How Do I Get a Golf Handicap? An Easy Guide

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For every golfer just starting out, they often wonder how do I get a golf handicap? Because the one question every golfer is asked at some point is, “what’s your handicap?

Get a golf handicap


Before you get started learning how to get a golf handicap. Here is some other helpful information you might be interested in.

What is a Golf Handicap?

The golf handicap was introduced in 1911 to allow golfers of differing abilities to play together fairly.

Knowing your Handicap (often called a handicap index) allows you to a) gauge how well your golf game is getting and b) what your Course Handicap should be for the specific golf course on which you’re playing.

When you and the people you golf with have determined your specific Course Handicaps, you can keep score in a way that allows you to compare scores against each other fairly even if you

The Easiest Way to Get a Golf Handicap in the US?

Here are 4 easy steps to help get you started tracking your Handicap Index.

1 –  Sign up to get your official GHIN number.

When you keep score on the course make sure to save your scorecard because it certifies you scored what you did. Don’t have your GHIN yet?  Get your GHIN here.

2 –  Start golfing!

In order to establish your first Handicap Index you will need to record a total of at least five 18-hole rounds, or ten 9-hole rounds, or a combination of the two.

3 –  Enter your scores.  

There are a few places you can enter your golf scores. I typically enter my scores in my GHIN mobile app. Some people like to enter their scores at the course after they get done playing. It’s up to you.

Do I Have Options to Get a Golf Handicap?


Traditionally handicapping is completed at your local golf course and administered by the local State Golf Association in your area.

GHIN is a company affiliated with the USGA who handles handicapping nationally through State Golf Associations.

This handicap typically allows you to play in local club events, state golf association events and USGA events.

If you have a GHIN, no one will doubt you have a legit handicap.


If you get a handicap at your local golf course, the cost ranges from $25-$60 and depends how much your club wants to charge.

As mentioned above, to get an official GHIN handicap, you can visit your local club directly or use the GHIN website to find a club that offers handicaps in your area.


There are a number of websites out there that offer handicapping for free or a small fee for users.

Typically these websites have a free option and provide a premium option if you want to use all the bells and whistles.

Online handicaps are the future, but be careful about the service you are using when establishing an online handicap.


For many people, keeping a handicap is just a number and they do not see the value of paying a $25-60 for the traditional route.

Most online handicaps are run by technology companies that provide fast online/mobile access, stat tracking/analytics and premium services such as GPS and scorecard picture importing. We’ve listed some of those below.

Warming: online handicaps are not “official” and not USGA compliant.

This means if you are looking to play in competitive tournaments, many of the events will not accept the handicap from an app since it is not from a legitimate source.

Data from Grint.com
Data from Grint.com

The New WorldWide Golf Handicap System

Watch this VIDEO by the R&A to learn more about the update to the golf handicap system. The R&A was formed in 2004 and is based in St Andrews.

The R&A and the USGA govern the sport of golf worldwide, operating in separate jurisdictions while sharing a commitment to a single code for the Rules of GolfRules of Amateur Status and Equipment Standards.

How Does a Handicap Work for Keeping Score?

Let me explain a very simplistic way to think about how a handicap works. This scenario does not account for figuring a course index, but it will help illustrate how a golf handicap keeps things fair.

Par on most golf courses is 72

Let’s say your handicap is 18 and your playing partner’s handicap is 10.

If you shoot a gross score of 90 (18 over par), your net score is essentially par.

In order for your playing partner to beat you, he would need to shoot a gross score of 81 or better.

So, if your partner shot a gross score of 83 (their actual number of strokes) is less than your 90 strokes, you would win on the net score (your actual number of strokes, minus your handicap)

5 Great Apps to Help You Calculate Your Handicap

The following apps are great for calculating your golf handicap quickly. Keep in mind, using these apps to calculate your golf handicap does not mean you get a handicap number that is reported to the USGA.

Swing U

Top-rated free apps for calculating your handicap, the Golf GPS Rangefinder and Scoring application for Android.

  • over 3.5 million users worldwide
  • A full-featured app
  • satellite view of the course you play and availability of upgrades
  • Added features: real-time wind speed, elevation, ‘plays like’ distance
  • Receive free stats and your handicap in the app after you have posted the results of three rounds

EGA Handicap Calculator

The EGA Handicap Calculator

  • See your handicap over time
  • Calculate your handicap for the next course you are playing.
  • Track scores for you and your friends
  • Store your progress over time and display the changes in your handicap in an easy-to-read graph.
  • Keep track of everyone’s progress in one simple application on your Android

Diablo Golf

  • Available for both iPhones and Androids
  • Diablo Golf Handicap tracker WILL establish your USGA Handicap Index® for free.
  • Additional features: scoring average tracking and more

The Grint

  • Offers free handicaps from USGA golf clubs (at the time of this post, Dec 2019)
  • Score tracking and GPS on your iPhone or Apple Watch
  • Receive live leaderboards, statistics
  • GPS Rangefinder
  • PRO Members are offered PRI-Like performance statistics, score tracking
  • Scorecard Picture Service for uploading your scorecard.


  • Does not provide a USGA official handicap index
  • Calculate your handicap based on U.S., Canadian, and Australian rules
  • Supports 9-hole score combinations, not just 18-hole scores
  • Downloads are available for thousands of courses with rating/slope, but you can enter this information manually.

Why Get a Golf Handicap?

If you are wondering whether or not to get a golf handicap – do it! You may not think you will be entering golf tournaments in your area, especially if you are just starting out in golf, but there are plenty of golfers who have handicaps of 20+ who play in tournaments.

Remember, the point of having a handicap is so that you can play with other golfers who are better than you in a fair way. Golf is the only game I know of where this is the case.

I started with a handicap of 25. All things are possible.

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