What is a Golf Handicap for a Beginner? (9 Facts!)

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For the beginner golfer, it can be difficult to understand what a golf handicap is and how it factors into your game. This blog post will explain everything you need to know about handicaps in an easy-to-understand manner.

The first part of this multi-part blog post will answer the main question of what handicap do beginners start on and then we will explain other important aspects of a golf handicap that newcomers to the sport will want to know about.

One important factor to keep in mind is that in the US the rules regarding golf handicaps are set out by the USGA and they currently abide by the WHS (World Handicap System) in order to regulate and assign golf handicaps to club players.

What Handicap Do Beginners Start On?

When you first start playing golf you do not get assigned a golf handicap. After all, you would not know what handicap to award yourself and it’s only when you have played several rounds of golf that you can start the process of assigning yourself a handicap.

New golfers are advised to forget about working out a handicap and concentrate on enjoying the sport and getting to know the basics such as golf swing, rules of the game, what clubs to use, and golf etiquette.


How Do I Calculate My First Golf Handicap?

As set out by the USGA you need to have played at least 54 holes, which is 3 full rounds of golf on an 18 hole course in order to establish your first golf handicap. You can also play on a 9 hole course in order to meet the legal requirement – just a long as you record 54 holes of golf.

Once you have hit this requirement you will be awarded a handicap index in the following 24 hours.

For your golf handicap index to be validated your must belong to an authorized golf club. Most clubs in the US meet the necessary qualifying handicapping standards which include both public and private courses.

Just to be sure you can check by visiting the Authorized Golf Club Listing web page on the USGA website here.

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Your local club pro can advise on the best way to properly score your first handicap and it’s always advisable to gain good advice from your local club players.

Your handicap is calculated by averaging out your best 8 scores from your recent 20 scores. There are two main caveats to this though, which are when you shoot a single very low score or if your recent 8 scores are 3 strokes ahead of your low handicap index.


What is the Maximum Golf Handicap?

The maximum golf handicap for all players including both men and women is 54. This recent change is designed to encourage more players to take up the sport without being saddled with a gender-focused handicap.

It should be noted that in some golf competitions and leagues the maximum handicap ceiling could be lower than 54, this is called rule 5.3 and gives golf clubs the necessary space to allow low and mid standard handicappers to compete against each other.


Is a 36 Handicap Good?

A handicap rating of 36 is considered to be a beginner’s score and not good. New golfers are encouraged to practice as often as possible in order to reduce their handicaps and post better scores.

Just because you have a high handicap does not equate to being a bad player – everyone has to start somewhere and being a 36 handicap does not mean you are a poor golfer but more likely a newcomer to the sport.


What is a Respectable Handicap?

Although subjective, a golf handicap of around 20 is considered respectable to most club golfers and a handicap of under 10 is regarded as good.

The best way to get a low handicap is to practice your game and commit to playing in many competitions so you can improve your scores.

When starting out, consider investing in some group or private golf lessons as this can speed up the process of getting better at golf.


What is a Bad Golf Handicap?

When golfers refer to a bad (or high) handicap, they are generally talking about a handicap of 30 or more. Golf can be a frustrating game so golfers often refer to themselves as having a bad handicap after shooting a high-scoring round of golf.

As a beginner, you should not be too concerned about bad handicaps. Enjoy the game for what it is – a great social event or competitive sport that is both addictive and fun to play!

How Many Rounds Do You Need for a Handicap?

You need to complete three, full rounds or 6 nine-hole rounds of golf in order to receive a golf handicap. Your local golf club will assign you a GHIN number (Golf Handicap and Information Network). You submit your scores via cell phone app or at the score posting terminal at your local course.

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The process of posting scores is pretty easy and your overall handicap is based on your latest 8 scores submitted and is usually updated the next day.

If you are wondering why your handicap has not changed then the main reason is that the system uses your latest 8 scores for calculation.


How Much Does It Cost to Get a Golf Handicap?

The cost of getting your golf handicap is approximately $30 to $45 dollars per year. This is the fee you have to pay in order for you to get your GHIN number which is a unique number assigned to you. This is what golf clubs use in order to set golf handicaps for all their members.

Many golf clubs offer waivers to military veterans or junior golfers so they do not have to pay this annual fee.

Check your local golf club for more details on the exact cost of obtaining your golf handicap.


How Do You Maintain a Golf Handicap?

You maintain your golf handicap by playing consistent golf throughout the calendar year at an authorized golf club. You also need to stick to the rules as set out by the USGA regarding establishing and maintaining your golf handicap in order to keep your handicap score accurately recorded.

Keeping an accurate and authentic handicap is not for show but is aimed to keep a level playing field for all standards of golfers.

Most clubs run leagues for their members and to keep the scoring fair they introduce different handicap requirements for each individual competition.


Golf Handicap Explained for Beginners!

In this guide, we’ve tried to answer all of your most pressing questions about golf handicaps and what is a golf handicap for a beginner.

We hope that you now have a better understanding of how the system works from start to finish and feel confident in taking on challenges as they come up.

The most important take-away is not to worry about your handicap but to simply enjoy the sport and stick to the rules, after all, your handicap will get lower the more you play and the harder you practice on the range.