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Should Your Scoring Average & Handicap Match?

This is a topic I have seen many golfers misunderstand. Lately, it has been talked about a lot in various ways. Golf.com did an article on this back in April, titled: How often should you match your handicap? Hint: not as often as you might think. Golf Digest touched on another side of this topic with an article in May, titled; How To Catch a Sandbagger.


It has been a long misconception that a golfer's handicap will equal their average score. The thinking was a golfer with a handicap of 8 would consistently shoot 80 on a par 72 golf course. The truth is a golfer's handicap is based on their potential and not their actual. When your handicap is calculated it uses only your best 8 scores (or 40% ) out of your last 20. The USGA Rules Of Handicapping can help you understand how your handicap is calculated.



If your handicap is based off of your potential what should you shoot as an average score? There is no set number on this but it is usually about a 4 or 5-stroke difference. A scratch (0.0 index) golfer should have an average score of around 75 while a 10 handicap should have an average score of around 87. The scoring average vs handicap can vary even more depending on the course and slope rating of the golf courses you play. If the courses you play are more difficult there may be more dispersion between your handicap and average score. The average slope rating that determines golf course difficulty is 113. It goes as low as 55 and as high as 155. The higher the slope rating the more difficult the course.



The course rating number shows what a 0 handicapped golfer is most likely to shoot on that golf course, relative to par, from a particular tee. Every course scorecard should have this information visible on it. If you pay attention closely you will see the higher the slope rating the higher the course rating would be. Let's take TPC Louisiana for example. The PGA Tour Tee course/slope rating is 75.9/141. The course rating number of 75.9 is basically saying a 0.0 handicap index golfer would shoot 76 from that tee. However, if you take that same golfer and move him up to the Green tee box the golf course just got easier with a rating of 64.4/107. The difference in difficulty between the tees is a drastic change in the score but it illustartes course difficulty perfectly. Two golfers with the exact same handicap can have different dispersion between their handicap vs their average score solely based on the difficulty of the golf courses they play most often.



I'm not sure if there is an exact number but a golfer should only shoot their handicap 1 time out of every 6 rounds they play. This also depends on your handicap and if you are working on improving your game. The higher your handicap the better your chances are of shooting your handicap. The main reason for this is that higher handicapped golfers are always trying to improve and the result is usually lower scores more regularly. However, as the improvement happens and the average score gets lower so does your handicap index. Of course, this is all based on a golfer being honest and turning in all their scores and not just the higher ones. Also known as sandbagging. Those dishonest golfers will shoot their handicaps more often.


For a better look at where an average score is to handicap you can see in the images below my scoring average, handicap, and my last 20 scores entered. These are from The Grint app I use which has an official USGA handicap.




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