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How Good Is 20 Handicap In Golf?

As a very average golfer, I’ve gone through stages where my handicap is the most important thing in the world to me. The handicap is the only efficient way to see if you are improving over time, but is having a 20 handicap a good or bad thing? How good is a 20 handicap in golf?

A 20 handicap in golf is pretty average and shows you are a competent player who shouldn’t embarrass yourself on any honest course. A 20 handicap gets you a stroke ‘allowance’ on each hole and a double stroke on the two most difficult holes.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all handicaps, which are calculated to ensure all golfers can compete on a level playing field.

A Golf Scorecard. How Good Is 20 Handicap In Golf?

What Does a 20 Handicap Golfer Shoot?

When answering the question, how good is a 20 handicap in golf, we need to simplify things. A scratch golfer would get zero ‘allowance,’ so a 20-handicap player would have a 20-shot advantage.

This is because the handicap system calculates that over 18 holes, the scratch player is expected to beat the 20-handicapper by 20 shots. The scratch player should play to his handicap of zero, shooting 72 on most courses, and the 20 handicapper is expected to shoot 92.

Explaining Handicaps In Golf

Unlike golf professionals who compete against one another without handicaps, amateur golfers are given handicaps if they wish to play in any competitions. Essentially, this handicap measures a golfer’s ability to play golf and is used to ensure that golfers all have the same chance of winning.

In reality, the word handicap is precisely that – to a better player who is disadvantaged so that weaker players can compete with them.

This is where it becomes a little weird. It’s the only sport I’ve played in, where regular practice and improvement on my part can be ‘punished’ as the system decreases your handicap and thus reduces your margin for error!

Don’t get me wrong – I play off 20, so I get the full benefit of this concession, and I do realize that the system works to benefit all, but sometimes it can be counter-productive in some ways.

Let me explain.

I’ve heard of amateur players deliberately allowing their handicaps to rise before a prestigious competition to help engineer a victory!

That said, golf is almost impossible to master, as evidenced by colossal errors even the pros sometimes make, and if there were no leveling factor, many players would simply leave the game.

Golf Player

Do All Golfers Need A Handicap?

No, but you will if you play in any official competitions, and many clubs are now insisting that you obtain a handicap and maintain it annually. Your home club can arrange the handicap, or you can contact the relevant golfing authority in your home country. In the US, use

Obtaining A Handicap

A handicap is not simply awarded to you when you join a club. Instead, the club will require that you play several rounds scored by an independent marker (8 is a common requirement).

You then hand in all scores to the club handicapping committee, from which they take your four lowest differentials’ average and use that to calculate your official handicap.

A temporary handicap is usually given to club players after three rounds which allows you to compete in local competitions while you build up your games.

There is no easy way the club can monitor these scores or subsequent ones, and honesty and integrity are required from the golfer and his markers.

Slope And Course Ratings

Like a great cappuccino, no two golf courses are created equal, and each course has a slope and a course rating set by the relevant golf authority. Pebble Beach is very different from St. Andrews Old Course, and your local municipal course will be far easier to play, and thus slope and course ratings are fundamental.

The higher these two ratings, the more difficult the golf course will be to play, and high handicappers might be wise to give these a miss initially.

The course rating informs you how difficult the course is for a scratch (zero handicap) golfer, and the slope rating is based on golfers who shoot one over par on each hole (bogie golfers).

A formula is in effect for calculating handicaps, and this takes your adjusted gross score and subtracts the course rating. The result is multiplied by 113 (the slope rating of a course of average difficulty) and then divided by the course rating of the colored tees you have used on that specific golf course to get the score differential.

Multiply the average of the 10 lowest score differentials from your last 20 rounds by 96% to find your handicap. Simple, right?

Very confusing at first but makes sense in time.

Let me clarify:

A player has an adjusted score of, say, 95. They remove the course rating of 71 and multiply this by 113.

They now divide the result by the course rating of the tees they played off (say 122), and the result is 22.2.

Then take the last 20 scores and take the 10 lowest from which they find the average:

Let’s use 20.8 in this example:

95 – 71 x 113/122 = 22.2

95-71 = 24

24 x 113 = 2712

2712 / 122 = 22.2

20.8 x 96% = 19.9

Our golfer’s handicap is 19.9. We can round this up to a 20 handicap. This golfer can expect to shoot rounds of 92 on average (though slope and course ratings will affect this).

Golf Course

How Good Is 20 Handicap In Golf?

You could say that a 20 handicap in golf is neither good nor bad but simply a way of allowing golfers to play against all other handicaps with a level field in effect. However, according to the USGA, the average male golfer plays off a 14. Therefore a 20-handicap is slightly inferior in its ability to the average.

Still, in terms of competition, the golfers can play as equals.

Read more: What’s The Average Golf Handicap In The US?

Final Thoughts

Never fret too much about your handicap, be it a 20, a 6 handicap, or anything else. Golf is hard and is difficult enough and almost impossible to conquer. (It’s actually impossible, but I’m leaving myself some wiggle room here)!

Regardless of your handicap, as an amateur, you are always playing against yourself, so play each shot as it comes, and the handicap will take care of itself.

Do you want to know the best irons to use if you’re a 20 handicapper? Check out this article, 7 Best Golf Irons For 20 Handicap Players.

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