Handicaps and Competitions

The Golfing Handicap

The handicap system is a great advantage of playing golf. It means players of all abilities can play and compete together on a level playing field.

The handicap is an allowance of shots per round, based on a player’s ability. Handicaps start at 28 for men and 36 for women and the better the player, the lower their handicap.

At the end of a round each player adds up their total number of shots and deducts their handicap to get their net score. So, if your handicap is 20 and your gross score is 90, your net score is 70. If you play with a five-handicapper who scores gross 77, net 72, you are the winner!

Competition Formats

There are many different competition formats in golf. The most common include:

Medal or strokeplay – each shot is counted and added up at the end of the round. If it’s a handicap competition then you subtract your handicap from the total to get your net score. If it’s a scratch competition then the gross score counts.

Stableford – a point-scoring system depending on the shots taken on each hole. This is a very popular format because one or two bad holes do not rule out a good overall score.

Matchplay – head to head golf. Each hole is treated as a separate competition and players can either win, halve or lose a hole. The winner is determined by the number of holes won.

Foursomes – golfers play in pairs and take alternate shots.

Greensome – similar to foursomes except both players tee off at each hole before choosing which ball to play. For the rest of the hole they take alternate shots.

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