What Is a Golf Handicap for a Beginner? — Golf Coach’s Tips

What Is a Golf Handicap for A Beginner from Tell Me More Golf Instructors Helping You Calculate the Average Handicap

A golf handicap is a numerical measurement of a golfer’s skill level. It’s mainly used for keeping track of how good your golf game is at a certain moment, as well as competing fairly with golfers of other skill levels.

The handicap system enables a high handicapper to compete with a scratch golfer, with the high handicapper having a decent chance at winning.

In this article, I, the head golf instructor at Tell Me More Golf, will discuss the golf handicap for beginners. The handicap system is a fundamental part of golf, which is why many beginners wonder how it works and how it affects them. I will now cover how it works, how it’s used, and much more

A Beginner Golf Handicap

While there isn’t a clear definition of what a beginner-level handicap is, we would say that anything over 30.

What Is a Golf Handicap? 

A handicap is a measurement of a golfer’s skill.

How Is a Golf Handicap Calculated? 

The actual golf handicap index is relatively difficult to calculate, but luckily the same goes as with the course handicap: there is tech to help you. The real formula is pretty complex, but when simplified, it’s about taking the 8 best scores out of your last 20 rounds, and then adding those scores together and dividing by eight. 

We recommend getting a handicap index at USGA, where you simply register every round you play and it calculates your handicap for you. This way, you won’t have to keep track of challenging equations, and you can be one hundred percent sure that the handicap is accurate.

How to Calculate On-Course Handicap

One common misconception about the handicap system is that your handicap tells you how many strokes over par you tend to shoot.

Instead, you need to calculate your course handicap, which differs significantly between courses and tees.

There is plenty of tech to help you do this, like the USGA Course Handicap Calculator, but to calculate your course handicap manually, you can follow this equation: [Handicap Index * (Slope Rating / 113)] + (Course Rating – Par). 


Average Golf Handicap for Beginners

The average golf handicap for beginners varies significantly depending on how new they are, how much practice they put in, and if they are athletic individuals.

According to USGA, the average male golfer’s handicap is around 16, while it’s around 26 for females.

Beginners usually struggle with many parts of their game, making their handicaps often significantly higher. While there isn’t a clear definition of what a beginner-level handicap is, we would say that anything over 30 typically means that the golfer is new to the game. But with that said, many relatively experienced golfers have high handicaps for one reason or the other. 


What Is a Good Handicap in Golf?

While we wouldn’t say that a handicap is bad or good, as they’re only meant to reflect your playing ability to allow you to have a good time, there are some handicap intervals golfers generally consider better than others.

A Good Handicap

Golfers with a handicap between 7-12 are generally thought of as good golfers. These kinds of players can strike the golf ball pretty well, sink putts, and get around the golf course relatively easily. 

A Very Good Handicap

Golfers with a handicap between 1-7 are very good at golf, and are often great at most aspects of the game. These golfers can flirt with par and often hit some really good golf shots. However, it should be said that it becomes increasingly difficult to lower your handicap, so a 1 handicapper can be significantly better than a 7. 


What Is a Bad Handicap in Golf?

Once again, you should not think of your handicap as bad, but rather simply a reflection of your current skills.

However, some handicaps are considered worse than others.

A Bad Handicap

The average handicap for male golfers is around 16, and anything over 25 is often regarded as bad. That being said, many golfers with a handicap over 25 can still play decent golf. It’s just that they’re not great at scoring.

A Very Bad Handicap

When golfers think of a very bad handicap, something over 35-40 often comes to mind. Golfers with handicaps this high often struggle with many parts of their game, but more often than not, they’re simply beginners. 


Do You Need a Handicap as a Beginner?

If you’re a complete beginner still learning the basics of golf, it’s not necessary to think about your handicap. Instead, you should try to get the feel of multiple aspects of the game, including iron shots, chipping, and putting. 

