What is the average golf handicap?
In the United States as of 2023, according to the United States Golf Association
The average handicap for male golfers is 14.2.
The average handicap for female golfers is 27.5
This means the average golf score for men is around 86, and for women, the average score is around 99.
World Handicap System
In 2022, countries around the world started adopting a new universal handicap system. There used to be six different handicap systems in use around the world. This meant players who traveled overseas may end up in a system where their true handicap index varied from one location to another.
To overcome this, the world handicap system was adopted and it is now in use in 124 countries.
There were no drastic changes, instead, the biggest effects were around scoring adjustments and standardizing how those are made. For example, the net double bogey rule. Basically, this means there is a maximum score for any given hole.
Other adjustments for playing conditions and an exceptional score reduction were also standardized.
A handicap index is supposed to be a representation of a golfer’s demonstrated ability. So, when external factors such as bad weather play a part in higher scores, the world handicap system has agreed on ways to mitigate those impacts since in theory, they are one-offs.
Official Golf Handicap Distribution
Less than 2% of males can call themselves a scratch golfer. For women, it is less than 1%.
The top 5% of male golfers have a handicap of 2 or better. The top 5% of women have a handicap of 10 or better.
The top 10% of male golfers have a handicap of 5 or better. The top 10% of women have a handicap of 14 or better.
The top 25% of male golfers have a handicap of 9 or better. The top 25% of women have a handicap of 21 or better.
To crack the top 5oth percentile, men will need a 13 or better, while women need a 27 or better.
The worst 1% of male golfers, who actually have handicaps, have a 36 or higher handicap. For women, the bottom 1% have a handicap of 54 or higher. The image below outlines the percentage of golfers by handicap.
See the full range from the USGA.
For those of you wondering – is a 12 handicap good? Well, you’d be better than 65% of the men and 93% of the women. So it’s definitely not bad!
What is an Average Golfer?
Men who shoot around 86 for 18 holes, or 43 for 9 holes would be considered average.
Women who shoot around 99 for 18 holes, or 49 for 9 holes would be considered average.
Related – What percentage of golfers break 90
Any golfer who can break 90, which most average golfers can, can reasonably play and have fun with other golfers at any skill level. This is really where golf handicaps come into play, they create a level playing field so each golfer can measure their play relative to their own skill level, but also against their friends.
How to Lower Your Handicap Index
If you are an average weekend golfer who does not put any time into practice, I think there are a couple of things you can do to lower your handicap index relatively quickly. Good course management and smart decision making will go a long way for golfers with higher handicaps.
If you are willing to put some practice time in, you can expect to see even bigger improvements. Figure out what the biggest weakness in your game is, work to address that first. Getting better in one area tends to have broader improvement in other areas of your game.
One of the biggest improvements to my game came from working on my 100 yards and in distances.
Related – Wedge Distance Control
Having a good understanding of golf ball flight patterns, and more importantly, what causes them, can also help you immensely. Understanding why your ball sliced can give you the framework to fix it on the next shot.
Related – Golf Ball Flight Laws
Although it is nice to see where you are compared to the millions of other golfers on the planet, don’t get too caught up in the numbers. Have reasonable expectations and enjoy your game!
Don’t get me wrong, I am very competitive and suspect you are as well if you’re reading this article. But I have to reflect on the advice my grandfather seemed to repeat quite a bit when he took me for 9 holes. Play against the course!
Don’t worry about what the next guy is hitting, just play against the course. When I pull myself back into that space, I tend to play much better and the handicap effectively takes care of itself.
Good luck on the golf course!