The Average Golf Handicap: Where do you Rank?

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The handicap system is no exception. Golf is all about numbers.

We are constantly thinking about our driving distances, approach shot distances, and around-the-green statistics in this sport. You will become more passionate about golf the more you want to improve. 

Because let’s face it, every golfer wants to shoot lower scores and play more consistently. Continue reading to learn about the average handicap index for golfers and strategies that can lower your handicap. 

Average Golf Handicap

What is the average handicap of golfers? What is the global handicap system?

It varies for men and women, but here are the statistics USGA for golfers in the United States:

  • Average golf handicap for men is 14.2
  • Average handicap for women golfers: 27.5

Are you surprised by the golf handicaps of men and women? Several other things also surprised me, including:

  • Only 1% of male golfers have +1 handicaps or better
  • A mere 30% of male golfers have less than 10 handicaps. 
  • The most common handicap range for male golfers lies between 13.0 to 13.9 for men, and between 27.0-27.9 in female golfers. 

Let’s dive in a little deeper to learn more about average handicaps.

Handicap Doesn’t Mean Average Golf Score 

It’s important to distinguish between handicap and total score. For example, the average male golfer has a handicap of 14.2 – that doesn’t mean they average an 86 on a par 72 golf course. Handicaps aren’t directly correlated with total score.

Instead, handicaps take only your best scores into consideration, not your worst or middle of the road scores. As the USGA (United States Golf Association) noted, “Once you have 20 scores in your scoring record, your Handicap Index is calculated by first averaging the best 8 Score Differentials™ out of your most recent 20 scores. This value can be adjusted by built-in safeguards that are used when:

  • You submit an exceptional score that is 7.0 strokes better than your Handicap Index at time of round.
  • Your 8 of 20 calculation is 3.0 or more strokes above your Low Handicap Index™ from the previous 365 days.”

It’s important to note these changes as far too many golfers think the handicap systems equate to total score. 

Slope and Course Rating

The slope and course rating of a course are also important. You will be able to tell that not all golf courses are the same. This is due to factors such as length, uphill/downhill, blind shots, penalty areas and many other factors.

The slope is the difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer. The course rating is the number of shots a scratch golfer should hit from a particular tee box. The course rating is higher if the course is longer.

Course ratings can range from below par to level par and difficult courses over par. Click here to find out more about slopes and course ratings. 

Other Factors That Influence Scoring

There are more factors to consider than just handicap and the course rating/slope ratings. The first is if you actually follow the rules; so many golfers loosely abide by the rules but don’t drop a ball in the right spot if hit out of bounds or take gimmes from three feet. Your scores will likely be higher if you follow the rules 100% of your game.

The rounds casualness with friends or formal competition is another factor that can affect your score. Because of nerves and difficult course conditions, players score lower than average in competition. 

Weather conditions like wind and cold can also play a part.

What’s a “Good Golf Handicap?”

One thing I’ve learned about golfers is that they always want to improve. As you improve in your golf game, your handicap will change.

When I was high school, I was shooting 120s so I set a goal of breaking 100. The goal moved to the 80s once I started shooting in 90s. After that, it moved on to the 70s.

Needless to say, the field goal post is always moving – you need to constantly reset your goals and upgrade your expectations. This is how you keep improving and reach your own potential – don’t worry about anyone else’s goals.

If you work hard on your game and set golf goals, a good handicap will always change. However, a single-figure handicap is not a bad goal. Your average golf handicap score will be higher in the 70s.

Becoming a Scratch Golfer

Many people aim to be scratch golfers. A sought-after title is one where you can shoot at par on any course. But it’s easier said than done.

Some might take years to reach this level. If you have lots of time to practice, play tournaments, and improve your skills, it may take only a few years.

Here are five of the best tips I have for shooting around par.

