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Article: Plus Handicap Golf

Beginner handicap, mid handicap, scratch handicap, and plus handicap golf overview

Plus Handicap Golf

Introduction to Golf Handicap


In the diverse world of golf, where players of all skill levels come together to enjoy the game, there exists a system designed to level the playing field: the golf handicap.  The handicap is put in place so people who are brand new can compete with seasoned golfers, and make it fair.  At its core, a golf handicap is more than just a mere number. It's a purposely crafted measure that gauges a player's potential on the course. Whether you're a seasoned professional or a budding enthusiast, the handicap system ensures that every match, every tournament, and every friendly game can be a contest of skill, strategy, and spirit, rather than just raw proficiency. By embracing and understanding this system, we deepen our appreciation for the tradition of golf and ensure that the sport remains accessible and enjoyable for all.  Which is a core value here at VivanTee!

What is a Plus Handicap in Golf?

If you are here, you have heard the term "plus handicap." So, what is a plus handicap in golf? 


A "plus handicap" refers to the proficiency of a golfer who plays better than the course standard. In it's simplest form, it is a golfer that consistently shoots below par on the course. This is in stark contrast to the regular or "negative" handicap, which suggests a player will play above par. Such a bogey golfer is anywhere from a +17.5-22  handicap.


The distinction between a regular handicap and a plus handicap is crucial. While the majority of amateur golfers might strive to reach a zero handicap, meaning they play at the course's standard, a select few surpass this level to achieve a plus handicap, highlighting their exceptional skill and consistency on the green.

Chart showing plus handicap golfer ranking

The Golf Handicap System for Beginners

At its essence, a golf handicap is a numerical representation of a player's potential ability based on past performances. It's calculated using a specific formula that takes into account the most recent 20 scores and the difficulty of the courses played. The idea is that this number will represent a player's potential on a good day, rather than their average performance. 


Thus, a golfer with a handicap of 5 is expected to play roughly 5 strokes over par over the course of a round.  


Not All Golf Courses Are Equal 


The Course Rating and Slope Rating are critical components used to determine a player's handicap for a specific golf course. Here's a deeper dive into what each one means:


What is Course Rating?


  • This is a measure of the difficulty of a golf course for a scratch golfer (someone who's really good and plays to a 0 handicap).


  • It's expressed as a number, like 72, which roughly represents the expected score for a scratch golfer playing the course.


  • Various factors are considered when determining this number, including the course's length, the layout, hazards, the width of fairways, green sizes, and other obstacles that might affect a skilled golfer's score.


What is Slope Rating?


  • While the Course Rating is for scratch golfers, the Slope Rating measures the relative difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer (someone not as skilled) compared to a scratch golfer.


  • It's expressed as a number typically between 55 (easier) and 155 (tougher), with 113 being the average or standard difficulty.


  • So, a course with a slope of 130 is more challenging for the average player compared to one with a slope of 100.


  • Factors considered for the Slope Rating are similar to the Course Rating but weighed differently because they affect bogey golfers differently. For example, a very long course might be especially challenging for a bogey golfer compared to a scratch golfer.


When a golfer wants to determine their handicap for a specific course, both the Course Rating and Slope Rating of that course are taken into account, along with their recent scores on other courses. This ensures that the handicap is a fair representation of the player's skill relative to the course they're about to play, allowing golfers of different skill levels to compete fairly against one another.


The Elite Plus Handicap Golfer


Now, in the world of golf, you'll find players who outperform even the course's standard. Enter the "Plus Handicap Golfer." When a golfer consistently scores below par, they're awarded a plus handicap.  This is a mark of elite performance in the golfing community.


Handicap Plus Golf in Gym Class


Remember when you were young and had to run the track in high school gym class? Imagine you are in high school and you have 3 different tracks. One is straight and flat, nothing significant.  The other is very hilly and offroad.  Then thirdly, there is one with obstacles you have to climb over, crawl into, etc.  


  • Course Rating: This is the time your super fast friend, Chic Cheetah, takes to finish each track. He's so good that he sets a standard time on each one of the 3 playgrounds.


  • Slope Rating: Your friend Lily, who's just learning to run fast, will find the hilly track much harder than the flat one, and the obstacle track the hardest. The slope tells us how much harder each track is for Lily compared to Chic Cheetah's standard time.


  • Plus Handicap Golf Example: Now, enters Usain Bolt, who as we all know, very fast.  Way faster than Chic Cheetah and Lilly.   If the standard time for a track is 5 minutes, Usain Bolt can finish it in 4.5 minutes. So he gets a "-0.5" (or a plus handicap).  

Scorecard Where to Find Course Rating & Slope

Example scorecards showing golf course rating and slope for golf handicap
NY courses compared for difficulty, to highlight the differences for a plus handicap golfer. offers all golf course ratings and stats

How many plus handicap golfers are there?

To play plus handicap golf, you must possess a rare combination of skill, consistency, and mental strength. Here's what this means:

  1. Skill: This golfer has a deep understanding of the game, often displaying exceptional shot-making abilities, precision in short games, and superior course management.


  2. Consistency: Golf is a game of consistency. Even many skilled golfers can hit great shots, but the plus handicap golfer can do it almost every time. This means they're regularly hitting fairways, getting close on approach shots, and displaying a solid putting game.


  3. Mental Strength: Golf is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. The ability to maintain focus, stay calm under pressure, and strategize on the fly is paramount. Playing Plus handicap golf proves you are able to remain unfazed by challenges or setbacks.


Some Statistics


  • Less than 1.5% of registered golfers have a plus handicap. This rarity underscores the skill level associated with such an achievement.  For women, it's 0.75% of registered golfers, and for men, 1.99%.


  • The average handicap for male golfers tends to hover around 14, and for female golfers, it's around 28. The gulf between these numbers and a plus handicap emphasizes the elite nature of the plus handicap golfer.


  • Among professional golfers, a plus handicap is common, but even within their ranks, achieving a high plus handicap (like +5 or +6) is rare and indicative of the world's top players.

Wrapping it up

In the vast universe of golf, the elusive "plus handicap golfer" stands as a shining beacon of excellence. These golfers are not just players; they're artists who have honed their craft to near perfection. But remember, every swing, every hole, and every round tells a story – from the rookie stepping onto the green for the first time to the seasoned player shaving that last point off their handicap.


Eager to delve deeper into the intricacies of golf? Check out our comprehensive Golf 101 knowledge section. Whether you're an aspiring pro or a weekend warrior, there's always more to learn in this ever-evolving game.


And for those looking to elevate both their style and game, don't miss our exclusive line of designer golf gloves. Crafted with precision, they're the perfect blend of style and performance.  Dive into our collection and let your hands experience the luxury they deserve, as they drive you towards becoming the next plus handicap golfer on the block.

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