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What Is A Plus Handicap In Golf

The terms “plus handicap” and “plus golfer” are ones that apply to very few golfers around the world — golfers who are so good and have handicap indexes so low that they have to give strokes even to a scratch golfer. A plus-handicapper or plus-golfer is a golfer whose handicap index is lower than zero.

A plus-handicap golfer essentially has to add strokes to his score. The vast majority of golfers who carry a handicap will, at the end of the round in stroke play (or on individual holes in match play) subtract strokes from their score. If you shoot 90 and you have a course handicap of 15, your net score is 75.

But a plus-handicapper has to add strokes in that scenario. A golfer who is a +3, for example, and who scores 68 has to add three strokes for a net 71. In a match-play setting, a +3 handicapper would owe three strokes to a scratch (zero-handicap) golfer.

Note that plus sign (+) in the preceding example. That is where the terms “plus handicap” and “plus golfer” come from. If your handicap index is lower than zero, a plus (+) in front of the numeral is the way that is indicated. Also note that plus-golfers still convert their handicap index to a course handicap before the round, just like the rest of us.

How Many Plus-Handicap Golfers Are There?

Not many! According to USGA statistics, in the United States only 1.85-percent of male golfers are scratch or better (so less than 1.85-percent are plus-golfers); and just 0.69-percent of women golfers are scratch or better.

What about golfers at +1 or even lower? Just 1.13% of men and 0.50% of women are that low. In the United States, those percentages mean that only around 2,000 women are +1 or better, and only around 20,000 men are +1 or better.

Are Pro Tour Golfers All Plus Handicaps?

David Feherty once joked about his fellow golf broadcaster and former PGA Tour player Charlie Rymer, calling him, “the only 12-handicapper to ever play the tour.” But, in fact, the worst player on any significant pro tour is a plus-handicapper.

Or they would be if they carried a handicap index. Only amateur golfers who chose to register for a handicap have handicap indexes. Turning pro means giving up your amateur status and, therefore, your handicap index.

So, technically, no pro golfers, anywhere, are plus-golfers. But over the years there have been media efforts to calculate handicap indexes for pro golfers, just as a what-if, a wow-factor, thing to do.

According to the magazine Golf Monthly, PGA Tour players Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer have reached +7 (seven strokes lower than scratch). In 2020, a golf statistician calculated that the average handicap index on the PGA Tour would be +5.4 (but that was without accounting for the more difficult golf courses and fields). When Tiger Woods was still an amateur, when he really did have a handicap index, he got as low as +8.0. After he turned pro, it has been calculated that during his 2000 season Woods would have gotten as low as an astonishing +13.

More articles:

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  • Meaning of the old handicap term ‘receiving a half’
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