Golf Canada is the authoritative body for the purposes of establishing and maintaining a uniform handicap system for golf clubs in Canada in co-operation with the provincial golf associations.

The purpose of the Golf Canada Handicap System is to make the game of golf more enjoyable for golfers by providing a means of measuring one’s performance and progress and to enable golfers of differing abilities to compete on an equitable basis.

Through this system, each golfer establishes an “Golf Canada Handicap Factor” which is a numerical measurement of a player’s potential (not actual) scoring ability on a course of standard difficulty.

The Handicap Factor is calculated using the best 10 of the player’s last 20 rounds and updated with each new round played. The Handicap Factor travels with the golfer from course to course and is adjusted up or down depending on the length and difficulty of the course played, resulting in a “Course Handicap”. The Course Handicap is the number of strokes a golfer receives from a specific set of tees at the course played and represents the number of strokes he would require to play equitably against a “scratch” golfer (a golfer with a Handicap Factor of “0.0′). The more difficult the golf course, the more strokes the golfer receives and vice versa.

The relative difficulty of a golf course is determined jointly by Golf Canada and the provincial golf association using the Golf Canada Course and Slope Rating System. Specially trained Course Rating Teams evaluate the difficulty of a golf course based on such variables as length and a number of obstacle factors (e.g. topography, bunkers, water hazards, severity of rough, etc).

Only Golf Canada member golf clubs are permitted to use the Golf Canada Handicap System and Golf Canada Course Rating System and related trademarks and service marks and must do so in a manner that preserves the integrity and reliability of these systems. All rights to use these systems and related trademarks and service marks terminate should the golf club cease to be a member in good standing with Golf Canada.

Golf Canada Handicap System Changes for 2016

The 2016 golf season will see the implementation of a new Handicap cycle. This two-year cycle is effective March 1, 2016 – February 28, 2018. Below you will find information regarding the changes that have been made in the Golf Canada Handicap Manual for a quick reference Six significant changes are seen in the upcoming edition of the Golf Canada Handicap Manual, which will impact approximately 3.3 million golfers who hold a Handicap Factor® issued throughout Canada and 10 provincial associations. Those highlighted changes include:

Definition of a tournament score: Additional guidance is provided to Committees conducting competitions regarding the definition of a tournament score, placing greater emphasis on “significant events.” The definition excludes fundraising events and regular league play, in favor of designated competitions such as a member/guest or club championship, local amateur tournament or national qualifying and competition.


Adjusting hole scores: A revised decision provides clarity for acceptable scores in limited situations where the player has not played a hole(s) under the Rules of Golf, but his or her score would be sufficiently accurate for handicap posting purposes. Three areas covered under the examples include: 1) where the Local Rule is not in effect, but a player chooses to use a Distance Measuring Device or preferred lies; 2) where a player does not wish to cause undue delay; or 3) where the situation is outside of the player’s control, such as an incorrectly marked golf course.  (Section 4: Adjusting Hole Scores)

Posting scores when a player is disqualified: To improve alignment with the Rules of Golf, the revised Handicap System is clearer about what scores are acceptable when a player is disqualified. In general, a score is acceptable for handicap purposes even when a player fails to hole out, or apply a Rule that affects the rights of another player. If the disqualification breach is determined to provide an advantage for the player, the score is deemed unacceptable for handicap purposes. (Section 5-1: Acceptability of Scores)

Anchoring and posting: A new reference concerns a player who anchors the club while making a stroke during a round and fails to apply the appropriate penalty or an adjusted hole score (Section 4-2). Since the score would not be reflected as playing under the Rules of Golf, it would be unacceptable for handicap purposes. (Section 5-1: Acceptability of Scores)

Playing alone and necessary peer review: To further support the key System premise of peer review, scores made while playing alone will no longer be acceptable for handicap purposes. This change underscores the importance of providing full and accurate information regarding a player’s potential scoring ability, and the ability of other players to form a reasonable basis for supporting or disputing a posted score. (Section 5-1: Acceptability of Scores)

Committee responsibilities: In an effort to assist the Handicap Committee with its responsibilities, this revision addresses a player with a temporary disability or permanent disability who has a Handicap Factor that is no longer reflective of his/her current potential ability. In the particular instance cited, the Committee will no longer assign a local handicap (denoted with the letter “L” for local use only), but instead will issue a (temporary) modified Handicap Factor (denoted by the letter “M”). This change supports the portability of a disabled player’s handicap, so that it can be used outside the player’s home club. (Section 8-4c: Handicap Factor Adjustment by Handicap Committee)

An overview of these changes with more detailed information can be found here. The complete Golf Canada Handicap System Manual will be posted to golfcanada.ca/handicapping, and is available for purchase on the Golf Canada e-store.

