How To Play to your Handicap

Understanding the facts regarding your handicap and how it is calculated is the best starting point as this will clarify the issue and help change your attitude towards a bad day on the course.

The world wide and Australian Handicap system is managed by the R&A and the PGA and was developed to focus on the way golf is cyclical in nature. We always seem to play well in purple patches and then feel like we cannot hit a ball. Sound familiar?

The change in the handicap takes your most recent 20 rounds of golf, which was the AVERAGE number of rounds a golfer would play comps in a year.

I found that a little hard to understand personally, as I play three comps a week, but I am older and semi retired, so fair enough. Golfers working for a living, or raising a family do not get the time required to play as much as they would like, and practice is almost unheard of.

So twenty rounds are used, the most recent and as you play another the first one drops off and the new one is added.  8 of those rounds are used, so it is not an average of the 20, but an average of the top 8 games out of the last 20 games. so 40% of your rounds score and 60% dont.

Simply put this means that your handicap will fluctuate game by game at times over a predictable band of performance. Your score differential, your stableford points, removing larger numbers and rounding them down to 3 over on each hole. Also the slope rating and the daily course difficulty calculation, That looks at all the scores that day, if its raining windy and sloppy it is likely the average score of the field is worse and this would be factored into this score differential for the day.

  • Score
  • Course Slope (difficulty)
  • How the course played across the field

These three give you your daily score differential and this is then used and compared with the top 8 or 40% of the 20 and these scores are added together and divided by 8 to provide your AGU handicap.

Real Example AGU

Below is a 20 round spread sheet with the exact information taken off the Golf Australia App.

This is a real golfer who palys off a difficult course and the course rating is 130 Slope, except for two rounds played off 145 slope tees. This player regularly receives over two additional shots from the AGU due to the degree of difficulty of the course.

New Updated AGU Handicap alters each round based on the scores achieved. This player generally moves between a 16 and 18 and the Daily Handicap is between 19 to 21 on the regular tees. 23 and 24 on the harder tess (Circled in red, round 16 and round 19).

The Gross differential is calculated and the top 8 scores are awarded a green flag. These scores are combined and divided by 8 to give the NEW GA HCP. Top 8 scores determine the handicap.

Things of note here is that this golfer has a flagged score on round 20, so the next round played that score drops off. Two things can happen;

It is a good score a top eight score and replaces 20 or it is a poor score and is bigger in which case the system will grab the next availible score which is score 4, 5 or 13 as all are 20.0.

Lets make a call that the player scores poorly then the handicap will definately move out as the 2.6 difference between round 20 which drops off is 17.4 and  round 5 is 20.0. Divide that difference of 2.6 by 8 and the handicap will move out by 0.3125 or 0.3 rounded.

So once the next round is played and records a poor score round 20 drops off as a flagged score and is replaced with the next best.. new top 8 and the daily handicap moves out from 16.4 to 16.7.

Ramifications are when this golfer plays at 16.7 they get an extra shot... see round 10 played off 16.7 and daily HCP is 20.

Wow is that hard to understand? I ran a casino and built trading systems and trained traders, so for me it is simple. but do not despair... Golf Australia and the App do all the heavy lifting?

How do I figure out my golf handicap? 

To quickly figure out what your handicap should be, you need to subtract your number of strokes with the overall Course Rating. For example, on an average par-72 course, if you were finished with 100 strokes, you would subtract 72 from 100 and receive a handicap of 28  

Simplistic anyway, but close enough to explain it.

This means that as 20 rounds are used your handicap can change inward if a low score is achieved... well done... this will replace the highest of the current 8. 

If one of the flagged or best scores is twenty games ago, this will drop off on your next game and your handicap will then identify the next lowest score to replace that score that is dropping off.

So you are only expected to score well every 2.5 rounds as your handicap is based on your potential and the best statistics over the last 20 rounds. So it is hard to beat your handicap on any given day.

This is importand guys. as it allows us all to have a bad day out infact only 2 out of 5 rounds are expected to be great and you probably only make your handicap 20 to 25% of the time.

Consistency and expectation