How Often Do You Shoot Your Golf Handicap Index

As a golfer, creating a handicap index is the a fundamental process important to your game improvement. I realize much of the local golfing industry has moved away from supporting a handicap index by the format of their tournaments. Who needs a handicap if you never plan to compete in events that require one. That is a topic worth pursuing in the future. However, today is a simple knowledge question of how often do you think you shoot your handicap…..if you had one?

The handicap index is important if you want to level the playing field between players. There is a process to figuring out which player gives and gets strokes during competition and for the most part is a good system. Here is a question I asked earlier in the week. I will give my answer at the bottom:

The following is take the USGA on handicaps index:

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.

If either one of those safeguards are applied, it will be clearly identified in your scoring record. (Rule 5, Rules of Handicapping)

The trick question, at least I thought it was, deals with the calculation of the index. If and average of 8 scores is used as the basis for the calculations, then it stands to reason that we only shoot our index 40% of the time. The reason I suggest this is because as your scores roller coaster through the season, your index will slide up and down as well. Thus, you can only shoot your index 40% of the time.

I am confident that smarter math people will proof me wrong and I am okay with that. Just show our work! 😉

At this moment, my handicap index is on the rise. After a 7 month layoff, I am rusty and I am shooting scores much higher than I expect. The upward movement of my index is nothing new; I will start to change this trend by mid June. By then I will have knocked of most of the rust and had a chance to practice outdoors. It is all part of my process.

My goal is to finish the season with a handicap index under 3. That would be a 0.5 increase from last year and is a reasonable goal that is attainable and sustainable. We shall see how it all turns out.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


12 thoughts on “How Often Do You Shoot Your Golf Handicap Index

  1. Sorry to cause a disagreement but have a good background in statistics.
    The new handicap system only uses the lowest 40% of your differentials in calculating your handicap once you have played 20 games. To shoot your handicap 40% of the time, all 8 differentials used would have to be the same score, not likely.
    My current index is 10.7. I mostly play the blue tees which have a rating of 68.5. To shoot my index, my best 8 scores would have to average roughly a 79. They don’t, it is more like 82-83. The par of the course is 72. I do shoot close to 40% of my rounds within 10 strokes of par, but not to my handicap.
    My stats prof is an 80 year old diehard golfer, historian at Cutten Fields, a Stanley Thompson gem. We had this discussion when they went to the World Handicap system and they reduced the differentials used from 10 to 8. Damn stats.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lorne,

      I read your explanation. Logically it makes sense, however with the sliding of handicaps up and down, I lean towards the 40% side. However, my question definitely garnered the responses and I love the conversation. Thanks for weighing in; your input is always welcome.

      Cheers Jim


  2. Jim, leave it to the academics to mess up a good thing. Your math is absolutely correct. You shoot your handicap rounds 40% of the time. 😊 Keep banging that rust and dropping the index!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. My old stats professor could give a more accurate answer but the number of times you shoot your index will be less than 20%.

    Since your index is based on the average of your best 8 out of the last 20. Of those 8, 4 would likely be lower and 4 higher. Equitable Stroke Control also impacts as it would for handicap purposes, reduce some differentials.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lorne,

      I see your math. I would suggest that the number would be closer to 40% . If the handicap is lower, like myself, you actually shoot your handicap as often as below it. The math is interesting because of the number of variables involved.

      Cheers Jim


  4. I found a spreadsheet online the other day that allows me calculates handicap. But to use it I need the slope and rating and our course hasn’t paid to have one. So I had to guess based on a couple of similar sized courses in the area. Based on that guess and my last (ironically) 8 rounds, my handicap index is 3.9, my differential is 7.1. And I shot under my handicap 6 out of the 8 rounds which is I believe is 75%.

    It’s a bit higher than your predicted 40% but that’s likely an anomaly based on the one away round. With only 8 rounds in, it’s hard to say without a thorough study of the calculations the spreadsheet makes which I haven’t yet done.

    As for how I decided on slope and rating there were two courses I looked at. One is 3335 yards long with a rating/slope or 58/95 and par of 63 and one is 4800 yards long with a 62.5/96 and a par of 67. Our course is in between. But it has a few par 3 distances that are longer than anything you’ll find at those two. I set it at 61/96. I’ve played around and adjusted each of those numbers a bit and the index stays within a point give or take depending on the adjustment so I’m as close as I can get it without a professional rating.

    The 3.9 is quite a bit lower than my last handicap which was 7. But again, playing on a shorter course makes a difference and I was told we’ld see our handicaps go down with the new system anyway.

    Oh, and the same place I found one of the spreadsheets I downloaded had another on tournament play to deal with golfers with no handicap or golfers inflating their handicaps I guess. I didn’t read more than the description but it is supposed to detail how to assign a handicap based on the days round for all golfers in the tournament. So maybe the tournaments in your area are using that “guide” or something similar.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin,

      As I read your comment, if you shot 6 rounds under your handicap, then your handicap will lower and then your ability continue that trend will definitely change over the long haul. Using the average of the 8 rounds, I would suggest that 40% is more the number you will find realistic. Second, as far as estimating your slope and rating, as long as you keep the same numbers moving forward, you will develop a “quasi” handicap you can use as a metric to determine how well you are playing over the space of 10 or 20 rounds. Thus it has some value, but not one I would report in a tournament.

      Cheers Jim


      • Average is the key. With only 8 rounds posted so far, the math checks out with the two rounds over index being high enough over to make the difference. And I understand the index I got isn’t safe to use for tournament play, but it’s good enough for me to track my progress and that’s good enough for me. I don’t play in any tournaments but one or two charity best ball matches each year.

        Liked by 1 person

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