However, as soon as you start playing on a golf course, we think it’s very beneficial to start keeping track of your handicap.

The USGA Handicap Index Calculator does this for you seamlessly. 


How to Lower Your Handicap as a Beginner 

Since your handicap is a reflection of your overall golfing skill, the way to lower it is to simply improve. However, we do have a few tips on the things you can do to lower your handicap the fastest way possible. 

Practice Putting

As a golfer of any level, most of your strokes will be around the greens. That’s why you should practice putting if you want to lower your handicap fast. You should be very confident inside three feet, and practicing lag putts will help you tremendously.

Find a Solid Club for the Tee 

Many beginner golfers struggle with getting the ball in play, which is crucial for putting up a good score. A great way for a beginner to drop their handicap fast is to find a golf club they can use off the tee and be confident that the ball will end up relatively good.

This club should ideally go over 150 yards, and if there’s a hazard you should be able not to hit it nine out of ten times. While somewhat easier said than done, this can do wonders for your game. For example, we recommend trying a high lofted hybrid for these situations. 

Learn Your Distances 

To score well, you need to know your distances, and more specifically carry distances. If there’s a hundred yards to cover the water and hit the green, you need to know with confidence that you’re hitting a club that carries at least 110 yards. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in many hazards and not on many greens.


TellMeMoreGolf.com – Frequently Asked Questions

Do beginner golfers have a handicap?

Whether beginner golfers have a handicap or not depends on if they’ve submitted their scores in a handicap index calculator. In other words, anyone who has calculated their handicap has one. 

You can get a handicap from playing a single round of golf, but it’s recommended to submit five rounds or more to get accurate results. 

So if you’re a complete beginner who’s never played a round of golf, you naturally won’t have a handicap. 

What handicap do beginners start with?

There is no such thing as a starting handicap for beginners. Instead, all handicaps are measured on a personal level. Your handicap depends on your overall skill level, with the scores you’re shooting relative to the slope and tees you’re playing being the variable. 

Can I play golf without a handicap?

You can absolutely play golf without a handicap. However, we think that a handicap will make you improve at the game, as you will be able to keep track of your progress and current skill level. 

A handicap can also make golf more fun, especially if you’re playing with more experienced golfers. Your handicap shows you how many extra strokes you have, meaning that it won’t be as demoralizing to see a buddy play better than you. 

What is considered a beginner golfer?

Beginner golfers are, simply put, people new to the game of golf. Beginners are people who’ve never really played before, only played a little on the driving range, and people who’ve only been on a golf course a few times.

Beginners usually have high handicaps, as they’re not used to swinging a golf club and haven’t had enough practice to get a good feel for their short game. There isn’t a specific handicap that makes you a beginner, but we would say that over 30 is common for beginners. 

What is the maximum handicap you can have?

The highest handicap any golfer can have, regardless of gender, is 54. This is true for all countries following the World Handicap System, which almost every country does. 

In some competitions, there can be limits to how high of a handicap you can play with. For example, some small competitions may not allow an on-course handicap of over 30. This is the case since they want to prevent golfers from keeping their handicap high to win competitions, also known as sandbagging



A golf handicap allows you to keep track of how you’re progressing in your game, making you more likely to improve. It also enables you to play competitive rounds with friends that are better or worse than you, which is great.

Every golfer can get a handicap, as long as they’ve played a single round of golf. Calculating your golf handicap can be done easily with the help of USGA’s calculator, and there you can also find how many extra strokes you have on a specific course. 


Patrick Corley Tell Me More Golf Instructor and Coach
Patrick Corley
From a golf scholarship to a Southern California University, to a private golf coaching career and an instructor position at a nonprofit organization, I’m here to help you get better at golf! With my 50+ years of golf experience; I bring you Tell Me More Golf. A golf coaching website that helps your game with instructional golfing content that’s ultimately geared toward making you a better golfer and having more fun!
Our golf instructor team brings it all to you, so enjoy!

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