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By: Brian Neufeld, Contributor

The golf handicap system is one of the most misunderstood topics in the golf world. While most veteran golfers know what their handicap is, hardly any of us know what goes into determining that number and how it changes. Here we will take a look at how your handicap is determined and how to take it with you to new courses.

What is a Handicap?

Your golf handicap is simply a number to determine your potential scoring ability in a given round. If you have a handicap of eight and are playing at a course with a par of 72, your handicap would say you have the potential to shoot 80 that day. Handicaps are beneficial when golfers of different ability levels play against each other. As an eight handicap, if you’re playing someone that has a handicap of 17, you will have to win the match by 10 strokes total to be victorious. Handicaps level the playing field for all golfers to be competitive.

How is Handicap Calculated?

Starting in January of 2020, there will be some minor changes made to how your handicap is calculated. Currently, your 10 best scores out of the most recent 20 rounds will be averaged to calculate your handicap, but starting in January only your top eight scores will count for your handicap. There are no longer any multipliers necessary to calculate your handicap with the changes as well.

What is Travelling Handicap?

If you read our previous post about Understanding Course and Slope rating here, this next part won’t be quite as confusing. Establishing a handicap at your home course makes it possible to translate your handicap to a different course you haven’t played before. Many courses will have charts posted to make figuring out your handicap at their course easy, but we will briefly look at what it takes to calculate a traveling handicap. Take your handicap and multiply it by the course slope rating and then divide it by 113. The number 113 represents a course with average difficulty. This will either adjust your handicap down on an easier course or raise it on a more difficult one and will give you a much better representation than using your home course handicap at all courses.

As with most things in life today, technology dominates how we record our scores and keep track of our handicaps. There are a number of apps and websites dedicated to helping you keep track of your numbers and calculating traveling handicaps. Hopefully, you’ll be able to do these things now without pulling out your smartphone, and you’ll always get the number of strokes you deserve.

About the Author: Brian Neufeld

Brian Neufeld’s background includes more than 15 years of experience in golf course management, specializing in agronomy. Brian uses his knowledge of the game and best practices in turf sustention to create informative pieces for’s readers.

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