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How We Calculate Golf Handicaps

The below information provides details on the updates released to the Golfshake Handicap system in May 2021.  The focus relation to the Golfshake Handicap Index system but you will also find details on the old Handicap that we previously provided and continue to provide for use by golfers.

What is a Handicap Index and how does it differ?

The present Golfshake system is based loosely around the old UK golf club system and is quite restrictive in terms of changes given the increase of only 0.1 and technically is more of a 'club' based handicap meaning an individual handicap doesn't always relate outside of your own club.

An index based system allows for a more accurate reflection and larger fluctuations based on your scoring trends providing rolling averages. The more rounds you track the better reflection of your playing ability will be provided with the average scores of your most recent rounds taken into account.

Golfshake Updates 2021

Following feedback from members and additional testing we have rolled out the following updates:

  • Best 8 of last 20 is now used rather than best 10
  • Updates to the Golfshake Difficulty rating (d) for courses under 6100 yards when Slope data is missing
    • Similar to the information below, email any course scorecard and slope updates to [email protected]
  • Golfshake reports now denote whether the course/scorecard Slope or Golfshake Difficulty rating is being used by (s) or (d) respectively
  • Minor updates to Index algorithm and calculation of the GHI data used
  • Golfshake Handicap Index calculated automatically when new rounds added and history/audit data also updated

How similar are the 2 systems that are provided by Golfshake?

The below data is a snapshot from a member of Golfshake who tracks many rounds each year on Golfshake. Their old UK system based Handicap is tracked at 5.1 where as the Golfshake Handicap Index is at 4.3. However, once the Course Handicap adjustments are applied to their most regular club their Playing Handicap for that club is calculated at 5.

Handicap using old UK Golfshake system

Handicap using new Golfshake Handicap Index system

Will there be a cost for the Golfshake Handicap Index?

Here at Golfshake we have always believed in providing an online system to all golfers whether that is someone new to the game who wants to get an idea of how they are doing or someone looking for more in-depth analysis to help on their quest to improve. Golfshake will continue to provide a free aspect to our service allowing all golfers to be able to benchmark and track their game as well as access a recognised free handicap to allow them to play against other golfers on a level playing field.

How is the Golfshake Handicap Index calculated?

The Golfshake Handicap Index will be based on your most recent rounds tracked on the Golfshake system. Unlike the old system no initial handicap will be used nor will a handicap be calculated after the first 3 rounds. Instead the system will calculate your Golfshake Handicap Index from the first round you enter or have already tracked on the system and then adjust accordingly from each round there after.

The following steps are completed to calculate your Golfshake Handicap Index after each round:

  • Your round score is adjusted to provide an adjusted gross score similar to the old system. This will factor in any bad holes where you may record a score greater than a net double bogey.
  • A Round Handicap is then calculated based off the data we hold for the Tee played in relation to Slope and SSS/CR (Course Rating).
  • Based on the number of rounds played the Best X of X rounds is then taken and averaged out.
    • Less than 4 rounds - best round
    • Less than 11 rounds - best 3 rounds
    • Less than 13 rounds - best 4 rounds
    • Less than 15 rounds - best 5 rounds
    • Less than 17 rounds - best 6 rounds
    • Less than 18 rounds - best 8 rounds
    • Less than 19 rounds - best 8 rounds
    • Less than 20 rounds - best 8 rounds
    • 20 or more - best 8 rounds of the last 20
  • Finally, we make an adjustment of the overall average to reduce by 4%.

What is the Golfshake Difficulty rating shown on some screens?

The Golfshake Difficulty rating is a Golfshake calculation when our members have not provided details for a Scorecard in relation to the Slope and SSS/CR values for any given Tee. The Difficulty rating is a temporary value to factor in similar values based on the information we hold for that particular Scorecard utilising existing data, yardage information and Par.

What is Scorecard Slope & the SSS/CR (Course Rating) used for?

This information is used for the calculation of a Round Handicap and also for calculations in relation to a Course Handicap.

Does the new Golfshake System calculate handicaps for 9 hole rounds?

Not at present. We first plan to roll out the updates to the existing system and track handicaps over 18 holes. We will then look to adjust for 9 hole rounds.

What is a Course Handicap?

As previously mentioned one of the limitations with the old sytem was that for golfers playing one course the Handicap provided was more of a 'course' based handicap and did not 'travel' when playing other courses. Utilising an Index based system and with standardised information in relation to the difficulty rating of a course the Golfshake Handicap Index is now more of a base level.

This then allows the Golfshake Handicap Index to be adjusted based on the course being played, allowing for changes if a course is easier or harder.

How do I calculate my Course Handicap?

When visiting new courses most courses will provide either an information sheet or lookup table which will convert a Handicap Index into a Course Handicap for that course based off the Tee being played.

The Course Handicap calculation was updated across the UK inline with the system used in other parts of the world and similar to the old USGA based golf handicap index.  The Course Handicap is used purely for the strokes allocated for an individual round of golf and solelu used for the purpose of net score and point calculations.

