For years, I hadn’t been entirely sure how Golden Tee calculates a player’s handicap that is shown in the upper right when starting a new game, and also in relation to your handicap score shown after each hole played. Most theories pointed to some formula calculated by the average of your best 10 of your last 20 games, but I could never get that concept to work exactly right. As it turns out, the only factors that play into your handicap adjustment after a game are your handicap entering the game, and the score you just recorded.
First of all, there are two places where you can see your handicap to two decimal places, and they are both on the website. The first is in the “My Stats” tab under the “Totals” filter:
The next is in the “Stats Play” or LIVE Play” tab, if you expand the contest results by clicking ‘More’ in the “Details” column. The handicap shown here is your new handicap as calculated after this round was played:
If you are brand new, you need to play 36 holes to establish a handicap. This will be the additive inverse of the average of your two scores. So if you shoot a 4 and a 6, your handicap will be a +5. Almost.
There’s a twist, because in that scenario, your handicap would actually be 5.04. Why? It’s because IT actually calculates your handicap per hole, not per round, and then represents your 18hole handicap by multiplying 18 by your perhole handicap.
So my average is 5 after two games. To get my perhole average, I need to first divide by 18. 5/18 = 0.27777. IT does not retain decimal places past the hundredth, so this rounds to 0.28. Therefore, my perhole handicap is now 0.28. To translate this back to an 18hole handicap which is what you normally see, take the 0.28 * 18 to get 5.04.
You may have noticed that your handicap seems to move up or down in increments of 0.18, and it’s because of the rounding to the nearest hundredth for your perhole handicap. If I had 0.29 per hole, for instance, my handicap would be the nexthighest possible value of 5.22.
So that establishes your handicap and also helps explain why your handicap goes up or down by factors of 0.18. But how do you know if it’s going to change after your round, or how much?
There’s a grid for that — check it out:
Final Score * 1 minus Entering HCP 
Stroke difference from Entering HCP 
MIN 
MIDPT 
MAX 
HCP Change 
6.5 
7 
7.49 
1.26 
5.5 
6 
6.49 
1.08 
4.5 
5 
5.49 
0.9 
3.5 
4 
4.49 
0.72 
2.5 
3 
3.49 
0.54 
1.5 
2 
2.49 
0.36 
0.5 
1 
1.49 
0.18 
4.99 

0.49 
0 
14.99 
10 
5 
0.18 
24.99 
20 
15 
0.36 
In simplest terms, if you shoot 1 stroke better than your handicap, it goes up 0.18. If you shoot 2 strokes better, it goes up 0.36, and so on. But it takes a really bad game to move it down. You have to shoot at least 5 strokes worse than your handicap to go down just 0.18, and 15 strokes worse to move it down another factor. And, it’s capped there…your handicap can never go down more than 0.36 after any single round. However, there doesn’t seem to be a limit on how much it can improve after a single round.
For those of you looking for a formula, take the midpoint divided by 5.55555 to get the expected handicap adjustment moving up, and the midpoint divided by 55.55555 to get it moving down. So now you can see how a really good game can cause your handicap to jump up quite a bit, while a really bad game doesn’t hurt you too much. It’s weighted to deter sandbagging.
So, the entire range in the row comes into play. To improve my handicap by at least the minimum 0.18, I need to shoot at least 0.5 strokes better than my handicap entering that game. And if I end up shooting 1.49 strokes better, it still goes up by 0.18. I’d need to hit the next plateau of 1.5 strokes better to see it go up 0.36 after the game instead.
What about 9hole games? To answer that question, I looked more specifically at what happens if you DNF a game. Many times your HCP does not change after a DNF, but I also saw it go both down and, unexpectedly, up after a DNF as well.
So how does that happen? IT basically applies your perhole handicap to the unplayed holes to fill out a full game of 18. So if I played 5 holes and quit, it would add my score after 5 holes to my projected score over the next 13 holes, based on my current handicap. IT uses that as my final score and adjusts the handicap according to the grid.
Here are two examples of how I saw that work. Entering one game, I had a 24.66, so that’s 1.37 per hole. I shot an 8 on the first hole (+4), and then quit on hole 2. So, take the 1.37 * 17, which equals 23.29. Now add in the +4, and I’m 19.29 to complete the round. That’s more than 5 full strokes worse than my entering handicap, so it goes down by 0.18, and that’s what happened.
Now I’m at a 24.48, which is 1.36 per hole. So I’m at 23.12 for 17 holes. Now I shoot an eagle on the first hole for 2, and quit on hole 2 again. Add in my 2 on the first hole, and I’m 25.12. The grid says that’s good enough for my handicap to jump by 0.18 since it’s more than 0.5 strokes better than my entering handicap, and that’s what happened.
So, for a 9hole contest, it should work the same way. You don’t divide everything in the grid by 2 — you just fill in the 9 remaining holes with your perhole handicap and add it to your score. So if I’m back at a 24.66 handicap, 1.37 per hole, then that’s a score of 12.33 for 9 holes. In order to see my handicap improve, my 18game total has to be at least 0.5 strokes better than my entering handicap, so I’d need to shoot a 13 on the 9hole contest for a total of 25.33. If I only shot a 12, my handicap would stay the same per the grid. I’d have to shoot a 7 for a total of 19.33 to see it actually go down by 0.18, since I’d then be at least 5 full strokes worse than my entering HCP.
So now you know what to expect regarding your handicap after each game, and hopefully that puts to rest the questions you may have had about how it adjusts.