Handicapping FAQ

The 14th green at the Indiana Country Club.

1) What is the purpose of the Handicap System™
"The purpose of the USGA Handicap System is to make the game of golf more enjoyable by enabling players of differing abilities to compete on an equitable basis. The System provides a fair Course Handicap for each player, regardless of ability, and adjusts a player's Handicap Index up or down as the player's game changes. At the same time, the System disregards high scores that bear little relation to the player's potential ability and promotes continuity by making a Handicap Index continuous from one playing season or year to the next. A Handicap Index is useful for all forms of play, and is issued only to individuals who are members of a golf club." (USGA Handicap System, Section 1).
2) Should I post scores when I play in the winter?
All scores played in a region observing an active season are to be posted for handicap purposes unless the score is an unacceptable score under USGA Handicap System guidelines. For example, scores played in Western Pennsylvania during the inactive season (November 1 - March 31) are not acceptable for handicap purposes.
3) When is a score unacceptable?
The following scores are not acceptable for handicap purposes: when fewer than seven holes are played; when made on a golf course in an area in which an inactive season established by authorized golf association is in effect; when the length of the course is less than 3,000 yards for 18 holes; when, as a condition of the competition, the maximum number of clubs allowed is less than 14, or types of clubs are limited as, for example, in a competition that allows only iron clubs; when scores are made on a course with no USGA Course Rating or Slope Rating; when scores are made on a course with no USGA Course Rating or Slope Rating; when a player uses non-conforming club, non-conforming balls, or non-conforming tees; with respect to Rule 14-3 ("The Rules of Golf"), when an artificial device or piece of unusual equipment is used during the execution of a stroke or when equipment is used in an unusual manner during the execution of a stroke (USGA Handicap System, Section 5).
4) Should I post a score if I skip a hole?
Yes. For holes not played or not played under the Rules of Golf, the player records net par for the hole(s). The player will add any handicap strokes s/he is entitled to on that hole to par and record a score.
5) Should I post a score if I do not finish a hole?
Yes. A player will record his/her most likely score for any hole not completed or that is conceded. To determine a player's most likely score, the player counts the strokes already taken and then adds, in the best estimation of the player, how many more strokes it would have taken to complete the hole. The player does not post his/her maximum under Equitable Stroke Control.
6) If I am a member at more than one club, how do I get the same GHIN number at each one?
The player should only have one GHIN number. Please contact the Association by email or phone (412-826-2180) to have your scoring records merged. After completed, when a score is posted at one club it will automatically be routed to the other(s).
7) How can I get my new USGA Handicap Index® sent to me?
If your club subscribes to the GHIN Service, you can have your email address entered into your scoring record sent to you on each revision day. Please contact your club of the Association by email or phone (412-826-2180) to enroll.
8) How do I post a score on the Internet?
Scores are acceptable to be posted over the Internet only if your club has adopted the policy to allow scores to be posted over the Internet. To do so, please visit GHIN.com and click on Post Scores link to enter your GHIN number.
9) Where can I find the Course Rating and Slope Rating for a course I played?
The ratings are available from the club where the round was played, in the GHIN Handicap Program when posting an away score, on GHIN.com when posting scores over the Internet, or in the National Course Rating Database hosted by the USGA.
10) What do the various letters on my handicap card mean?
A "R" means that the handicap has been reduced under Section 10-3 of the USGA Handicap System due to exceptional tournament performance. An "L" means that this is a Local Handicap - it is above the USGA limits of 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women. An "M" indicates that the handicap has been modified by the club's handicap committee. An "N" means that it is a nine-hold handicap. Please see Section 2 of the USGA Handicap System.
11) How do I do if my club is authorized to use the USGA Handicap System?
A club must be licensed through its golf association if a Member Club or directly by the USGA if it is not a member of an authorized golf association in order to use the USGA Handicap System. Please check Authorized Golf Club listing on the USGA website to see if a club has been licensed.
12) How does a club get licensed to use the USGA Handicap System™?
For clubs in the Western Pennsylvania jurisdiction, clubs are licensed by the WPGA unless directly authorized by the USGA. To obtain a license, a member of the club or the club's staff must attend a Handicap Seminar conducted either by the USGA or the WPGA and pass a quiz showing proficiency in the USGA Handicap System.
13) How often does a club need to be rated?
All golf clubs must be rated at least every ten years or when construction affects the USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating. The WPGA re-rates each of its Member Clubs on a five-year revolving schedule. For more information please visit our Course Rating Services page.