Updates April 2024

Your Course Handicap is calculated from the following formula:

Your Golfshake Handicap Index multiplied by ( Slope Rating divided by 113 ) + (Course Rating - Par).


Prior to April 2024 the following forumula was used:

Your Golfshake Handicap Index multiplied by ( Slope Rating divided by 113 ).

For further information on April 2024 WHS updates click here.

How does the Course Handicap apply to me when playing a new course?

Your Course Handicap will effectively be your Playing Handicap for that day ie the Strokes you receive for the round. In terms of the Golfshake Score Tracker and app we have always provided the ability to alter your Playing Handicap which is then used for both Net and Stableford scoring.

Will all rounds be used for the Golfshake Handicap Index?

No. Like the existing system we will allow you to decide which rounds are tracked for handicapping but would encourage you to track as many as possible where you are playing for a score so that you get the most accurate reflection of your ability.

Some of the Golfshake course data is incorrect what should I do?

To provide updates for Scorecard data held on the Golfshake system then either submit a new Scorecard or simply email the support team with new information via [email protected]

Golfshake Member Information

Will my account now be using the new Golfshake Handicap Index?

No. At present the system is set to use the old system but will track both handicaps and allows you to manual switch.

When I sign up for a new account will it be using the Golfshake handicap Index?

No. At present the system is set to use the old system but will track both handicaps and allows you to manual switch.

Why haven't you migrated all accounts over to the new Golfshake Handicap Index system?

Following feedback, largely from Groups & Societies and members who manage accounts for other golfers, there were some members who were keen to continue with the old system for the time being. Therefore the Golfshake system will track both handicaps and allow you to assign your default preference. At present this can only be done on the Website and not within the App but changes and will show within the App.

Can I view the Golfshake Handicap Index data before updating my account?

Yes. Within the Handicap Tools section you will find an 'Audit' tool. This is always available and provides a breakdown of both the Golfshake Handicap Index and Old Handicap calculated on Golfshake.

How do I update my account to use the new Golfshake Handicap Index system?

Simply log in to the Golfshake website and access your Settings page. You can then assign the Handicap system to use. An option is also available from the management page for all managed accounts.

Why does it appear that data is missing from my Golfshake Handicap Index report page?

We are in the process of updating all members of the system and calculating Golfshake Handicap Index data for everyone from the historical data that we hold. This should be done within the next 48 hours but you can force an update on your account immediately. If no data is shown then simply access the Handicap Tools option for Recalculating and update, this will then assign your Golfshake Handicap Index from your last 20 rounds and provide historical data for your last 50 rounds.

What information do you provide for the new Golfshake Handicap Index?

Once you update your account to the Golfshake Handicap Index the report page will provide a breakdown of your current Index based on your last 20 rounds as well as provide historical data and changes for the last 50 rounds.

How do I update and use a Course Handicap?

The Course Handicap is usually provided at a golf course when you visit and based on your Index. Your Course Handicap is calculated from the following formula - Your Hcp Index multiplied by ( Slope Rating divided by 113 ).

For example a golfer with an index of 16.5 playing a course with a slope rating of 126 would have a Course Handicap of 18 ie 16.5 x ( 126 / 113 ) = 18.4 rounds to the playing handicap of 18.

In terms of the Golfshake Score Tracker and app we have always provided the ability to alter your Playing Handicap which is then used for both Nett and Stableford scoring. You can adjust via the following methods:

What is the Golfshake course difficulty and why is no Slope data shown?

The Golfshake course difficulty used in our Golfshake Handicap Index calculations is based on a number of factors and similar to the Slope and Course Rating information when we do not hold that data which hasn't been provided by our members. At present we are encouraging members to update our system with the latest information to allow the system to calculate Handicaps more accurately for them.

How will the Handicap update within the App?

At present you need to update your account to use the Golfshake Handicap Index via the website, updates will shortly becoming to the Apps. However, once the changes are made if you update/refresh your Home/Profile screen and the Round screen all data displayed will be updated to use the Golfshake Handicap Index information. Any rounds then added will have the Handicap adjusted based on the Golfshake Handicap Index system.

Golfshake Group/Society System Information

Do the updates also apply to Groups/Societies and Managed Accounts?

Yes we have updated the system for all aspects of the Golfshake Score Tracker and as mentioned you must manually update individual players to use the Golfshake Handicap Index system. An email will sent out directly to Group system members shortly providing updates in relation to the Group system.

How to set the handicap system used for Group players?

Viewing the Managed Accounts will allow you to Edit and update each player and the Handicap system used. Any Players on the list page show (i) identifies they are using the Index system. Please note that once you update the Player to use the new system you may need to Recalculate the Handicap of the individual Player to update their Handicap based on existing data, we are presently updating all of this automatically.

How to access the 'Course Handicap' for players prior to an event?

So long as you assign a default tee for an individual event the Player listing pages will now showing the auto calculated 'Course Handicap' prior to an event taking place. This information is likely to be available directly at the golf club.

How do you enter scores and use the 'Course Handicap' for each player?

