How does the golf handicap work

The 8 Most Frequent Questions

So how does this Golf Handicap thing work?

So you have got to a stage in your golfing where you are asking yourself “How does the golf handicap work?”. It was a question I used to always be puzzled by it while I was learning how to play this great game.  Essentialy a golf handicap is a special number that is assigned to a golfer which defines thier ability or skill in playing the golf. It was set out to give all players of differents levels a fair chance. So let’s assume that you have become enthusiastic about your golf game and now you want to finally get your handicap. Well, let’s start by defining a few things about how the golf handicap process works. The theory part is a mostly 30-question multiple-choice test and concerns the areas of behavior on the course. In the practical part, you will play a 9-hole round with the golf instructor or the pro. Here you will have to show whether you are following the golf rules and label, and this by giving a certain number of strokes.

Why do you have to get a Handicap?

The Golf handicap has to be acquired by every golfer in order to be able to move on and use any licensed golf course. The handicap can only be given to player who are apart of a golf club that is connected to any kind of Golf Union. It also allows players of different levels to compete on a fair basis. In 2020 the USGA and R&A have introduced a worldwide handicap system. This system will allow you to be able to play internationaly on any golf course. It is best if you take a certificate course at your chosen golf club before the exam. Most golf clubs offer these courses for the acquisition of your handicap and prepare you golf students best for the requirements of the golfers’ exam. Your golf instructor will teach you step by step, the basics of the golfers’ tables, both for the theoretical part and the practical part of your license to play golf courses. In this situation your golf instructor is also called a golf pro, you usually do not change him during the course and he will accompany you until you pass your license to play golf courses. He will support you in word and deed, teach you all the techniques you need to know to play golf and prepare you optimally.

What kind of practice sessions will I have to do on the golf course to obtain the license?

The license course is usually divided into different units by the majority of golf clubs. Most of them are divided into up to 8 different units. Within these course units, different topics are dealt with. As a participant in the license to play on golf courses, you will learn the general aspects of the game of golf and the basic concepts of putting and chipping.

You learn everything about pitching and the long game. You will also be shown the different variations of bunker shots and how you should behave on the golf course. Of course, you will also receive theory practice lessons directly on the course. In a further unit, you will learn everything you need to know about the rules on the course, what etiquette is all about and how to apply it correctly. As a rule, course materials are always handed out so that you can repeat the lessons at home in peace.

What do Golf and the license to play golf on courses have to do with Etiquette?

Etiquette makes all the difference in golf. In addition to the rules, you are also taught how to behave on the course. Furthermore, etiquette also depends on the style of clothing. The practice course for obtaining the license to play on the course deals with this very topic. The most important thing is to be able to apply these rules accurately. Further rules of etiquette say that you must always remain calm while another person is teeing off. Furthermore, you will soon notice that the order on the golf course is half the battle.

Pitch marks must be repaired on the field with a special fork and pieces of grass separated from the ground, called divots, must be reattached. The etiquette also provides a dress code. It should not be too casual, a polo shirt, chic trousers made of fabric and good shoes.

How do I best prepare for the theory part of the license test?

As you certainly know, every person learns differently and in his own unique way. But especially for the theoretical part of the examination for the license to play on golf courses, there are many possibilities to practice. For one thing, you will usually receive training material or course material from the golf club where you are taking your license to play. Many people find it too boring to leaf through a book or a folder. For these people, there is a wide range of offers on the Internet to prepare for the multiple-choice questions.

Some providers have structured their offer in such a way that a question is asked and you choose one of them and in the end, you are informed about the solution as well as your level of knowledge. The virtual exam is kept as close as possible to reality and contains questions about etiquette, rules and general knowledge about golf. As you can see there is a lot more than meets the eye of what goes into knowing how a golf handicap works.

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What is the best way to prepare for the practical part of the golf course license exam?

The practical examination is the last part of the license to play. It is certainly an advantage if you practice as much as possible with your golf club and the golf ball. But this is easy to say! In order to make sure that nothing can go wrong on the day of the decision, you should definitely include extra units on a practice area in your exam preparation phase. In any case, make use of the knowledge and experience of your golf pro and arrange for additional practice hours.

In order to avoid mistakes during the practical examination for the license to play, it is very important to master the complex movements necessary for golfing. An optimal preparation is possible on the putting and chipping green as well as on the driving range. The easiest and most memorable way is to do all the exercises you have already learned over and over again.

Which different types of strokes are there and do they play a role in the course maturity?

The first stroke is called a Drive in the golfing language. The fairway shot is most often used on short grass. The pitch shot has its name from the English and means throwing. It is called the approach shot. When pitching, unattractive spots often appear on the lawn, which needs to be repaired. The short-stroke is called praise when playing golf. The praise is not only short but is characterized above all by a steep curve during the flight.

The most important thing in a lob is that the golf ball comes to a standstill immediately after landing. Short and flat. This is a stroke called a chip. The chip shot is an approach shot on the lawn. The putt is about rolling. When putting, the golf ball must not fly but only roll. Your level of knowledge of the different types of strokes is important for maintaining your license to play.

Successfully Mastered the License and Now?

After you have successfully completed the theoretical and practical part of the golf exam, you will receive your Golf Handicap. Congratulations! You have now officially proven that you can play golf. By receiving the license you are now able to use the entire golf course. Before you do this, please consider how you want to proceed with membership.

Prior to 2017, the license showed your handicap. Since 2017, you will only receive your handicap when you score in a tournament. There you can also improve or increase your handicap. Before you start your new hobby, make sure you get the right equipment. Also remember the usual clothing label.

Practice is everything. Even after you have the license to play golf courses, you should not neglect individual practice units. Here you can still put yourself in experienced hands and be supported by a golf pro.

RECAP | What is a handicap and why do I only receive it after I have received my license to play?

The handicap says a lot about you as a golfer. The lower yourhandicap the better the player. Although the handicap is only an indicator, it tells other golfers how high your potential is. Hopefully, your understanding of how a golf handicap works has been increased in some way. Also, during your practical examination to obtain the license to play golf courses, you will already be able to determine your handicap index for outstanding performances.

Without a handicap indicator, you can only play on public courses. Other courses often have a handicap restriction. 


Let me answer some of your questions on the golf handicap.


  • A Golf Handicap is a gauge of how experienced a player is.  It is used to give all golf players a fair advantage on the course. 
  •  A Golf Handicap can only be issued by a golf club that has connection to Union. You would need to be able to play three 18 hole rounds to show you skill level. 
  • To calculate your handicap you will need to firstly find out the rating of the course you played on. Then the slope of the same course. Once thats done you subtract the course rating form the score you got. Then multiply that by 113.

The maximum handicap is different between men and women. 

  • Male maximum handicap = 28
  • Female maximum handicap = 36
There is not much info about this available, but according ot the guys at golf monthly A score of 108 is a fairly respectable.


I hope you have found this article useful in someway atleast. Instead of just simply answering directly what a handcap is, I felt it would be better to explain the process leading up to getting your own golf handicap. If you have any question on the subject, please dont hesitate to contact me via the contact page.

Warren Belmore

Warren Belmore