Home Clubhouse Golf Rules Adjusting Golf handicaps

Golf handicap calculation can be a rather tricky business to get your head around. If you've calculated your starting handicap, you'll need to understand two things to progress with making your golf handicap adjustments when you play:

  1. What buffer zone your current handicap sits in
  2. How stroke index works

Getting to grips with the buffer zones

Your current golf handicap will determine which buffer zone your handicap sits and whether it will increase or decrease.

Category Buffer Zone Reduction (shot) Reduction (shot)
1 - Handicaps 0.1 to 5.4 +1 -0.1 0.1
2 - Handicaps 5.5 to 12.4 +2 -0.2 0.1
3 - Handicaps 12.5 to 20.4 +3 -0.3 0.1
4 - Handicaps 20.5 to 28.4 +4 -0.4 0.1
5 - Handicaps 28.5 and above * +5 -0.5 0

*Category 5 only applies to ladies. Under the CONGU golf rules ?Unified Handicapping System, men's handicaps stop at 28 (ladies up to 36).

So using the table as a guide to these golf handicap rules, a golfer with a handicap of 21 would sit in Category 4, a golfer with an 18 handicap in Category 3.

Stroke Index

The 18 holes on a course are generally ranked according to how hard they are using the stroke index.

Usually this means that the hardest hole on a course will be stroke index one and the easiest, stroke index 18.

But, as with many things in golf, it is more complicated than that.

Put simply, the stroke index works in parallel to the handicap.

So if you have a handicap of 14, you should subtract one shot from your gross score at the holes which have been designated as stroke index one to 14.

If you have a handicap of more than 18, there will be some holes at which you can take more than one shot.

For instance with a handicap of 26, you should take two shots at holes with stroke index one to eight (18 + 8= 26).

Although holes are rated by difficulty, the even spread of the stroke index is the most important factor.

If you look at a card the odd numbered stroke index holes will be allocated to the harder of the two sets of nine holes on the course.

E.g. if your handicap is 14

E.g. if your handicap is 26

Hole

SI

Shots

1

17

0

2

3

1

3

4

1

4

15

0

5

18

0

6

1

1

7

9

1

8

7

1

9

14

1

Hole

SI

Shots

1

17

1

2

3

2

3

4

2

4

15

1

5

18

1

6

1

2

7

9

1

8

7

2

9

14

1

Calculating the handicap adjustment

To adjust your handicap you need to use your adjusted golf score for the round.

Under the CONGU golf handicap scoring system, the maximum score you can submit for any hole is a double bogey (+2).

This means:
On a par 3, if you score 6 or over, your adjusted score would be 5.
On a par 4, if you score 7 or over, your adjusted score would be 6.
On a par 5, if you score 8 or over, your adjusted score would be 7

Remember that you use the stroke index to give yourself more shots according to your handicap. So on a par 4 with a stroke index of 8, a golfer with a handicap of 26 will receive 2 shots for the hole (18+8=26).

Once you’ve played your round and submitted your scores, follow these three steps when working out golf handicaps:

  1. You subtract your adjusted score from the Standard Scratch Score (SSS – what a zero handicapper would score – usually the course par) for the course.
  2. Then take this value (known as the Gross Score) and subtract your current handicap to get your Net Score.
  3. Finally take your handicap category (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) and determine the adjustment based on your buffer zone.

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