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Your Golf Handicap

Golf Handicap Buffer Zones and Stroke Index

How does your golf handicap go and down. How does it change?

How does your golf handicap change - Buffer Zones and Stroke Index

Learn how to calculate your golf handicap

Your golf handicap is recalculated every time you add a scorecard either in a golf club competition or perhaps with our online handicap tracker. Every scorecard you add recalculates your golf handicap. It may go up or ideally, it will stay the same or go down.

When recalculating your golf handicap, the amount it changes depends on two key things. Firstly, your starting handicap defines what is call ed the buffer zone that determines how fast or how much your handicap will change. 


If you are a high handicap golfer, the changes in your handicap (at least for reducing your handicap can change fast), but the closer you are to a zero handicap, the less your handicap changes. Secondly, your handicap improves faster than it gets worse. For all handicap levels, your score will increase by +0.1.



So let’s have a look at the details of the buffer zone and the stroke index.


Golf Stableford Calculation

Buffer Zones

Each time you add a scorecard, your golf handicap is recalculated. 

The Buffer Zones related to your Handicap and determines how you handicap changes, either up or down. As your handicap decreases, becomes closer to 0, it becomes more difficult to lower your handicap. 

You will also notice that your handicap does not jump up when you have had a bad round, but increases slowly.

Your handicap is always to one decimal point, but for playing and calculation purposes, your handicap is rounded up or down to give a playing handicap. An actual handicap of 14.3 is a playing handicap of 14. 14.5 is a playing handicap of 15.

Quick Links


Reduction (shot)Increase
0.1 – 5.4
5.5 – 12.4
12.5 – 20.4
20.5 – 28.4
28.5 +

Adjusting your scores

The first thing that takes place after adding your scorecard is that your score must be adjusted. The maximum score possible on any hole is +2 and therefore if you play +8 on a Par 5, you adjusted score will be +7, 2 over Par.



Why adjust your golf scores? – The reason for adjusting your golf scores is to not penalise very bad holes. If you shot 10 over par on one hole but played bogey on every other hole, a handicap value of 27 would not reflect your playing ability.



The next time you play you might play +18 over par and play -9 under your handicap.


Stroke Index - Shots Awarded

The stroke index gives every hole on the course a rating between 1 to 18.

In Matchplay, depending on your handicap, you are rewarded a number of strokes on certain holes based on their Stroke Index. Within Europe, the stroke index is used for handicap calculation which is based on Stableford points.

If you have a 6 handicap, then you will be awarded one extra shot on the 6 most difficult holes, i.e. 1 – 6.

If you have a handicap of 12, then you will be awarded one shot on the 12 most difficult holes, stroke index 1 to 12.


If however, you have a handicap of 27, you will be awarded one shot for every hole, plus one extra on the 9 most difficult holes. This means you get 2 shots on the 9 most difficult holes and 1 shot on the easiest holes,

How does your golf handicap change

Every time you play a round, your golf handicap has the potential to change. It may go up or down or it may stay the same. learn how your handicap is adjusted after each round.



Golf Handicap Calculation

Recalculating your golf handicap after every round can be time-consuming and that’s one of the reasons why our golf handicap tracker can do it for you. By adding your scorecard, the handicap tool will automatically update your golf handicap ready for your next round.


So what happens?

  1. After you submit your full scorecard we take your Adjusted Score from the SSS of the course.
  2. We take this value (Gross Score) and subtract your current playing handicap
  3. This gives us your Net Score (Net differential)
  4. We then apply your Net Score, to the various Buffer Zones for your handicap.




How does my golf handicap go up and down

Some examples of a 28 Handicap player.

Your Handicap Increases

Adjusted Score – SSS = Gross Score103 – 70 = 33
Gross Score – Handicap = Net Score33 – 28 = 5
If Net Score > Buffer then ADD 0.15 is > +4
Running Handicap + 0.128.0 + 0.1

Your new handicap would be 28.1


How does my golf handicap stay the same?

Adjusted Score – SSS = Gross Score101 – 70 = 31
Gross Score – Handicap = Net Score31 – 28 = 3
Net Score is within Buffer Zone3 is < +4
No Change to Handicap28.0

No Change in Handicap




How does my golf handicap reduce?

Adjusted Score – SSS = Gross Score95 – 70 = 25
Gross Score – Handicap = Net Score25 – 28 = -3
Net Score is less than handicap so 0.4 per shot3 x 0.4 = 1.2
Running Handicap – 1.226.8

Your new handicap would be 26.8


To find out more about Stableford points and how they work, visit our Stableford Calculation Guide

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