Why You Should Only Beat Your Handicap 1/5 Rounds According To Golf Stats Guru

Arccos' stats guru Lou Stagner revealed how often golfer should beat their handicaps...

Golfer filling out scorecard
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Leading golf statistics guru Lou Stagner says golfers should only beat their handicaps once every five rounds...if their index is "legit."

Stagner, who is Data Insights Lead at Arccos Golf, posted the statement to Twitter and also said that you should only beat your handicap by three shots once every 20 rounds. He received huge interaction from golfers both in agreement and disagreement.

If your handicap is "legit", you should beat it about once every five rounds," Stagner wrote. "You should beat your handicap by three shots only once out of every 20 rounds."

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Many golfers may think that they should only beat their handicaps a few times per year but this new statement from Lou Stagner shows that perhaps you should be beating your index more than you might think. The current World Handicap System calculates golfers' handicap indexes based on their best eight scores from their last 20 rounds - meaning most players should have four scores out of the 20 that are below their handicap.

One golfer responded by saying: "Given we've just had a huge worldwide overhaul of the system is't it a flaw that 80% of the time we're disappointed?" Another user looked into their data and revealed they were following Stagner's trend: "My last 40 rounds I have gone lower than my HI once every 5 rounds!"

Another said: "Imagine standing on the 1st tee 99% of the time knowing you can’t win the monthly medal/stableford. Then you know your handicap is legit."

If you're beating your handicap more than one round in five, expect it to come down. And likewise, if you're not managing to beat your handicap once every five games, expect it to start creeping up. Beating your handicap may be by shooting 37 stableford points or a net score of one-under-par or better. It may also mean your score differential being lower than your handicap index.

Your score differential, according to the USGA, "measures the performance of a round in relation to the relative difficulty of the course that was played, measured by the Course Rating and Slope Rating." It also calculates the playing conditions (PCC) to take into account the difficult of the conditions.

Score Differential is calculated by:

(113 / Slope Rating) x (Adjusted Gross Score - Course Rating - PCC adjustment)

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.


Elliott is currently playing:


Driver: Honma TR20

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

2 iron: Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x