How Do I Get A Golf Handicap?
In golf, your ability is measured in terms of your handicap index. Having one allows you to play in competitions against other golfers. It also allows you to measure your success and level of improvement as you work on your game. Some clubs may even ask to see proof of your handicap before allowing you to play on their course.
If you’re new to the game or have been away for a while then you might be wondering what you need to do in order to obtain a handicap.
There are two ways of obtaining and maintaining a golf handicap:
- Join a club
- Join an online scheme
Join A Golf Club
These days, golf clubs offer a number of different options for membership so you don’t necessarily have to become a full member in order to get a handicap.
Once you are part of the setup you can then think about getting a handicap. One thing that hasn’t changed with the advent of the World Handicap System (WHS) is the need to submit three scores to get an initial handicap. These can be either three 18-hole rounds or six 9-hole rounds or some combination of the two.
The cards need to be marked by another player who essentially acts as the referee to make sure that you are adhering to the rules of golf.
Once you have submitted the requisite number of scores, the handicap committee of the club will issue you with your handicap index. Each subsequent competition round or supplementary score will then be used to adjust your handicap accordingly.
Under the WHS your index is calculated from the best eight scores out of your last twenty rounds. If you haven’t completed twenty rounds yet then a smaller number of rounds are used to calculate the average.
This could mean quite large swings in your handicap in the short term until you have submitted at least twenty scores to the club.
Join An “Online” Club
Both England Golf (iGolf) and Scottish Golf (OpenPlay) have ways of obtaining a handicap without joining a traditional golf club. The handicap works exactly the same though. You need to submit three 18-hole scores (or six 9-hole scores).
iGolf costs £40 per year but does include personal liability insurance as well. England Golf sees this initiative as a way to get some of the 2.3 million golfers that currently don’t belong to a club on the road to becoming club members.
Since starting in the summer of 2021 they have managed to recruit about 14,500 people to the scheme. The money raised will help England Golf continue its work of growing the game and supporting its affiliated clubs.
A similar scheme exists in Scotland called OpenPlay. It will cost participants £5.99 per month but in addition to the benefit of a handicap, you also have access to a GPS app that covers 36000 courses worldwide.
Golf Canada now has an online community that allows you to obtain an official handicap index along with other benefits such as insurance and a GPS app. If you are a nomadic Canadian golfer then you can take a look at what they have to offer here. It will cost you CAD$59.95 per year.
Fortunately, American golfers haven’t been left out of this new era with the USGA allowing you to sign up for a handicap index via their website. Costs vary depending on where you live and start from around $50 for 12 months.
In the lucky country, you can get a handicap recognized by Golf Australia if you sign up to Social Golf Australia. Prices start from AUS$98 for a 12-month membership.
How Do I Get A Golf Handicap: Summary
Times have changed. You no longer have to be a club member to get an official handicap although there are many other benefits to joining a golf club if you have the time to take advantage of them.
There’s no reason for you not to have a handicap! If you don’t know how handicapping works then I’ve written a short guide on how to calculate a golf handicap.
Still undecided on whether you need a handicap?
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
How do I get a handicap without joining a club in the UK?
England Golf started an online membership called iGolf which allows you to obtain an officially recognized WHS handicap for £40 per year.
Can I play golf without a handicap?
Yes, although some courses may ask to see a handicap certificate before letting you play the majority do not.
Can I get a golf handicap online?
If the thought of an official handicap through one of the recognized bodies doesn’t appeal then there are a few “free” online handicaps such as the one provided by Golfshake.com.
How many rounds do I need to establish a handicap?
The minimum number of rounds you will need to play to obtain a handicap is three 18-hole rounds or six 9-hole rounds.