Handicap FAQs

The following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding handicapping and course rating. Please read carefully to see if any questions you may have are answered in this section. If you do not receive the answer you are looking for in the FAQ’s, feel free to submit a question using the email address at the end of this page.

Q. Can a person obtain a handicap without being a member of a golf club?

A. One of the main principles within the Golf Canada Score Centre is that you must be a member of a golf club in order to obtain a Handicap Factor. However, Golf Canada has a “Public Player” program that gives golfers the opportunity to play golf at different courses and still have the opportunity to obtain a Golf Canada Handicap Factor and be a member of Golf Canada and provincial golf association. To find out more click here.

Q. What is ESC (Equitable Stroke Control)?

A. Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) is the downward adjustment of individual hole scores for handicap purposes in order to make handicap factors more representative of a player`s potential ability. ESC sets a maximum number that a player can post on any hole depending on the player`s Course Handicap. ESC is used only when a player`s actual or most likely score exceeds his maximum number.

Course Handicap

Maximum Score

9 or less Handicap

Double Bogey

10 to 19 Handicap

Maximum score of 7

20 to 29 Handicap

Maximum score of 8

30 to 39 Handicap

Maximum score of 9

40 and Over Handicap

Maximum score of 10

Q. I don’t seem to play to my handicap very often. Why?

A. Our Handicap System is based upon the potential ability of a player rather than the average of all his scores. As such, the average player is expected to play to his Course Handicap (your Handicap Factor adjusted for the Slope Rating of the course and tees you are playing) or better only about 25 percent of the time, average three strokes higher than his Course Handicap, and have a best score (of the last 20) which is only two strokes better than his Course Handicap.

A player’s Handicap Factor is reflective of his or her playing potential because it is based upon the best scores posted for a given number of rounds, ideally the best 10 of the last 20 rounds. Since the worst 10 scores are tossed out, the Handicap Factor reflects the player’s best golf.

Q. What scores are acceptable for posting purposes?

A. Almost all scores are acceptable because the basic premise of the Golf Canada Handicap System is that every player will try his or her best on every hole, in every round regardless of where the round was played. Therefore all of the following are acceptable scores:

  • 18 hole rounds
  • 13 or more holes played you must post an 18-hole score
  • 9 hole rounds
  • 7-12 holes played you must post a nine-hole score
  • Scores on all courses with a valid Course and Slope Rating, whether at home course, away course, or out of country
  • Scores in all forms of competition: match play, stroke play, team competitions
  • Scores played with preferred lies

For handicapping purposes, the following are unacceptable scores:

  • Scores of fewer than 7 holes
  • Scores made on a golf course in an area during its inactive season
  • Scores made not under the principles of the Rules of Golf
  • Scores from courses under 3,000 yards for 18 holes
  • Scores made in competitions stipulating the use of less than 14 clubs
  • Scores made on golf courses without valid Course and Slope Ratings
  • Scores made on courses that are not a member of an Authorized Golf Association
  • Scores made while playing alone

Q. What score do I post if I am conceded a stroke in match play?

A. If a player starts but does not complete a hole or is conceded a stroke, that player shall record for handicap purposes their most likely score. The most likely score consists of the number of strokes already taken plus, in the player’s best judgement, the number of strokes that the player would need to complete the hole from that position more than half the time. This number may not exceed the player’s Equitable Stroke Control limit. This most likely score should be preceded by an X, such as X6.

There is no limit to the number of unfinished holes a player may have in a round provided that failure to finish is not for the purpose of Handicap Factor manipulation.

Example 1: A and B are partners in a four-ball stroke play competition. On a hole on which neither player receives a handicap stroke, A lies two, 18 feet from the hole. B lies two, 25 feet from the hole. B holes a putt for a three. A picks up their ball because they cannot better B’s score. A records X4 on the score card because 4 is their most likely score.

Example 2: A and B are playing a match. On a hole on which neither player receives a handicap stroke, A has holed out in 4; B has a 30 foot putt for a 5. B has lost the hole, and picks up. He records X6 on the score card because 6 is their most likely score.

Example 3: A and B are playing a match. On a hole on which neither player received a handicap stroke, A is one foot from the hole, lying 4. B is 10 feet from the hole, lying 3. B putts and misses. They agree to a half. Both players record 5 because that is the score they most likely would have made.

