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3 Types of Handicaps in Golf

Although the concept can cause confusion in those who are new to the game of golf, the handicap can be explained fairly simply.

In basic terms, a player's handicap a numerical value indicating a golfer's ability to score in relation to a golfer who would score par on the course.

The higher the handicap, the more strokes a player receives in a round. The handicap system is designed to help players of differing skill levels play together.

There are three types of handicaps in golf. They are: course handicap, unofficial handicap and sandbagger handicap.

To understand the types of handicap in golf it is first necessary to understand a concept known as the handicap index. A player's handicap index is determined by the United States Golf Association and indicates a player's scoring potential. If a player is a member of a USGA-sanctioned golf club, they report their round scores on a score card.

After five rounds, the round scores are used to give each player their handicap. It is important to note that a handicap is not an indication of a player's average number of strokes over and above par. It is the number of strokes over par on a good round, not an overall average.

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Course handicap

A course handicap is an indicator to each player how many strokes to deduct from their score following a round at a particular course. The course handicap is determined by taking a golfer's handicap index and adjusting it in accordance with the difficulty (known as the slope) of the course. Also taken into consideration is the tee the golfer plays from (which a golfer chooses based on their skill level).

Unofficial handicap

Players who are not members of a golf course can report their handicap via several online reporting services. Players report their scores after playing five rounds and receive a an unofficial handicap. This unofficial handicap is a good guideline for the golfer's personal reference, but it cannot be entered as an official handicap in any USGA-sponsored events or competitions.

Sandbagger handicap

Of the three types of handicaps in golf this one is not really an above-board handicap. However, most golfers will have in their back pockets what is referred to as a sandbagger handicap, which they will pull out when it's time to dazzle (or bamboozle!) their opponents.

The term “sandbagger” refers to someone who claims his handicap is higher than it really is in order to make himself look good when he plays a round under his handicap. Players will also develop a sandbagger handicap in order to weight a competition in his favor to secure a win.

In summary, the handicap system is designed to level the playing field for all golfers. A player's individual handicap is not a static number that can never be changed. As a player's skill level changes, so can his handicap number. The exception to this is a sandbagger handicap, which can change at the whim of the golfer as it is a purely fabricated number in the first place! 

Check out this article on how to lower your golf handicaps for more tips...

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