How to Understand Golf Handicaps and Points

Written by izzy barden
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How to Understand Golf Handicaps and Points
Stableford points can put an interesting spin on the game. (Golf player image by Dario Corno from

A handicap in golf is the amount of strokes deducted from your score at the end of a round in order to level the playing field for everyone. The handicap is determined by how many strokes over par you average as determined by the courses slope index. The harder the course, the higher the slope index. The Stableford points system is used only in specific events whereby each hole is awarded points based on individual scores in ratio to the difficulty of the hole. For example, a player with a 5 handicap will have a stroke deducted from the five most difficult holes, so a par on one of those holes would be allotted the amount of points for a birdie.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Obtain a USGA handicap through your local golf course or online at its website. Post your score after every round along with course information found on the back of most scorecards so your handicap can be generated. It usually take at least 20 scores before you have a legitimate handicap, and there is generally a fee for this service.

  2. 2

    Enter a Stableford points event.

  3. 3

    After your round, deduct strokes from each hole your handicap allows and tally your points.

    • USGA's recommended scoring for a Stableford event:

    0 points - Double bogey or higher (two or more over par)

    1 point - Bogey (one over par)

    2 points - Par

    3 points - Birdie (one under par)

    4 points - Eagle (two under par)

    5 points - Albatross or double eagle (three under par)

  4. 4

    Compare your points against every other player, the one with the most points wins.

Tips and warnings

  • The downside to a Stableford event is the winner doesn't necessarily have the lowest score. Players don't receive a point on a hole whether they get a double bogey or a 15, so even with the same handicap as the winner and a better score, you can still lose.

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