Course Handicap Calculator: How to Convert Your Index Into Strokes

The 10th green at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii, site of the PGA Tour Sony Open
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

If you have a USGA handicap index, you'll need to convert it into a course handicap before starting your round. It's course handicap that tells you how many handicap strokes you are allowed during a round of golf.

But just how do you go about converting a handicap index into a course handicap? Well, you could do the math, which is explained here. Or you could simply use a nifty online course handicap calculator that does the math for you.

Here is where to find free, online course handicap calculators:

The USGA's Course Handicap Calculator

Course handicap is part of the USGA Handicap System, so if you need to know yours you might as well go to the source. There is a course handicap calculator on USGA.org with inputs for your handicap index and slope rating. Provide those, click the "Calculate" button, and there you go: your course handicap.

If for some reason you don't want to use the USGA's calculator, or have trouble using it, just do a Google search for "course handicap calculator." You'll find many sites that provide one, including the websites of many of the USGA's state and regional associations, and some PGA of America sections also have calculators on their websites. (And some golf courses provide the calculator on their own sites, too.)

What If You Don't Know the Slope Rating?

If you don't know the slope rating of the golf course you'll be playing, check the golf course's website.

They probably have it listed or provide a scan of the course's scorecard, where it should be listed. You can also contact the golf course and ask.

Or use the USGA's Course Rating and Slope Rating Database to look up the course's slope rating.

Old School: Course Handicap Conversion Tables

In the days before computers and smartphones and online calculators and apps, golfers had two ways to calculate their course handicap:

  • Do the math;
  • Or check the USGA's Course Handicap Conversion Tables.

The conversion tables are charts, one for each slope rating from 55 up to 155. Each table lists a handicap index range and shows you what that converts to for the given slope.

So a golfer with a 17.5 handicap index playing a golf course with a slope rating of 133 would find the table labeled "Slope 133," find his index of 17.5 on the list, and look across to the corresponding course handicap (in this example, 21).

Some golf courses had these charts posted on a wall or bulletin board; others kept them in binders for golfers to consult; others put the responsibility on their pros for looking up course handicaps for customers who wanted them. Some did all three. Some still have the charts available.

The Course Handicap Conversion Tables are pretty much obsolete these days, but the USGA still makes them available. Want to see them? Even print them out for your own use? Check out this .pdf file posted by the Washington State Golf Association: