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Handicap systems

Main article: Golf handicap

A handicap is a numerical measure of an amateur golfer's ability to play golf over 18 holes. Handicaps can be applied either for stroke play competition or match play competition. In either competition, a handicap generally represents the number of strokes above par that a player will achieve on an above average day.

In stroke play competition, the competitor's handicap is subtracted from their total "gross" score at the end of the round, to calculate a "net" score against which standings are calculated. In match play competition, handicap strokes are assigned on a hole-by-hole basis, according to the handicap rating of each hole (which is provided by the course). The hardest holes on the course receive the first handicap strokes, with the easiest holes receiving the last handicap strokes.

Calculating a handicap is often complicated, but essentially it is representative of the average over par of a number of a player's previous above average rounds, adjusted for course difficulty. Legislations regarding the calculation of handicaps differs among countries. For example, handicap rules may include the difficulty of the course the golfer is playing on by taking into consideration factors such as the number of bunkers, the length of the course, the difficulty and slopes of the greens, the width of the fairways, and so on.

Handicap systems are not used in professional golf. Professional golfers often score several strokes below par for a round and thus have a calculated handicap of 0 or less, meaning that their handicap results in the addition of strokes to their round score. Someone with a handicap of zero or less is often referred to as a 'scratch golfer.'


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