What is a handicap?

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Updated: 4/18/2007 11:42 am
In most sports, if you compete against a far superior opponent, the results are pretty predictable. You'll lose, your opponent will win, and the game won't be much fun for either of you. In golf, the handicap system enables golfers of different abilities to compete on an equal playing field. The first thing you have to do is get a handicap. You do this by playing at least 10 rounds of golf. These scores are averaged to determine your basic handicap. After that, your handicap will change as you play. It's computed according to your scores on the best 10 of your last 20 games. Most courses now use computers to keep track of players' handicaps each time they play a round. There are also devices that let you calculate your own handicap, but these results aren't recognized by the United States Golf Association. If your handicap is five, and your opponent's is nine, you'll be giving up four strokes over the course of a round. Your opponent gets these strokes on the course's most difficult holes. The United States Golf Association has a complicated system for ranking the difficulty of each hole. The results appear on your scorecard. In the column marked 'handicap' you'll find the numbers one through 18. This is the difficulty of each hole, with one being the hardest, and 18 the easiest. If you're giving your opponent four strokes, one will be subtracted from their score on the holes with handicaps of one through four.
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