Course Handicap Calculation and Application

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USGA Handicap System (pre-2020):  A Course Handicap™ represents the number of strokes a player receives in relation to the Course Rating™ of the tees being played. The formula is:

Course Handicap = Handicap Index® x Slope Rating™ / 113.

Rule Change for 2020:  A Course Handicap will represent the number of strokes a player receives in relation to the par of the tees being played. The formula will include a Course Rating minus par adjustment:

Course Handicap = Handicap Index × (Slope Rating ÷ 113) + (Course Rating – Par)

Reasons for Change:

  • Under the USGA Handicap System, when players competed from different tees, a Course Handicap adjustment based on the Course Rating difference must take place to make the game fair.
  • This adjustment is necessary because players competing from different tees are competing with different benchmarks (different Course Ratings). 
  • This adjustment, identified and explained in Section 3-5, has generated confusion and there have been challenges with its implementation over the years.
  • Applying Course Rating minus par within the Course Handicap calculation will allow players to compete from different tees without any adjustment – unless a difference in par exists.
  • Under the old USGA Handicap System, it is common for Course Handicap values to change very little from tee to tee.
  • Confusion exists because the Course Handicap value only accounts for the number of strokes needed to play to the respective Course Rating.
  • Beginning in 2020, Course Handicap values will change more from tee to tee, as they will represent the number of strokes to play to par.
  • Par is a term that resonates with golfers, so setting par as the benchmark for a Course Handicap adds simplicity to handicapping.
  • Players will be able to determine their target scores (the score they’ll shoot if they play to their handicap) by simply adding their Course Handicap + Par.
  • A score of net par will be used for holes not played, and the maximum hole score for handicap purposes will be a net double bogey. Having a Course Handicap that is relative to par will ensure that the correct number of strokes are received and applied for both procedures.