The 'Strokes' entry box allows for a given players Handicap to be updated ie using their 'Course Handicap' for the calculation of net scores and stableford point scoring. At present the system will provide the data which will need to be overwritten.

How can I view the new player data?

The Player pages will now provide in-depth Handicap data and history information. Additionally, you can access audit data from the admin pages which will provide a breakdown of both the Golfshake Handicap Index and Old Handicap system data used.

The Old Golfshake Handicap System

The following system provides detailed information on the old handicap system that Golfshake previously provided and continues to provides as an option on your account.

Quick Golf Handicap Explanation

  • Add 3 18 hole rounds to our score tracking system
  • We adjust your scores removing any very bad holes
  • Your initial golf handicap is based on your average scores
  • Add additional rounds when you play
  • The handicap is then adjusted after each round

Golf Handicaps Explained

The Golfshake system calculates golf handicaps for golfers all around the world using a similar specification used in UK & Europe.  Through our service we have tracked over 2 million rounds online and have provided 1000s of golf handicap cards and golf handicap certificates to golfers who have used these to play golf courses all over the world.

Calculation of the Initial Golf Handicap

The following requirements are needed to allow our system to calculate your golf handicap if it isn't set during registration

  • The round played must be 18 holes.
  • The course/tee played must have a SSS (Standard Scratch Score) stored on the Golfshake.com system.
  • A golf handicap will only be set once 3 rounds have been added, based on the above criteria.
  • Once the first 3 rounds are added, the handicap will be calculated as an average of these rounds.
  • Any high scores will be adjusted to double bogeys to reflect any discrepancies.
  • Your golf handicap will be adjusted accordingly for each round thereafter.

The handicapping system we use is based on your current game performance. Your last round score will generally affect your golf handicap.

Ongoing Golf Handicap Calculations

Assuming either 3 rounds have been added to calculate the initial handicap or a handicap was set when signing up the follow then occurs for each round:

1. Each individual hole score is first adjusted to remove any bad holes.

Unlike the ESC (Equitable Stroke Control) under USGA , the UK system and Golfshaks golf handicap allows a maximum of a nett doubley bogey (nett +2) up to 36 and  nett triple bogey (nett +3) for handicaps above 36, on any hole. 

For example if a male player of handicap 17 shoots 8 on a par 4 SI (stroke index) 1, the maximum score allowed for that hole is 7.  Another way to understand the adjusted score is to think of it as the first score where no stableford (British format) points are earned.

Once applied to all 18 holes the 'Gross Score' score for the player is converted to  'Adjusted Score' based on any of the 'nett double bogey' adjustments.  The adjusted score will only reduce and not increase.

2. Adjusted score is compared to the SSS (Standard Scratch Score) with playing handicap

Standard scratch for the course somewhat resembles Course Rating in the USGA system. ( 70,71,72 etc.) although the SSS system is not a stringent application of a course review/rating system.

The Adjusted Gross Score less playing handicap less Standard Scratch then provides the basis of the golf handicap system.  A negative value is playing below your handicap and positive would indicate above your handicap.

So a 17 handicap golfer recording a gross 89 adjusted to 86 on a course with a SSS of 70 would have shot 1 stroke below their handicap ie 86 - 17 (69) - 70 = -1

3. The following golf handicap categories are widely used to provide the basis of handicap reductions and increases:

Category Handicap Range Buffer Zone Reduction per Shot Increase per Round
1 0.1 - 5.4 +1 -0.1 +0.1
2 5.5 - 12.4 +2 -0.2 +0.1
3 12.5 - 20.4 +3 -0.3 +0.1
4 20.5 - 28.4 +4 -0.4 +0.1
5 28.5 - 36.4 +5 -0.5 +0.1
6 36.5 - 54.0 +6 -0.6 +0.1

Working example:

  • Work out the Rounds Adjusted Score ie Gross score with 'nett double bogey' adjustments
  • Determine the Rounds Net Score. e.g. Adjusted Gross Score - Current golf handicap
  • Determine what Category this Golfer falls into based on current handicap.
  • If Nett Score is greater than Golfers Category Buffer Zone then simply add 0.1 to Golfers Handicap
  • If Nett Score Ranges from 0 to Buffer zone handicap is then unchanged.
  • If Nett score is negative then for each shot less than 0, the Golfers Handicap is reduced by the amount specified by the category he/she is currently in.

Player example for golfer off a 24 handicap:

The following are the adjustments made to the handicap based on subsequent rounds submitted :

Adj Score SSS Hcp Nett Hcp Score Hcp Adj New Hcp
93 72 24 -3 3* 0.4=1.2 22.8
94 71 22.8 (23) 0 no adjustment 22.8
96 71 22.8 (23) +2 0 (within buffer zone +4) 22.8
101 71 22.8 (23) +7 +0.1(outside buffer zone +4) 22.9
89 72 22.9 (23) -6 6*0.4=2.4 20.5
91 72 20.5(21) -2

this moves the player from cat 4 to cat 3

1*0.4=0.4 so 20.5-0.4=20.1 (now cat 3)




For further information help and support then simply contact [email protected]


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