What is a good golf handicap?

I tasked @CoryO with answering the question, “what is a good golf handicap?”

While I don’t think there is a perfect answer, check out this article he did and some of the data he provided!

Feel free to discuss :grinning:


Confirming what I thought, that I need to go buy this t-shirt:


Such a good article and many many good points brought up. I actually love that you ended with anyone consistently breaking 90 being a good golfer. I say that because I think if you ask most people they’d say regularly breaking 80 or even many I’m sure would say around par. For many of us who are scratch or low hdcps it’s easy to forget exactly how hard it was for us to break 100 and 90 for the first time. How many people around here are still searching for that first round in the 80s and would label themselves avid golfers.

Golf is hard!!! Having a plus hdcp doesn’t change that at all.

That being said, I think anyone who’s getting better is a good golfer. Chasing improvement is such a process and requires so much hard work. If it’s your goal to get better, you’re a good golfer. If you’re someone who just goes out to drink or play once a year or whatever it may be you’re probably not a good golfer - and you probably don’t care about whether or not you’re good.


The fact that handicap =/= average score is something so many people don’t seem to grasp. So many people think scratch golfers average par (or the course rating) when the reality is they likely average 2-3 over the course rating. I hear gossip about how that scratch golfer they got paired with is a vanity cap because they shot 80, but really they just don’t understand how handicaps work.


Such a great and detailed article. Love this type of content…was staggered that only 2.4 million of 24 million golfers hold a handicap!!

Takeaway…I’m above average at something :tada::balloon::sunglasses:


My handicap is exactly zero right now (go figure) and my avg score this year is 73.4 (a lot of golf played on par 70). I think handicaps are grossly misunderstood by a lot of golfers and it leads to a lot of post-match bickering!


That’s the reminder: “good” is such a relative term. If anyone’s ever read Paper Tiger, where Tom Coyne devotes a year to doing nothing but getting as good as he can at golf, you’ll remember his “golf pyramid.” The very bottom of the golf pyramid is “The Best Player You Know.” Coyne refers to that guy’s ability with a colorful expletive, and then explains just how far that guy is from making money, much less being on the Tour.

It looks like there’s a summary of it here on this old abandoned blog: http://divotsthroughoutdallas.blogspot.com/2012/09/paper-tiger-by-tom-coyne.html

Against the bleak assessment, it’s good to be reminded that there’s a reasonable standard for “good” golf that allows for us regular shmoes who put in some work to realize that we’ve made real progress, so thanks for the article, @CoryO!


If you change the question to “what is a good golfer” my answer is:

  • good attitude
  • understands etiquette
  • can play a 4 hour round

I’d play with an 18 handicap any day of the week who knows how to have fun rather than a scratch golfer who is a human rain delay


I think that would be another way to evaluate what “good” is, and I’d agree with you on all your points!


I love this article and how informative and stat driven it is. This is right in line with the are you a scientist or an artist post, I love the science. I did read before that breaking 80 puts you in the top 1% of all golfers in the world. Which would in turn prove that a guy who shoots high 70’s to low 80’s is an elite golfer with an above average handicap. I didn’t realize that I would be in what was considered (by the bell chart) good golfer handicap range. However, it does make sense that 10-15.9 would be a good handicap. That means you are typically staying in the low 80’s to low 90’s. I figure that that is about average for golfers out there. Once again, I am surprised at all of the things I continue to learn from this forum, it blows me away that there is something new to gain knowledge from everyday. A lot of the stuff I probably would have never realized I needed to know it, but know I am much better off knowing it now. I have learned so much about myself and my game, and I honestly didn’t think a golf forum would make that possible.

As a side note, according to my State (NV) I am better than average so I guess I am good. Hahahaha


Thanks for the responses everybody! I really enjoyed digging into the question. I also agree that the definition of “good golfer” really goes well beyond ability. You can score well and be a horrible golfer (cheating, no respect for others, mistreating the course) as well as play poorly, but still be “good”.


Enjoyed the read and the analysis - crazy that the sources all seem to align with GHIN data!

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My original post changed the question a bit so I could provide a tongue and cheek response.What can I say @jon , I am insufferable.

In all seriousness, good article @CoryO. I agree with the takeaway that consistently breaking 90 makes you a good golfer. Great in depth analysis.

While this game is all about score, there are significant step changes that come with ball striking ability. On some level, consistently breaking 90 indicates an ability of being able to go tee to green that is far ahead of the average golfer. You are able to get around the course and golf your ball.

To me being a “good golfer” or above average is always going to come back to how you strike the ball (I am talking about perception from an average golfer… I realize this game is all about score though :slight_smile:)

Also its shocking how few people actually know how a handicap index works. Kinda makes for easy money for those of us who uh… dont mind a little advantaged play :slight_smile:


Looking at my stats for this year I shoot in the 80s on my par 70 course about once every 6 rounds. That is the same average I play to, or better, than my handicap. I also shoot over 100 a few times a month. My best month was averaging 92 while playing off a 17 handicap. With just the best 8 out of the last 20 rounds being counted toward handicap this explains why average score and handicap can be so different.


I think it’s a fair assumption that for the “average” golfer, the more you play, the bigger divergence there will be between the handicap index number and the mathematical average score. I think that’s why a lot of avid club players don’t post all their scores like they should, they don’t want a hot streak to ruin their differential for the competitions.

I need this in my wardrobe, but…y’know, with a collar

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Be careful: if you make it into a hoodie, you’ll get tossed from the fancier golf establishments.


Last year when I played 416 rounds I was playing 20 rounds every 2-3 weeks so my best scores dropped out of my best 8 very quickly. From my experience people don’t put their cards in when they have a shocker


That’s kinda where I’m at - working working working on my game and, after 10 years at it, still looking to break 90 (guess I’m a slow golf learner!).

Feel like I’m inching closer … usually play anywhere in the 90s … and today had more bogeys than “others” … but those others plus a blow-up hole per side put me back up to 101…

Did hit several nice golf shots, though – “so I got that going for me” :slight_smile: