How Often Should Golfers Play To Their Handicap?

We all think that we should beat our handicaps in every round, but how often do we actually manage it?

How Often Should You Play To Handicap
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Most, if not all, golfers set out on a round of golf to beat their handicap - but how often do we actually achieve the feat?

We're led to believe that getting 36 points is a once-a-month thing or perhaps only three or four times a year, but that doesn't really account for competition and social play.

The tendency is that most golfers will score much better in social play as opposed to competitions simply due to the pressure, so shooting your handicap most weeks in the roll up probably isn't an exact representation of your game.

With a scorecard in hand and no gimmes, competition play is a completely different beast to a friendly knock with your pals.

Back in 2018, before the new World Handicap System came into effect, we put out a tweet asking golfers how often they expect to play to their handicap, and the results were interesting...

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From the replies we got, with people giving us competition/handicap data, we saw a slight pattern...

  • Around 50% of competition rounds were above the buffer zone
  • Around 25% of competition rounds were in the buffer zone
  • Around 25% of competition rounds were below handicap

However, with the new World Handicap System being launched in January 2020, it now means more golfers can obtain and maintain a Handicap Index. Also, golfers can transport their Handicap Index globally and compete or play a casual round with players from other regions on a fair basis.

It will also indicate the score a golfer is reasonably capable of achieving the next time they go out to play. This, therefore, gives a fairer reflection (opens in new tab) of what standard they are playing at during that present moment.

This might mean then that the statistics above are a bit harsh. Perhaps now, thanks to the capabilities of the handicap increasing and reducing in larger bursts, playing to your handicap is a more regular occurrence. 

Matt Cradock
Staff Writer

Matt joined Golf Monthly in February 2021 covering weekend news, before also transitioning to equipment and testing. After freelancing for Golf Monthly and The PGA for 18 months, he was offered a full-time position at the company in October 2022 and continues to cover weekend news and social media, as well as help look after Golf Monthly’s many buyers’ guides and equipment reviews.


Taking up the game when he was just seven years of age, Matt made it into his county squad just a year later and continues to play the game at a high standard, with a handicap of around 2-4. To date, his best round came in 2016, where he shot a six-under-par 66 having been seven-under through nine holes. He currently plays at Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and his favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.


Matt’s current What’s In The Bag?

Driver: Honma TW747, 8.75°

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2, 15°, 19°

Hybrid: Adams Super Hybrid, 22°

Irons: Mizuno MP54, 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Tour Satin, 50°, 56°, 60°

Putter: Cleveland TFI 2135 Satin Cero

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x