Handicaps 201: Taking it to the course

After reading our last post about handicaps, you probably went straight to Kingswell Glen to get in a few rounds so you would get your official Handicap Index. Congratulations!

If you haven’t read that post yet, take a minute to read it so this one makes more sense.

So, now that you have an official handicap, how do you use it?

Remember — your handicap index measures how many strokes you need to deduct from your score to shoot par on a golf course of average difficulty, not necessarily how many strokes you deduct on the specific course you’re playing.

Since no two courses are the same, many courses are rated to measure their relative difficulty. This results in something called a “Slope Rating” which is unique to each course (maybe you’ve noticed it on our scorecard); slope rating varies based on the tees you play.

Your personal handicap is adjusted by the Slope Rating to create a “Course Handicap”.

We won’t get into the math required for this adjustment; just trust us that it’s easiest to use charts like the ones Golf Ontario provides here to convert your personal handicap to a course handicap. Just select the slope rating which lines up with the tees you’re playing (if a course is rated, the scorecard should have this information).

There are also other ways to determine your course handicap, like using the Golf Canada app and websites.

Now before we move on, let’s summarize where we are in our handicap learning journey:

Play Golf → Enter Scores → Get Handicap Index → Adjust by Slope Rating = Course Handicap


After each player in a group or tournament has calculated their course handicap, the stage is set for a fair competition between players of different abilities.

Over the course of the round, each player deducts a number of strokes from their actual score (the “gross” score) equal to their course handicap. The resulting number is their “net” score.

If a golfer is REALLY good, they might have a handicap that is a “+1” or more. This means they have to ADD strokes to their final score to make it a fair match.

which holes are these strokes deducted from?

Unfortunately, you don’t get to pick and choose based on which holes you play well or poorly.

Handicap strokes aren’t mulligans, no matter what your buddy says.

To ensure strokes are allocated fairly, it has been decided for you, which is where the “Handicap” line on the scorecard comes into play.

Here’s an example of a handicap index in action:

Tom is a Kingswell Glen member who has a 15.7 handicap index.

Today, he is playing the white tees at Kingswell Glen with two friends. As per the scorecard, he sees the white tees have a slope rating of 113 for men.

Using this chart, his personal handicap index of 15.7 translates to a course handicap of 16. Therefore, Tom is allowed to deduct one stroke from his score for each of the 16 most difficult holes on the course.

The handicap line of the scorecard rates each hole in order of difficulty, with odd numbers always on the front nine and even numbers on the back nine. So, Tom “strokes” on all the holes EXCEPT holes 4 and 10 since those holes are rated as the course’s easiest holes.

For each of the other 16 holes, Tom records his gross score, then deducts 1 stroke to arrive at his net score. If Tom records a bogey on a hole he “strokes” on, his bogey becomes a “net par.”

Here’s what that would look like on a scorecard:

Let’s take this digital golf lesson one step further

And take a look at how the other players’ handicaps pan out:

Tom is competing against Geri (course handicap of 0) and Ben (course handicap of 30).

We’ve already established that Tom has a course handicap of 16, which means he gets to deduct a stroke from the course’s 16 most difficult holes.

Because Geri’s course handicap is zero, she does not get to deduct strokes on any holes.

Ben, however, deducts a stroke on every hole — and, because that only accounts for 18 of his 30 strokes, he deducts a SECOND stroke on the 12 most difficult holes to make up the balance of his strokes.

The effect is that Tom, Geri, and Ben all have a fair chance to win whatever type of competition they’re having with one another. If they didn’t have handicaps to even the playing field, odds are that Geri would easily win.


At Kingswell Glen we want the spirit of competition to be friendly, fun, and fair.

And an accurate handicap helps to make that happen — whether you’re on the course with old friends, new playing partners, or registered for an official event like the Club Championship.

If you’d like to learn more about handicaps, or the types of matches you can play with a handicap, chat with Dave or Travis in the Pro Shop, and they may be able to give you some new ideas.

(Who knows, maybe we’ll give you some ideas for play in a future blog post? 🤔)


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