Q. What score do I post for a hole not played?

A. If a player does not play a hole or plays it other than under the Rules of Golf (except for preferred lies), their score for that hole for handicap purposes shall be par plus any handicap strokes the player is entitled to receive on the hole. When recording this hole score, precede the score with an “X”. This concept can also apply to a hole with a temporary green or tee which renders the hole substantially different from its usual form.

Example: A player with a Course Handicap of 10 receives a handicap stroke on the first 10 allocated handicap-stroke holes. If the player does not play the sixth allocated stroke hole because of construction on the green, the player shall record a score of par plus one for handicap purposes.

Q. We’ve made changes to our course and/or don’t think our Course Ratings are correct. What do we do?

A. All Course Ratings are determined and issued by your provincial golf association. A club may never rate its own course or make adjustments to the course rating you have been issued. If you have made temporary (e.g. temporary tees/greens) or permanent changes to your golf course your club should notify the provincial golf association.

In the case of temporary changes, the association will decide whether scores made under those conditions will be accepted for handicap purposes and whether the Course or Slope rating should be modified temporarily. If you have made permanent changes to your course, the course will be re-rated by the provincial association.

Q. Does Golf Canada provide handicap calculation software?

A. Yes, all member clubs are entitled to utilize the internet-based Golf Canada Network as a member service.

Q. We have a number of questions regarding Handicap & Course Rating systems. What do we do?

A. Your handicap committee should have an up-to-date copy of the Golf Canada Handicap Manual.

If you can’t find the answer you are looking for in the manual, please call our toll-free Handicap Help Desk 1-800-263-0009 ext. 399.

Q. Should I post the scores from my winter vacation?

A. If the round(s) played were in an area observing an Active Handicap Season then you must post the score(s). Most of the southern United States observe a year-round Active Season, but you can confirm the Active Season for where you are playing by calling the State golf association for that area.

Q. What are the Active Handicap Seasons for posting rounds played in Canada?

A. BC = Mar.1 – Nov.15
AB = Mar.1 – Oct.31
SK = Apr.15 – Oct.31
MB = Apr.15 – Oct.31
ON = Apr.15 – Oct.31
QC = Apr.15 – Oct.31
NS = Apr.15 – Oct.31
NB = May.1 – Oct.31
PE = Apr.16 – Nov.14
NL = Apr.1 – Nov. 30

Q. How soon after playing do I have to post my score for handicap purposes?

A.The score must be posted immediately following the round, or if that is not possible, as soon as practicable.

Q. How do I know if a score is supposed to be posted as a Tournament Score?

A. The committee in charge of the competition and the Handicap Committee at the club must decide if a particular score is to be posted as a ‘T’ score. It is important that the committee declare to the players beforehand whether or not the score must be posted as a ‘T’ score.

Q. Are tournament scores calculated differently than regular scores?

A. No. Tournament scores are calculated the same as regular scores, but if tournament scores posted are much lower than regular scores posted the Handicap Factor may be subject to an automatic reduction. See Section 10-3 of the Handicap Manual.

Q. Should only a percentage of a player’s Course Handicap be used in competition?

A. In most forms of competition, Golf Canada recommends that players be allowed to compete with their full Course Handicap. However, there are certain forms of team competition where Golf Canada recommends a percentage be used in order to ensure a fair competition. See Section 9-4 of the Handicap Manual.

Q. Does my club have to have a Handicap Committee?

A. Yes. As per the Golf Canada Member Club Handicap License Agreement, in order to issue Handicap Factors to its members, a club must have a Handicap Committee.

Q. How is a Course Handicap calculated?

A. A player’s Course Handicap is determined by multiplying a Handicap Factor by the Slope Rating of the course played and then dividing by 113. The resulting figure is rounded off to the nearest whole number (.5 or more is rounded upward).

Q. In a match between a man and a woman, if a hole is par-5 for women and a par-4 for men and both players score a 4 on the hole, who wins the hole?

A. In match play, par is irrelevant. The player who scores the lowest on the hole wins the hole.

Q. What is the maximum handicap a person can have?

A. The maximum Handicap Factor for men is 36.4 and for women is 40.4. A Handicap Factor exceeding these limits must be identified as a Local Handicap.

Note: A maximum Handicap Factor will convert to a Course Handicap that exceeds the max. on golf courses with a Slope Rating greater than 113. Ex. A player with a Handicap Factor of 36.4 will have a Course Handicap of 43 on a course with a Slope Rating of 133.

