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What’s The Average Golf Handicap In The US?

Overall, it would seem that male golfers improved slightly in 2021 from 2020 and noticeably more than previous years, while the ladies seem to be on a downward trend in terms of handicap improvement. So what’s the average golf handicap in the US?

The average golf handicap in the USA for men for 2021 was 14.0, slightly lower than the 14.2 handicap average from 2020. The average golf handicap was slightly higher for women golfers in the USA at 27.7 – up from 27.5 the previous year.

These latest statistics of the average handicap index of US golfers are as reported in a recent article by golf.com. The figures are compiled annually from the USGA, the governing body of golf in the US.

So, how much has the average handicap in men improved over the last few years against the average lady’s handicap? And what is the reason behind any improvements or deteriorations in handicap levels in the USA? Let’s go find out!

A golfer about to hit the ball. What's The Average Golf Handicap In The US?

Are Golfers In The USA Getting Better Or Worse?

Based on the current stats, you would have to say that the average male golfer is getting better, with a handicap of 14, which means scores in the high 80s are now the norm, and more and more golfers are playing at this level.

Conversely, it would appear that the ladies have lost 0.2 handicap points while the men have gained the same number. Around 2018/2019, the average men’s handicap was around the 16.2 mark, while the ladies have been consistently around the 27 handicap level for the last few years.

Based on these statistics, it would seem that men have gotten better by two strokes over the last few years, while the ladies have remained essentially unchanged.

Even more, consider this improvement during the COVID-19 pandemic, as golf was one of the few sports that you could play.

Golf Rounds And Players Increased During COVID-19

The National Golf Foundation reported an increase in both men and women playing the game in 2020, and Golf’s surge in popularity was far better than predicted. The CEO of the NFG, Joe Beditz, said, “There hasn’t been this much optimism and new activity in the golf business since the turn of the century.”

He reported that they saw increases in rounds played and introduction and re-introduction into the game from late summer and fall due to the spring shutdowns.

Read More: Is Golf a Dying Sport?

Golf Ball In The Air

Why This Improvement In Average Handicaps Is So Significant

At the end of all of this newfound golf enthusiasm, a remarkable consequence occurred, and that was the improvement of the average men’s handicap from 16.2 down to 14.2. Now, while that may not seem a lot, a two-stroke swing in a season is certainly something to brag about!

When looking at handicap data from 1992 to 2017, the average men’s handicap dropped from 16.3 to 14.4. That’s almost a two-stroke improvement in 25 years! For women, their handicap dropped from 29.7 in 1991 to 26.1 in 2016, which is 3.6 strokes better.

But this took 25 years, while the handicap average for men during the pandemic fell the same amount in just over a year. While the pandemic may not have been good for the world as a whole, it certainly was good for golf – and male golfers specifically.

The Influence Of Online Instruction & Backyard Practise

As COVID-19 progressed, many players looked to take the time and improve their game, and a lot of this happened online as live coaching was restricted initially. The spring closures of courses due to the pandemic drove many golfers to start practicing in their back yards as the closed ranges impacted.

Ironically, those same players would most likely not have done the same amount of training as they did during the lockdowns.

Average Handicaps In The USA vs. UK, England & Australia

But, how does the USA stack up against other major golf-playing countries globally? The table below shows the stats from the 2019/2020 golf year. It looks as though the USA is leading that too.

CountryHandicap MenHandicap Women
USA14.426.4
UK1625
England17.226.5
Australia16.926.7

Interestingly, this table shows that the ladies’ handicaps are virtually in the same range with just a difference of 1.7 strokes from the highest (Australia) to the lowest (UK). While with the men, there is a significant variance of 2.8 strokes from the highest (England) to the lowest (USA).

Not only that, but if you look at the women’s handicap averages as of the end of 2021, they have declined by 1.1 strokes to 27.5 from 27.3 in 2020 and from 26.4 in 2019, while the men’s handicap average has steadily improved from 16.2 to 14.0 in the same period.

Golf Bunker

How Does Your Handicap Stack Up?

Since we know the average is around 14 for men, if you hold a handicap of 13.9 or better, you are in the top half of all USGA handicapped players in the USA. Around 21% of men have a handicap between 10 and 13.9.

16% of men rank between 12.0 and 14.9, and this would be the largest average group handicap in the USA.

To be in the top 10%, you need a handicap of 4.9 or lower, and to make the top 5%, you need to be 2 or better. As far as scratch players go, only 1.85% make golfers have a plus handicap or better.

For ladies, the average group is between 27.0 and 27.9, and to be in the top 10% for ladies golf, you’d need a 14.9 handicap or better. Less than 1% (0.69%) of ladies in the USA have a scratch handicap or better.

So, where do you come in here? What’s your average golf handicap?

Let’s Wrap This Up!

If the current trend carries on, the USA could well see another two-shot swing on the average handicaps for men. This would be a very positive indication of the health of golf in the USA and keep most current players playing while bringing more players back to the game.

Globally, it’s clear that golf USA is leading the men’s field with the USA ladies having a fair showing as well, and the more people play and get better, the more people will want to play, and that can only be good for the game in the USA and around the world.

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