  • Take one shot at the tee. This will prevent you from making a double-fault. Swing your swing – whether it’s a cut or a draw, play the same shot off the tee.
  • Each hole should have a different teebox strategy. Elite golfers have a plan for every shot and it starts with the tee ball. If you don’t, you’re making each hole harder on yourself and likely bringing in more trouble.
  • As much as you can, work on your mental game. You can be the best ball striker in the world but if your mental game wreaks havoc on your score, it doesn’t matter. Jack Nicklaus once stated that golf is 90% mental. So rather than hitting more range balls you should work on your mental game. 
  • Practice short putts. As they preserve momentum and save shots, short putts in golf are the most important. Statistically, you’re also much more likely to make ones inside 8-feet so practice them the most! 
  • Play with better golfers To achieve lower scores at all levels, you should play with better players and see how they navigate each hole. This will give you a great insight into their game as well as tons of ideas for what you can do to improve your practice. 

Click here to view our complete guide on how to become a scratch-golfer.


FAQs about Good Golf Handicaps

Do you have any questions about an official handicap for golf? Continue reading to find out more about an official handicap in golf.

What is a respectable handicap in golf?

It’s always best to compare yourself to only your former self. Too many golfers compare their game with other players, which rarely works. Instead of asking what is good, ask if your game is improving. 

Is a 20 handicap good?

A male amateur golfer with a 20 handicap is more than the average of 14.2. But a 20 handicap isn’t a bad thing, especially if you’re a new golfer or someone who plays recreationally. If you’re a 20 average handicap you probably shoot in the high 90s on most rounds.

If you want to start shooting in the 90s, make sure to read our guide on how to break 90 fast and make sure to check out our article on how to go from a 20 to a 10 handicap.

What’s my handicap if I shoot 100?

A score of 100 usually indicates a handicap between 23-25. Many places call it 100-72 (par course), which would be 28. Many people forget that handicap refers to your best scores and not your average scores. 

If you’re a 28 handicap you’re more likely to shoot north of 100 during most rounds of golf. 

What is the official handicap on the PGA Tours PGA Tour?

An average golfer cant imagine that a PGA Tour golfer would be near +5 to +7. That means you will be shooting in the 60s for most of your rounds at most golf clubs.

What is the most common handicap in golf?

According to the USGA the most common range for handicaps is between 13 and 13.9 for men. This would translate to a golf score in high 80s for most rounds. 

What percentage of golfers can break 90 degrees?

It’s hard to say a specific percentage as not all golfers log their scores into the handicapping system (or record their scores at all). If you got off the USGA handicap guide mentioned above it’s about 25%. This again doesn’t factor in golfers who don’t enter their scores and also important to note that not every golfer abides strictly to the rules either. 

What is the cost of an official handicap in golf?

A golf handicap can be a great investment in your golf game. It allows golfers to track their progress over time.

They are only $30 per annum and allow you to score rounds and tournament rounds to determine a handicap. You need to renew this each year but it’s well worth the money.

Without a golf handicap, it’s hard to bet with fellow golfers and not “sandbag” the competition. If you’re into gambling on the course, make sure to read our full guide on gambling games now. 

How can you break 80 in golf

Many golfers aim to break 80 and shoot in 70s. You need to have a consistent tee shot and decent irons/wedges. Also, you need to play a short game. A good pre-shot routine will help you control your thoughts and not let them ruin your round.

To shoot in the 70s quickly, make sure you read our guide to breaking 80

What is the maximum handicap?

According to the New World handicap system, the maximum for male and female golfers are 54.

Final Thoughts on a Good Golf Handicap

For men, the average handicap is 14.2 and for women it is 27.5. As we have already discussed, there are many other things that can be scored while playing golf. The total score depends on the course itself, weather, slope/rating and tee boxes.

Also, don’t forget that handicap doesn’t mean score. The average score for men on 18 holes is not around 86, it’s much higher for most golfers. Handicaps only take the best scores into account so you shouldn’t expect to shoot your handicap each round. 

What is the average score for 18 holes?

Wed love to hear from you in the comments below. 

You can find some of our most popular articles here to help you lower your handicap.

  • Draw vs. Fade
  • Average Distance Per Golf Club
  • How to eliminate your golf swing thoughts

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