Q. I’ve just played golf in the UK. Can I post the scores for handicap purposes?

A. Only scores from courses with a Course and Slope Rating are eligible for handicap purposes. Most courses in the UK do not have a Course and Slope Rating, so scores from these courses are not eligible. Some courses in the UK do have a Course and Slope Rating and its becoming more and more common as North American golfers have requested the ability to post scores for handicap purposes. Check the scorecard for a listing of Course and Slope Rating, or ask a golf course official.

Q. How are 9-hole score combined to create an 18-hole score?

A. 9-hole scores are combined regardless of where they were played, i.e. a front nine score from Pebble Beach will be combined with a front nine score from Hamilton GCC. The 18-hole combined score is the sum of the nine-hole Course Ratings and the average of the nine-hole Slope Ratings (.5 rounded up).

Q. How do I post a score for hole with a temporary green?

A. If the hole’s character and playing length have not been altered and you can play the hole under the Rules of Golf, then you can post your actual score on the hole. Otherwise, you must post par, plus any handicap strokes you would be entitled to on that hole. See Section 4-2 of the Handicap Manual.

Can I post a score if I play alone?

A. No, a golfer cannot post a score for Handicap purposes if you are unaccompanied during a round. If a golfer is accompanied for 7 holes on a 9-hole round or 13 holes on an 18-hole round then the golfer can post their score and use Par plus and Handicap strokes they are eligible for on any unaccompanied holes. For further information on solo rounds see FAQs.

Q. Can I post a score if I have played two balls?
Note: See Decision 5-1d/2

ANo. A score made with either ball must not be posted as such scores are not made in accordance with the Rules of golf.

Q. How can I become Handicap Certified?

A. Each provincial golf association conducts a series of handicap seminars throughout the year. The seminars are generally 3 hours long, including a brief quiz. Upon passing the quiz an attendee is then considered handicap certified (every Golf Canada member club must have a representative attend a handicap seminar) and prepared to be part of the Handicap Committee at their club (every Golf Canada club must have a Handicap Committee). Golf Canada also offers an online certification program which members are able to register to take. Visit handicap.golfcanada.ca for more information.

If you have any additional questions, please contact 
members@golfcanada.ca or call 1-800-263-0009 x 399.

Handicapping Manual

This manual is the complete book of information and instruction about the Golf Canada Handicap System.

First, you will find the purpose and requirements of the Handicap System followed by definitions of important terms . The responsibilities of the player are covered in the next two sections, followed by those that the player shares with the Handicap Committee at the golf club. Next, you will find responsibilities of the Handicap Committee . The Handicap System Formulas, Checks and Balances of the System, Course Rating, Golf Course Set-Up, Par Computation, and Allocation of Handicap Strokes are covered in the last eight sections. Information about Short Course Handicap and Junior Par are in the Appendices. Handicap Decisions follow each section of the manual.

Use this manual whenever a question arises about the Handicap System. Knowing the proper procedure will help provide a framework for fair and enjoyable games.

With the exception of the terms “Golf Canada”, “Golf Canada Handicap Factor”, “Handicap Factor”, and “Factor”, some of the trademarks and service marks in this manual are the property of the United States Golf Association (USGA), which has generously given Golf Canada permission to use the system.

As the owner of the term Golf Canada and a Licensee of those well established trademarks and service marks, Golf Canada has the sole right to authorize the use of those marks by others.

To order copies of Golf Canada’s Handicap Manual, call 1-800-263-0009 x283

Golf Canada’s Handicap Manual

Ask a Handicap Expert

To ask a Handicap question, please email Craig Loughry at cloughry@golfcanada.ca.

Certified Handicap Software

In order to protect the integrity of the game, Golf Canada has launched an annual licensing and certification process so Golf Canada member clubs can readily identify handicap software programs that properly calculate Golf Canada Handicap Factors. Golf Canada member clubs must use certified handicap software.

Without an official Golf Canada Handicap Factor, players are ineligible to enter national or provincial amateur competitions. A Golf Canada Handicap Factor is only “official” when it has been calculated within Golf Canada certified software and the golf club (with or without property) is a member in good standing of Golf Canada /provincial golf association. Below is a list of the handicap software calculation programs that have been certified and licensed:

