Golf Handicap: The Mysterious Phrase

Unless you're an avid golf fan or are yourself a golfer, a lot of the terminology used inside of golf may be confusing. What's even more confusing to some is that the game is played differently depending on your rating as a golfer. You'll never find this in the NFL. A running back on the Raiders who isn't as good as a running back on the Chargers isn't given a head start due to a handicapped score. Nor do you find in basketball that a team is given free points because their players aren't as good as the opposing team's players. But golf is a different monster entirely. If Joe is facing off against Jack in a game of golf, and Jack is the much better golfer, then Joe will be given a handicap in order to compete with Jack in a head-to-head match-up. This is just one of the many lengths golf goes to in order to ensure fairness within their game. This concept comes into play when you are engaging in legal golf betting as well.

That part of a golf handicap is easy enough to explain. But once you get into the actual numbers and how it's calculated, however, you're looking at some pretty tricky stuff that even a lot of golf fans have trouble keeping up with. The reputable golf betting sites you find featured in our review section also take these calculations into account when presenting the golf betting odds and lines.

Explaining a Golf Handicap

In simple language, a golf handicap is a score given to an inferior golfer, so that he or she doesn't have to shoot as well as someone else in order to do as well as someone else. For instance, a golfer with a handicap who shoots 80 on a par-72 may be scored the same as someone who shoots par for the entire course. Of course, that's the layman's explanation of it. To actually calculate the handicap itself, you're looking at a very sophisticated numerical measure of arithmetic that is painstakingly calculated through stroke play, which calculates a net score based on the number of strokes played during a competition juxtaposed against the par number, an opponent's strokes, the average amount, etc.

There are essentially two types of handicaps: High and low. High handicaps are awarded to players who are generally poor and do not do well at the game, whereas low handicaps are typically awarded to players who play well enough, but maybe not up to snuff with top-flight amateurs and pros. Most golf clubs administer and track their own handicap systems, in conjunction with regional and national golfing associations actually peer reviewing the numbers. So, this isn't just some number a golfer can give him or herself. For instance, Joe can't say, "Well, I'm not very good, so I'm giving myself X handicap!" Instead it's painstakingly calculated for Joe, and will change as Joe improves at the game.

The only place you're going to find a golfing handicap is in the amateur ranks. Any player who makes a cut for a PGA or other sanctioned professional tournament loses all handicapping. This means that all pros compete on a playing field that is 100% equal. No player can have a handicap in the professional ranks.

To see what a handicap looks like, let's say Joe has just shot. With a handicap, his score card may look like: (120/113) *14.8 calculated; real number, 15.72; rounded, 16. So, because of Joe's handicap, which is 14.8, he receives a better overall score than he actually earned on the course.

Handicaps come in handy to keep the play fair and balanced among club players who often compete in team matches and head-to-head match-ups. Some players are just a lot better than others, so a player who doesn't do as well still has a shot at scoring well because of the handicapping system.