The Average Golf Handicap: How Do You Stack Up?

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The Average Golf Handicap: How Do You Stack Up?

If you’re a competitive golfer like me, you’ll not only want to shoot low scores and beat your friends, but you’ll also be motivated by lowering your golf handicap. I dream of one day being a scratch golfer, I’m sure it would be the pinnacle of my golfing career – it would make up for the thousands spent on equipment, and especially those lost balls along the way.


However, for now, I need to be content with being a 9-handicap golfer, (I know a single-figure handicap is a milestone lots of golfers go after, and I’m delighted to be here), but this got me thinking, what is the average golf handicap and how do I currently stack up against other golfers?


In this article, I’ll be deep-diving into the data to tell you everything you’ll need to know about the average golf handicap statistics for both male and female golfers. So, if you want to know whether you are a below, or above-average golfer keep reading.


What Exactly is a Golf Handicap?

First of all, I’m aware that not all golfers have a handicap, so let’s take a moment to clarify what I’m talking about.


The handicap is the way golf officials measure a player’s ability to score around a golf course. If you are a zero handicap (or scratch golfer), you are capable of shooting a score to level par around the golf course. For example, St Andrews is a par 72, which means a scratch golfer would be expected to take 72 strokes to complete their round.


If you are a newer golfer, you might have a higher handicap and take more shots to complete our round of golf. USGA rules have an upper limit of 36 handicap for men and a handicap of 40 for women. So, with these handicaps, they would be expected to score 36 over par, or 40 extra shots over par for the female golfer.


For the gifted golfers out there, the handicap system doesn’t stop at zero, it also goes below zero. In this case, a golfer is so good they need to add shots onto their score to make it fair for the other players.


When Sergio Garcia turned professional folklore says his handicap was +7, that is seven shots below scratch!


Why Do You Need A Handicap?

Well, the easy answer is, that you don’t need a handicap. However, having a handicap can unlock specific benefits only available if you have one. Access to the World’s top courses is often only available if you have a valid handicap, also if you want to join a golf club and play in competitions with your friends then you’ll also need to have a handicap.


These are the reasons that I hold a handicap, but also as I mentioned earlier it’s a great way of measuring yourself against other golfers, tracking your progress, and if you have a really low handicap, it’s also a way of showing off your golfing ability!


How Do You Get A Golf Handicap?

In the UK obtaining a golf handicap couldn’t be easier due to the introduction of iGolf. This is a digital community which gives you access to an official handicap allowing you to track your progress and make it easier to join a golf club at a later date.


You simply need to download the iGolf App and sign up to England Golf, the subscription fee is £44 for 12 months.


In the US to obtain an official handicap you just need to join the USGA/AGA community and you can get a handicap index in a matter of minutes. This will allow you to compete in competitions that require a handicap and track your own progress.


If you aren’t worried about having an “official” handicap, but still want an idea, then several of the golf apps out there provide a similar handicap rating. 


But for now, let’s get into these stats I promised, if you have a golf handicap, how do you stack up?


Golf Handicap Key Insights

Each year the USGA shares key insights from the World of golf. This is a fascinating look at the handicapping statistics, along with the number of new golfers taking up the game.


Last year the total number of golfers with a handicap was 3,026,528 which was a huge 16.5% increase on this number from two years ago – this shows that golf is a growing sport with new players taking up the game every year.


What’s even more encouraging, for a sport that is mainly dominated by men, over these same two years 85,000 women also obtained a golf handicap.


Using data from over 63 million rounds of golf from these golfers, the average handicap index for golfers in the USA was 28 for women and 14 for men.


I thought this number was quite low for the average male handicap, especially when I looked at all of the bandits at my local club who hold handicap indexes much higher than 14!


In the UK the average handicap for men is 17.2 and for women 27.2, so following a similar trend to the USA. 


With the introduction of iGolf in the UK, giving nomadic golfers (those who aren’t a member of a club) the ability to maintain a handicap, we start to get more information and a bigger picture of handicaps. What England Golf found was that the average handicap index of someone using the iGolf system was 19. 


Now obviously the average handicap stats are only based on the data the organisations have, which is that of people holding an official handicap. It doesn’t account for the millions of golfers who don’t have an official handicap. The question is … do you think the average handicap would change?


So how far are you from the average handicap? The USGA shares further insight into the distribution of golfers’ handicaps which could give you a better understanding of how you compare to the average.


The data shared shows that a significant proportion of golfers have a handicap below 20, with 69% holding a handicap between 5 and 19.9.


I was surprised by the number of single-figure golfers from these, especially given the amount of dedication and practice required to obtain and maintain such a low handicap.


As I shared the Female golfer’s average handicap was significantly higher than the men’s, but how do they compare in the distribution of handicaps?


Again, it’s a lot higher with a large proportion of golfers (53%) holding handicaps between 20 and 35.


However, last year men posted over 53 million rounds of golf, while women only posted 10 million rounds of golf. This equates to over 21 rounds of golf per year for men and only 16 per year for women.


What both male and female statistics do show is how hard it is to achieve a scratch handicap, with less than 2% of men, and less than 1% of women getting down to zero – this really is the holy grail for golfers.


So, this is helpful to see the handicap data, but my own experience would tell me that I rarely play to my handicap. Therefore, let’s look at the typical scores that the average golfers shoot when they play.


What’s The Average Golf Score?

A common question asked is what percentage of golfers manage to score under 100? You might think that shooting between 90-100 is a typical score, but this might not be the answer you expect.


A few years ago MyGolfSpy did some deep diving into this question. To find out the answer they used a smaller sample of 15,000 golfers that had uploaded at least five scores to a golf app called TheGrint.


To give you a snapshot and see how you stack up here are some key statistics:


  • A significant 86% of golfers manage to break 100.
  • Nearly half, 49% to be precise, regularly score below 90.
  • The elite 10% consistently break 80.
  • And for the crème de la crème, a select few regularly score under 70.


Once again, it shows how difficult it is to post low scores on the golf course – if you’re in this special club of regularly shooting below 80 then you’re obviously a committed golfer!


The Average Golf Handicap: Conclusion

I hope you’ve found this article interesting, and now have a better idea of where you can position yourself in comparison to other amateur golfers. Golf is not an easy game and I think these insights highlight how much practice and dedication is required to master the game.


I’m sure this will have motivated you to get out on the course and lower your handicap, the next time we see you I’m sure you’ll probably have your PGA Tour Card! But if you still need some help, you could check out the other articles on Sunday Red such as the best irons for beginners and the best putting mats


Also, if you haven’t already signed up for our FREE golf community, make sure to do that now! All the golf chat you could want awaits, along with competitions, giveaways, special offers, and more!

Craig Barnard

Craig is a golf enthusiast and owner of Fun Golf. Having played the game for over 30 years he has always been passionate about the game. Today Craig offers golf advice and golf tips to beginner golfers through his popular website, social media and best-selling Golf Instruction books. Craig spent many years working at Woburn Golf Club in his younger years. Seeing how the team of PGA professionals helped so many golfers improve and get so much enjoyment from the game from golf instruction, he was inspired to see how he could do the same. Fun Golf came from, a desire to help golfers have fun and improve their game.

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