Maximum Handicap Index

USGA Handicap System (pre-2020):  The maximum Handicap Index is 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women.

Rule Change for 2020:  The maximum Handicap Index for all golfers will be 54.0, regardless of gender.

Reasons for Change:

  • To make the game more welcoming to new players and incentivize beginners to establish and maintain a Handicap Index.
  • To provide all players with a more precise measure of their demonstrated ability and allow players of all skill levels to track their progress in the game.
  • By encouraging novice and recreational players to get a Handicap Index, they’ll be provided with opportunities to learn about the Rules of Handicapping.
  • Although the number of players with a Handicap Index at or above the current maximums of 36.4 and 40.4 is relatively small, many golfers who currently play but do not have a Handicap Index would be above those limits.
  • Statistics show that players with a Handicap Index play more rounds of golf. Therefore, making the system more welcoming can help grow the game and create a more sustainable future.
  • Although the maximum Handicap Index will be 54.0, the Committee in charge of the Competition can set a lower maximum limit for entry or use in competitions.
  • If the desire is to have players with similar abilities competing against each other, the Committee can also divide the competition into flights.
  • Although some are concerned that increasing the maximum Handicap Index may lead to handicap manipulation, safeguards exist within the Handicap Index calculation to minimize the potential for it (“Cap” – Rule 5.8; “Exceptional Score Reduction” – Rule 5.9; “Handicap Review” – Appendix D).