What Does a + Handicap Mean in Golf

If you are aspiring to become a good golfer, it is important to know how the handicap system works, as it will help you challenge and compete against better players. As a beginner, it is not strange to wonder – “What does a + handicap mean in golf?”.

A plus handicap is the number of average extra shots you have to take in order to complete a game. This stat is the main indication of how good a player is and whether a player is currently in a good or bad form. It also gives a golfer a reasonable chance against others who, on average, need fewer shots to finish.

A golf ball near a golf hole

A Plus Handicap Is the Average Number of Extra Shorts a Golfer Has to Take in Order to Complete a Course

In order to understand handicap, we first need to explain the meaning of the term “par.” Each golf course has a par number which a golfer is expected to take to finish the entire course. Hence, par is the average number of shots needed. For example, beginner golf courses have around sixty pars, while the more advanced ones always have over seventy.

However, it is never expected of players, especially beginners, to hit all shots and meet the average number of the course. Hence, particularly as a beginner golfer, you will need to take extra shots in order to go through the entire course. This extra number of shots above the par limit is called handicap. So, for example, if you are playing on par seventy courses and need around eighty shots to finish, your handicap number will be ten.

Why Is the Plus Handicap Important?

You might be thinking that having a plus handicap means that you are a bad player, but that is not the case. First of all, it is true that there are super talented and diligent golfers out there who finish most of the courses on par (they are called scratch golfers). However, it is natural that some people need more time to get better, so as a result, they will have a certain handicap number.

But the handicap number will help you a lot, especially when playing against more skilled people. What this means is that if for a certain hole you need three or four shots to hit, you will be permitted to do so without any penalties, even though your opponent, on average, requires only one or two shots to make. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can get complacent as you can easily increase the handicap. The main aim is to reduce handicap each time you complete a course which automatically means that you are getting better as a golf player (remember, new golf clubs don’t make much difference, the technique and execution are what matters).

You Need to Have an Official Golf Membership in Order to Have a Valid Handicap Score

This means that you need to become a member of the United States Golf Association. The easiest way is to buy a membership at your local golf club where you are practicing. You will receive a unique GHIN (Golf Handicap Information Network) number, which you will use to access the official database and post your results, and view the competition.

How Do I Calculate My Handicap Number?

If you have learned how to make a yardage book for free, it is time to learn how to calculate your handicap number. The formula goes like this:

Handicap index x (slope rating/113) + (course rating – par)

This may seem complex at first, but the key is knowing what each term means, and here are the explanations.

Handicap IndexA handicap index is a number based on your previous games. This means that wherever you go to play golf, in order to calculate the handicap for that course, you will need your handicap index. The handicap index is calculated by calculating the average of your previous three games’ scores.
Slope RatingSlope rating is the average number of shots taken by an amateur golfer for a particular course. It is measured between 55 and 155.
113113 is the average slope rating.
Course RatingCourse rating is the average number of shots taken by a professional (or scratch) golfer.
ParPar is the average shots needed to complete the entire course.

Be Honest With Your Handicap Rating if You Want to Get Better

There are cases where people think – “I’m having a bad day, and this is not the real representation of my golfing skills. I’ll write that I’ve taken fewer shots.” However, this is not the right mindset if you want to get better. Nonetheless, there are some rules you need to follow:

  • In order for your scores to be valid, you need to have at least one other player who acts as a witness and confirms the number of shots you have taken.
  • Each match card at the end of the game has to be signed by all players who have participated.
  • It is not unusual for a player to have a bad day. However, there is an official maximum of shots for each hole on a golf course. Therefore, if you exceed it, you, nonetheless, write the maximum for handicap. This helps maintain reasonable handicap numbers.

Finally, if you lie and insist on putting smaller handicap numbers than you are supposed to, that will immediately be noticed by other players, as lying won’t certainly improve your skills.

Women playing golf

The Handicap System Helps New Players a Lot

One of the reasons why golf is such a popular game is because of rules such as a handicap. They help new players a lot, and you will feel that you have a chance to win even though the opponent has a significantly lower handicap rating. Therefore, organize your golf clubs, calculate your handicap and confidently step onto the course.