you can simply subtract your average score from the course par to get your handicap for that specific course.

What’s My Handicap If I Shoot 90?

What's My Handicap If I Shoot 90

If you consistently shoot an average of 90 on par 72 courses, then your handicap is 18. This handicap might not remain consistent across multiple courses, though. To get a more uniform handicap, you should get your handicap converted to the portable handicap index.

Calculations exist to translate the handicap index to course handicap. It is a safeguard around people who may get their high handicap from difficult courses and might want to use it on easier ones.

Here is the formula for course handicap:

Handicap Index x (Slope Rating/113) + (Course Rating – Par)


  • Handicap Index – A portable number representing the transferable handicap value that can be converted to a player’s actual handicap for a specific course. 
  • Slope Rating – The comparative difficulty of a golf course between a scratch golfer and an 18-bogey golfer. 
  • Course Rating – The difficulty of a golf course in average weather conditions for the average scratch golfer. 
  • Par – The number of strokes an expert is expected to finish a course in.

Common Hanidcaps In Golf?

Common Hanidcaps In Golf

Now that you know how to get your course handicap and your USGA handicap, it is time to go over what to expect. In this section, you will find common handicaps in golf, whether they’re high or low.

Fresh golfers can expect to go 10 to 30 strokes over par on average, making 10 handicaps to 30 handicaps the range for new golfers on the road to becoming bogey golfers.

  • 90 handicap means that you shoot 90 over the course par for an average course. This handicap is common among zero-experience golfers.
  • 30 handicap means that you score 30 more than the course par in an average round. 90 handicappers, more than 30 handicaps over the course of one to two years. 
  • 20 handicap is the result of shooting 20 over the course par. It is a common handicap among female golfers and is a point where many male golfers stop improving. 
  • 18 handicap is the average handicap of a bogey golfer. It means that you go over par on each of the 18 holes, leading to a total of 18 over the course par. Bringing one’s handicap below 18 can become much more challenging.

Why Is 18 Handicap Tough To Overcome?

Why Is 18 Handicap Tough To Overcome

18 handicap is tough to overcome because casual golfers have to hole out on par on at least one hole and not go two over par on any other hole. This can be far more challenging than simply lowering the number of strokes on one’s score.

The course par and the hole par are meant to account for the average number of strokes an expert would require to complete them. Being on par for even one hole and then not blowing the lead at any other hole can be quite challenging for the average golfer.

Golf Handicap: Myths, Reality, And Averages

Golf Handicap Myths, Reality, And Averages

Handicap in golf is not as controversial as an outsider might assume. Most assumptions of unfairness, as well as handicap tiers, come from poor information and the prevalence of myths. Here are some common handicap myths alongside the truth that debunks them.

  • Myth 1 – Handicap is cheating – The handicap system is designed to correct for lack of experience and skill without overcorrecting in the favor of a high handicapper. 
  • Myth 2 – The goal of golf is to lower one’s handicap – The goal of golf for casual golfers is to have fun. Lowering one’s score is desirable, but being a low handicapper isn’t the point of golf. 
  • Myth 3 – Breaking 80 means lowering your handicap under 80 – Breaking 80 actually means completing a round without going over par on a single hole. Only 2% to 5% of golfers break 80, while over 50% have a less-than-80 handicap.

What Is A Beginner Golf Handicap?

28 to 32 is a beginner golf handicap for men, while 36 to 39 is an appropriate beginner handicap for women. This translates to an average score of 100 to 104 for men and 108 to 111 for women.

What Is A Respectable Golf Handicap?

If you can subtract 10 from your initial handicap in the first year of playing golf, your progress is considered respectable. You might not need to push yourself any lower than a 10 handicap, though.

For men, a handicap of less than 10 is respectable, and for women, an under 13 handicap is considered great. Casual golfers don’t need to go any further.

What Is A Pros Handicap?

3 handicap to 6 handicap is considered professional tier performance. However, professionals do not play with a handicap and forfeit it during their professional games. Only by averaging their scores can you see that some of them occasionally go 5 over course par.

Top-tier pro golfers have a negative handicap (again, not used) where they finish their games under par. Most golf casuals assume that a zero-handicapper is basically a pro, but that’s not true.

What Is A Scratch Golfer’s Handicap?

Top-tier pro golfers are usually scratch golfers. A scratch golfer’s handicap is 0.0, if not negative. He finishes his rounds on or below par, rarely going over par.

Scratch golfers are considered to be elite and can dominate most amateur tournaments. However, most amateurs who achieve a zero handicap can’t really go pro until they start playing under par consistently.

Quickest Way To Reduce Your Handicap

The quickest way to reduce your handicap is to get fitted for a club.

Most people who move from 90 handicaps to 30 handicaps do so not with practice but by purchasing the right club.

Other things you can try to reduce your handicap include playing with low handicappers, practicing aspects of your game instead of completing rounds, and playing more frequently.

Conclusion: What is a High Handicap in Golf?

Final Thoughts

A high handicap in golf isn’t desirable.

When you can subtract 20 or more from your golf scorecard, you are considered to be a high handicapper.

A high handicap in golf is synonymous with having zero golf experience and isn’t something beginners should get comfortable with.