Golf Swing Tips | What Percentage of Golfers Have a Single Digit Handicap?

What Percentage of Golfers Have a Single Digit Handicap?

Not too long ago I received a question from one of my readers who asked me, “What percentage of golfers have a single digit handicap?” And that question got me thinking two things: 1) Yeah, I’m curious about that myself and 2) What a great idea for another article for this site! I have to admit that I didn’t readily know the answer to that question, but at least I knew where to look.


Otherwise known as the United States Golf Association, the USGA offers a standard system for determining any golfer’s handicap. It has separate systems for determining Men’s Golf Handicaps from Women’s Golf Handicaps. Since I am a guy I was particularly interested in the Men’s Statistics. Here is what I found on their site (Note: This chart is directly from the Official site (with a little bit nicer formatting). I encourage anyone interested in how the handicapping system works to continue reading this article because I will show you exactly where to find this information on their website. We’ll also talk about some of the other great features of  the site and how it can help golfers of any level understand more about the handicapping system and even calculate their own handicaps. That site is a valuable resource for beginning golfers trying to understand handicapping.Mens USGA Handicap Index

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What is a Golf Handicap?

First of all I HATE the official definition of a handicap. According to WikiPedia it’s a “numerical measure of a golfer’s potential playing ability based on the tees played for a given course.” Yeah, that’s helpful. Here’s the definition of a golf handicap:

                              It’s how many strokes on average over par you usually shoot

In layman’s terms it is how many free strokes you would need to compete on a level playing field with a scratch golfer (defna golfer with no handicap or a handicap of zero). Here is a quick example of how a beginning golfer can calculate their handicap. So if we assume that par for the course is 72 and that you regularly shoot 100. You have a handicap of +28. Your score minus par = your handicap, so (100 – 72 = 28). In reality, there is a little bit more to it (okay, maybe a lot more) but for the purposes of this article and us non-professionals, that’s pretty good.

So, a single digit handicap is a handicap that is under 10 (assuming that a typical course is par 72, a golfer who shoots between 81 to 73 would be considered a single digit handicap golfer).

Want to know how to get your handicap to these levels? Check out…..

The Official How to Break 80 ™ Golf Instruction Program

What is a Golf Handicap Used For?

A golf handicap is used to create a level playing field (i.e. scoring system) when golfers of different abilities compete together. This oftentimes happens in charity golf tournaments, amateur golf tournaments, junior golf outings, and other various non-PGA level golf tournaments.

Do Beginning Golfers Have a Handicap?

All golfers have a handicap because it’s really just a measure of how well you play, but I like to separate a golfer’s handicap into their unofficial handicap and their official handicap. First let’s talk about the unofficial handicap (this is not really a thing, but something that I invented just to have fun and play with my golfing buddies who are both better and worse than I am). For my unofficial handicap, I just keep track of my golf scores throughout the season and come up with an average score. Let’s say it’s 100 so the math is easy and similar to our example above. At the end of the season I calculate my scoring average – 72 (I assume this is the average par for the courses I play) and arrive at +28. That’s my unofficial handicap. Not real exact here, but when I play with my friend who has a single digit handicap of +8, I better get my 20 strokes!

Official Handicap

For my official handicap, we’ll turn again to the website. On their site we find this quote

While the USGA develops the formula for a Handicap Index®, a USGA Handicap Index is issued through a licensed golf club. Each licensed golf club must follow all the policies and procedures established within the USGA Handicap System –

So now we see that while the United States Golf Association maintains the official formula to calculate your golf handicap, you actually get your handicap – referred to as a USGA Handicap Index – through one of these USGA licensed golf clubs. So if you want an official handicap index you need to find your local licensed golf club to get it.

How Can You Calculate Your Golf Handicap?

Well, if you’re a beginning golfer like a lot of us around here and you don’t need an official USGA handicap index, you can use my unofficial formula above. If you want a number that is closer to what your actual, official, USGA golf handicapping index would be, it’s not quite as easy. To calculate your official golf handicap, you need to record more pieces of information than just your score, specifically, you need to keep track of the following: USGA Course Rating, USGA Course Slope, and of course your eighteen hole score. Oh yeah, then there’s a bunch of complicated math. I prefer to use a free golf handicapping calculator like this one found on

Putting it all Together to Answer My Reader’s Question?

So how do we tell what percentage of golfers are a single digit handicap by looking at the chart above? Let’s first define what a single digit handicap is: It’s any golfer who has a handicap that is LESS THAN TEN STROKES. Why? Because ’10’ is the first double-digit number – duh.

Looking at the chart above we can see that 31.31% of all male golfers are a single digit handicap! That is waaaayyyy more than I would have ever thought when I was first asked this question. That’s almost a third of all male golfers. Having a single digit handicap used to seem like an almost unattainable goal when I first started playing golf, but knowing that almost 1/3 of all male golfers are this good makes me think two things: 1) Having a single digit handicap is an achievable goal and 2) Wow, here are a lot of golfers out there who are much better than me!

(Note: The above chart from the website is always changing as more and more golfers have their official handicap index computed. I believe they update that chart every two weeks so you may find my screenshot above of the handicaps of all male golfers slightly different than the one found on the USGA website, depending on how much time has passed between my publishing of this article and when you read it.)

Everything Else You Might Want to Know About How A Golf Handicap Is Calculated

If the information above isn’t quite enough for you, I recommend that you visit the Official Handicapping Page on There you will find detailed explanations in the form of videos about what the USGA handicapping system actually is, the real math behind a Handicapping Index, any changes that have been made to the USGA Handicapping Index, the latest improvements in technology that can help average golfers like us calculate our handicaps, and everything else you would or could ever want to know about the handicapping system.

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