Golf Handicaps: How Do They Work?

May 2, 2023

The handicap system is a unique feature of golf, designed to help all golfers play together, regardless of their skill level. This can be invaluable for inexperienced players looking to compete against seasoned golfers. We recommend familiarising yourself with the handicap system before joining us in the wonderful world of golf. 

Today, we’ll be introducing you to golf handicaps, how they work, and how to get one in Australia. We’ll also provide you with some useful resources, including a golf handicap calculator to help you accurately set your handicap. 

What is a Golf Handicap?

The golf handicap is a numerical rating that’s used to indicate how many strokes a player is expected to take per round compared to the par of the course (the optimal number of strokes it takes to complete the course). The better the player, the lower their handicap. 

While you don’t need a handicap to get started with golf, you’ll want to obtain one once you’re a little more confident in the sport. We recommend establishing a handicap once you can break 100 (meaning you can complete an 18-hole course in 100 strokes or less). 

Currently, the maximum handicap rating for both men and women is 54, while the minimum is zero. Players with a handicap rating of zero (known as ‘scratch golfers’) can expect to play level par or better on any and all rated golf courses.

How Does the Golf Handicap Work in a Round of Golf?

With just a little bit of maths, the handicap helps level the playing field for all golfers. To determine your final score at the end of the game, all you need to do is subtract your handicap value from the total number of shots it took you to complete the course – your opponent will do the same. 

For example, if you completed a course in 95 strokes and you had a handicap rating of 25, your net score would be 70. If you were playing against a golfer with a handicap of 15 and they completed the course in 87 strokes, their net score would be 72. That means you’d win. Congratulations! 

How to Find Your Golf Handicap?

On 30 January 2020, Australia adopted the World Handicapping System (WHS) for calculating a player’s official handicap rating. Under the current rules, there are two official types of handicap. The first of these is the GA Handicap. 

The GA Handicap is a relative assessment of your golfing ability on a course with a neutral Slope Rating. 

Here’s how to find your GA Handicap: 

The Official Golf Handicap

Golf Australia requires 54 holes to calculate your initial GA Handicap. This can take the form of 3 x 18-hole rounds, 6 x 9-hole rounds, or a combination of the two. 

Your handicap is then calculated based on the average of the top 8 of your most recent scores. Every round you play will update your last twenty scores, meaning your handicap rating will also be recalculated each time. This makes the GA Handicap an excellent indicator of your overall progress and improvement. 

The Generic Golf Handicap

The Generic Handicap isn’t quite as accurate as the official method laid out by Golf Australia, but it’s a quick and easy way of getting a general idea of your rating. 

To rapidly calculate your handicap, simply count the number of strokes you’re over par on a course. For example, if it took you 114 strokes to complete a course with a par of 72, your handicap would be 42. 

Calculating Your Daily Handicap

The second type of handicap is known as the Daily Handicap. This is designed for competition play and represents the number of strokes taken on a particular course. The Daily Handicap is calculated based on a number of factors, including Slope, Scratch, and Par Ratings, as well as your GA Handicap.

Currently, the formula used to calculate your Daily Handicap is (GA Handicap x (Slope Rating ÷ 113) + (Scratch Rating minus Par)) x 0.93.

That’s understandably a little confusing, so let’s explore what some of these terms mean. 

Slope Rating 

The Slope Rating indicates how difficult a particular golf course is for a bogey player compared to a scratch player. A bogey player is a person with a handicap of 20 for males and 24 for females. The higher the Slope Rating, the higher the relative difficulty for the bogey player. 

This rating is used to determine how many handicap strokes a player will receive from a specific set of tees. Most scorecards will have the course’s slope rating printed on them. 

Scratch Rating 

The Scratch Rating indicates the normal playing difficulty of a set of tees for a scratch golfer (a player with a handicap of zero). This number is based on a range of features of the course, including measured meterage, obstacles, and characteristics that impact playing length, such as elevation. 

Your score will be measured against the Scratch Rating when it’s being processed for handicapping. 


This is the optimal number of strokes it should take to complete the entire round of 18 holes. 

Golf Handicap Calculators

If you’re starting to worry that there’s a little more maths involved in golf than you’d like, don’t fret. You don’t actually have to calculate your handicap at all if you don’t want to!

There are plenty of resources available online that can help quickly calculate your handicap for you. For example, Golf Australia (the leading golfing authority in Australia) offers a convenient Daily Handicap Look-Up Chart, complete with information on all rated golf courses in Australia.

Alternatively, you can join your local club to let them manage all the calculations for you. 

Need a Golf Coach? Try Golf Lessons Today!

Golf involves a lot of rules and unique terms, which can make it a little intimidating for a beginner. That’s why we recommend starting your golfing journey with a professional who can introduce you to the key language and regulations of the sport.

At Eynesbury, we love helping beginners gain the knowledge and foundational skills they need to develop a life-long love of golf. Book your expert-led golf lesson today!

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Eynesbury is open to golfers of all ages and skill levels. Book now and get ready to enjoy a day out on our world-class, 18-hole golf course designed by golfing legend, Graham Marsh.  

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