How Many Rounds of Golf Does It Take to Establish a Handicap?

A single golfer teeing off
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You want to establish a USGA Handicap Index for your golf game, but how long does that take? Not long at all.

Once you've joined a golf club that uses the USGA's system, you only have to turn in five scores (from five 18-hole rounds of golf) in order to first receive a handicap index.

Those 5 Rounds are 'Adjusted Gross Scores'

Note that the scores golfers turn in for use in calculating a USGA Handicap Index are not their actual gross scores, but what are called adjusted gross scores.

Adjusted gross scores are those that include the per-hole limits known as "equitable stroke control."

Once you've submitted five adjusted gross scores to your handicapping committee, you are eligible for your first USGA Handicap Index.

Your Index Will Eventually Involve 20 Scores

You can get started with a USGA Handicap Index with only five rounds of golf. But eventually, your handicap index will involve your 20 most-recent rounds of golf. The calculation uses your lowest 10 scores from your 20 most-recent rounds of golf.

We've been discussing the requirements of the USGA Handicap System, it should be noted, and different systems around the world may have different requirements. The Universal Handicap System (UHS) administered by CONGU in the U.K. and Ireland, for example, requires 54 holes (preferably in the form of three 18-hole rounds) to get a golfer started with a handicap.

Golfers who live in areas that use a handicapping system other than the USGA's should check with the governing body or handicapping authority where you are located.

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