What Is The Average Golf Handicap?

How does your handicap compare to the average?

Close-up of a player marking a scorecard
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A golf handicap offers a numerical measure of a player’s ability over a round of golf, but what is the average handicap for men and women?

The World Handicap System (WHS) was introduced in January 2020 and presents one way of calculating and allotting a handicap in 119 countries. Previously, each jurisdiction had its own requirements and methods of doing so. While there have been teething troubles with the WHS, in general, the system remains a trusted means of measuring a player's ability and giving them a chance to compete with other players of differing abilities.

The WHS determines a Handicap Index based on the average of the best eight scores from a player’s last 20 rounds. Then, it calculates the number of shots a golfer receives on a particular course according to its playing difficulty. The maximum golf Handicap Index is 54 for men and women, with the Course Handicap combining the Handicap Index number with the course difficulty. It's worth noting that, while the two numbers are very often the same, depending on where you're playing, the Course Handicap can be far higher. 

With that clarified, let’s examine what we know about the average handicap under the WHS. In April 2022, England Golf’s head of Handicapping and Course Rating, Gemma Hunter, reported on a webinar hosted by the Golf Club Managers' Association that a male golfer’s average WHS index is 17.1, while it's 27.2 for female players. As for the maximum 54 Handicap Index, relatively few golfers have that number, with only 2,250 of the 400,000 users of the My England Golf app requiring it. 

In the US, it’s a similar story, with men averaging a handicap of 14.2 and women at 27.5, according to the figures from the USGA published nine months after the launch of the WHS, in September 2020. The 13-13.9 Handicap Index range was the most common for men, with 5.42 per cent of players. For women, the most common range was 27-27.9, at 4.07 per cent of players. 

Once again, those requiring a Handicap Index of 54 were extremely few in number, accounting for just 0.04 per cent of men and 2.32 per cent of women. As for the 2021 average US handicap, reportedly, for men it was slightly lower than the previous year, at 14, while the average women's handicap increased to 27.7.

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.