Golf Canada
Contact: Craig Loughry
Address: Suite 1 – 1333 Dorval Drive Oakville, ON L6M 4X7
Telephone: 905-849-9700 ext. 433
Fax: 905-845-7040
E-mail: cloughry@golfcanada.ca
Web site: www.golfcanada.ca
Software name: Golf Canada Score Centre
Contact: Gilles Gauthier
Address: 20 de Montizambert Boucherville, QC, J4B 6M2
Telephone: 450-641-4241
E-mail: gilles@gggolf.ca
Web site: www.gggolf.ca
Software name: gggolf
Golfnet Inc.
Contact: Jim Stracka
Address: 5 Dowd Circle, Suite B Pinehurst, NC, 28374
Telephone: 910-215-8800
Fax: 910-215-9869
E-mail: golfnet.contact@golfnet.com
Web site: www.golfnet.com
Software name: Golfnet Handicap System and Eagle System

Course Rating

The purpose of the Golf Canada Course Rating System is to measure and rate the relative difficulty of golf courses across Canada so that a player’s Handicap Factor is accurate and transportable from golf course to golf course. The Course Rating System takes into account factors that affect the playing difficulty of a golf course including yardage, effective playing length and number of obstacle factors such as topography, elevation, doglegs, prevailing wind, bunkering, etc. After a thorough study of the Course and Slope Rating System developed by the United States Golf Association (USGA), Golf Canada approved and adopted the system for Canada in January 1995.

The Golf Canada Course Rating System consists of two basic elements:

Course Rating – the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers under normal course and weather conditions expressed as number of strokes (e.g. 72.5).

Slope Rating – the evaluation of the relative difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers compared to the difficulty of the course for scratch golfers. The lowest Slope Rating is 55 and the highest 155. A course of standard playing difficulty will have a Slope Rating of 113.

Every member golf course should have a Course Rating and Slope rating for each set of tees at the course.

Accuracy and consistency are the keys to effective course rating. Golf Canada and the provincial golf associations work together to rate golf courses and ensure that Course Ratings are accurate and uniform from coast to coast. Only Golf Canada authorized provincial golf associations may rate golf courses. If a club disagrees with its ratings, it may request that the provincial golf association review the ratings.

Handicap Training Seminars & Workshops

As the governing body of golf in Canada, Golf Canada requires that all member clubs have at least one certified Handicap Official, as well as have a Handicap Committee in place.

In order to help each club achieve this requirement, Golf Canada is working with the Provincial Associations to present a number of seminars & workshops throughout the season. These sessions are an opportunity for club representatives, volunteers and any member interested to improve their knowledge in Handicapping. These sessions offer the chance to share ideas, ask questions and ensure that each club operates under the same standard across the country.

New this year, Golf Canada and your Provincial Golf Association are offering our Handicap Certification program online. Handicap Committee members or other interested members are welcome to take our online course.

This $35 course is suitable for anyone who wishes to gain a better understanding of the basics of handicapping and explains how the system was designed and how it works.

Upon completion, participants will receive an electronic certificate via email, as well as the latest edition of the Golf Canada Handicap Manual.

To sign up for the online Handicap Seminar, click here and login with your Golf Canada Membership number and your Golf Canada Score Centre password.

2016 Workshops:

Date Province Location City Language
March 7 BC Webinar N/A English
April 23 NB Delta Fredericton Hotel Fredericton English
April 30 ON Loyalist Country Club Kingston English
April 30 QC Cap-Rouge Golf Club Quebec City French
May 1 QC Milby Golf Club Sherbrooke French
May 2 BC Webinar N/A English
May 3 QC Métropolitain Anjou Golf Club Anjou French
May 14 ON Mississaugua Golf & Country Club Mississauga English
May 24 QC WindMill Heights Golf Club Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot French
May 27 QC Ottawa Hunt Ottawa English
May 28 ON West Haven Golf & Country Club London English
May 29 SK Royal Regina Golf Club Regina English
May 29 SK JVR Building. 510 Synthia St. Saskatoon English
June 6 BC Webinar N/A English

For more information regarding additional dates, venues and registration please follow the below links for each Province:

Alberta Golf Association
British Columbia Golf Association
Golf Association of Ontario
Golf Manitoba
Golf New Brunswick
Golf Newfoundland Labrador
Golf Quebec
Prince Edward Island Golf Association
Saskatchewan Golf Association

Handicap Certification

As the governing body of golf in Canada, Golf Canada requires that all member clubs have at least one certified Handicap Official, as well as have a Handicap Committee in place.

In order to help each club achieve this requirement, Golf Canada is working with the Provincial Associations to present a number of seminars & workshops throughout the season. These sessions are an opportunity for club representatives, volunteers and any member interested to improve their knowledge in Handicapping. These sessions offer the chance to share ideas, ask questions and ensure that each club operates under the same standard across the country.

Related Links