what is the average handicap in golf

The Average Golf Handicap: Where do you Rank?

Golf is all about numbers and the handicap system is no different.

In this sport we are constantly thinking about our driving distance, approach shot distance, and around the green statistics. The more you fall in love with golf, the more obsessed you can become with the number to try and improve. 

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

Average Golf Handicap

So, what is the average handicap for golfers? What is the world handicap system?

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

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

Do those golf handicaps for men/women surprise you or does that sound about right? A few other things surprised me including:

  • Only 1% of male golfers have +1 handicap or better
  • Less than 30% of male golfers have a single digit handicap (less than 10) 
  • The most common handicap range for male golfers is between 13.0 and 13.9 for men and between 27.0-27.9 for female golfer 

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 only take your best scores into account, not your worst or even 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 may be adjusted due to built-in safeguards that are applied when:

  • You submit an exceptional score, which is 7.0 strokes or better than your Handicap Index at the time the round is played, or
  • 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

Another important thing to consider is the slope and course rating of a golf course. As you know, not all golf courses are created equal thanks to length, uphill/downhill, blind tee shots, penalty areas, and more.

The slope refers to the difficulty for a bogey golfer on a particular course. While the course rating refers to the number a scratch golfer should shoot from a specific tee box. The longer the golf course, the higher the course rating.

Course ratings can vary from under par, level par, and difficult golf courses over par. Click here to learn more about slope and course rating now. 

Other Factors That Impact Scoring

Aside from handicap plus the course rating/slope rating, there are even more things to think about. 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. If you abide by the rules 100% of the time, chances are your scores will be higher.

Another factor for score is if the round is casual with friends or a formal competition. Players tend to score worse than average in competition thanks to nerves and challenging course conditions. 

Plus, weather conditions such as wind or cold temperatures can play a role as well.

What’s a “Good Golf Handicap?”

One thing I’ve learned about golfers is that they always want to improve. So a good handicap changes as you evolve in your golf journey.

For example, when I was in high school I was shooting in the 120s so breaking 100 was my goal. Once I started shooting in the 90s, then the goal moved to the 80s. Once that happened, it moved in 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.

A good golf handicap is always changing if you are working on your game and constantly setting golf goals. But a single figure handicap is never a bad goal to set as your average golf handicap score will be in the 70s more often!

Becoming a Scratch Golfer

One goal that so many people want in this game is to become a scratch golfer or even a plus handicap golfer. Knowing that you shoot right around par on any given course on any given day is a sought after title. But it’s easier said than done.

For some, it might take decades to reach this level of golf. For others, it might only take a few years if you have tons of time to practice, play in tournaments, and upgrade your skills.

When it comes to shooting around par here are five of my biggest tips:

  • Play one shot shape off the tee. This will help you eliminate both sides of the golf course by avoiding a two-way miss. Swing your swing – whether it’s a cut or a draw, play the same shot off the tee.
  • Have a tee box strategy for each hole. 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.
  • Work on your mental game as much as anything. 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 said that golf is 90% mental! So instead of hitting more range balls, make sure to work on your mental game too. 
  • Practice short putts. Short putts are the most important ones in golf as they keep momentum going and save easy shots. Statistically, you’re also much more likely to make ones inside 8-feet so practice them the most! 
  • Play golf with better players. To shoot lower scores at any level, you need to play golf with better players to see how they navigate each hole. This will give you amazing insight into their game and tons of ideas on what you need to improve in practice. 

Click here to read our full guide to become a scratch golfer now.

What is the Average Golf Handicap

FAQs About Good Golf Handicaps

Do you have more questions about an official golf handicap? If so, keep reading to learn more now.

What is a respectable golf handicap?

It’s always best to compare yourself to only your former self. Too many golfers try to compare their game to other players and it rarely does any good. Instead of asking what is respectable, ask if you are improving? 

Is a 20 handicap good for a golfer?

A 20 handicap for a male amateur golfer is higher 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 is usually about a 23-25 handicap. While a lot of places note it as 100-72 (par of the course) which would be 28. But many people forget to factor in that handicap is your best scores, 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 for the PGA Tour?

The average golfer can hardly imagine but a PGA Tour golfer is near +5 to a +7! At most golf clubs that means shooting in the mid 60s every round.

What is the most common golf handicap?

According to the USGA, the most common range of handicaps is between 13-13.9 for men. This would equate a golf score in the high 80s during most rounds. 

What percentage of golfers can break 90?

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. 

How much does it cost to have an official golf handicap?

A golf handicap is a great investment in your game and enable golfers to track progress over time.

They only cost about $30 per year and allow you to enter scores from rounds and tournament rounds to establish 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 do you break 80 in golf?

Breaking 80 and shooting in the 70s is a goal for so many golfers. To break 80 you need a consistent tee shot, decent irons/wedges, and a great short game. Not to mention, a good pre-shot routine to control your mental thoughts and not let your mind sabotage the round.

Make sure to read our guide to break 80 to start shooting in the 70s fast.

What is the maximum handicap?

According to the New World handicap system the max is 54 for both male and female golfers.

Final Thoughts on a Good Golf Handicap

The average golf handicap for men is 14.2 and the average for women is 27.5. But as we discussed above, there is a lot more to score other than just handicaps while playing golf. The course itself, weather, slope/rating, tee boxes, and a ton of other things play a role in the total score.

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 range of scores do you normally shoot for 18 holes?

Let us know in the comments below. 

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