Do I Need A Handicap To Play Golf?

The short answer is no you don’t need a handicap to play golf. However, having a handicap can be useful since it allows you to compete in tournaments and play at certain golf courses that insist on you showing evidence of your playing ability.

Let’s look at how you could get a handicap and why you might want to maintain one.

Do I Need A Handicap To Play Golf

What Is A Golf Handicap?

A golf handicap or these days handicap index is a number that represents your playing ability or skill level. The lower the number the better you are expected to score relative to par. The world handicap system was introduced recently in an effort to try to standardize how handicaps were calculated. It is largely based on the USGA system that had operated for some time. The maximum index is 54 which would mean you would be allowed three shots over par for each hole on average.

How Can I Get A Golf Handicap?

The majority of golfers with handicaps have got them by joining a golf club. Many golfers want to be a member of a club to obtain an official handicap. Getting a handicap is a fairly simple process. You need to complete a minimum of 54 holes of golf. This could be a number of 9 or 18-hole rounds. The scores would need to be signed by another member of the club who effectively acts as your referee.

You would then be awarded an initial handicap which would be adjusted every time you post additional scores. Once you have posted at least 20 18-hole scores your handicap would then be based on the best eight out of your last 20 recorded rounds. Unlike the CONGU system previously used in the UK, the WHS system is also meant to take account of social or non-competitive golf.

Even if you don’t want to join a club you are still able to maintain a handicap since many of the national golf associations now run schemes allowing non-members to post scores and receive a handicap. It follows a similar process although rather than posting your scores at your club you would need to use an app or website for the governing body that was maintaining your handicap index.

Learn more about how handicaps are calculated.

What Is The Benefit Of Having A Handicap?

It Gives You A Way Of Measuring Your Performance And Improvement

Having a handicap is the most obvious way of judging your performance as a golfer and checking your progress as you try to improve at the game. As you become more proficient you can monitor your progress relative to your past performance and the performance of other golfers.

A Handicap Index Allows You To Play In Competitions

This is usually the main reason people want to get a handicap. If you get membership of a golf club then one of the many advantages is the competitions that they organize both for their own members and also open tournaments that anyone with a handicap can enter. Many clubs will organize friendly or not-so-friendly matches against other local courses which you will be able to participate in once you have got an official club index.

If you acquire a sufficiently low handicap then you could enter regional or even national events organized by the R&A, USGA or other national bodies.

Some Golf Clubs Expect To See A Handicap Certificate Before You Can Play

Certain prestigious golf courses will ask to see evidence of your competency before allowing you onto their course. Having a certificate showing you are a member of a club is usually sufficient to give you access to different courses subject to the payment of the green fees!

Do I Need A Handicap To Play Golf: Conclusion

So hopefully that’s clarified why it’s worth getting a handicap. If you want to be competitive in the sport then you really need to become a member of a golf club and start submitting your scores. It’s also the easiest way to judge your progress to becoming a better golfer.

If you still aren’t sure maybe Massachusetts Golf can convince you.

Here’s a handy golf handicap calculator.

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