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Facts Index

Course Rating
Slope Rating
Slope Chart
Handicap Index
Course Handicap
Adjusted Gross Score
Negative Handicap
Too Complicated?
Hole Handicaps
9-hole Hole Handicaps
Who's Al Czervik?

Golf Competition

9-Point Game
6-Point Game
Point-Quota Systems
Stableford Scoring
Modified Stableford
International Scoring
The Ritz



spacer Myths, Legends & Real Facts

What’s a Mulligan?

A "mulligan" is a second chance, a second ball played from the spot of an original shot that has gone astray. They're frequently "taken" on the tee - particularly the first tee, but they might be used anywhere your partners allow them. They violate the Rules of Golf. Whether the ball used for a mulligan must be played is always a subject for heated debate.

Where did the term originate?

The origins of the term "mulligan" are lost in antiquity - shrouded in the mists of time. The players at every famous golf course in the world claim they used to have a member named Mulligan (or some variant of the name, like "Mel Egan" or somesuch) who would avail himself of a second ball whenever he thought a good excuse warranted it.

One of our favorite legends is that when a group all hit poor tee shots, they would declare they would "Hit 'em all again" in the spirit of fair play.

What's a handicap?

A handicap is a number that represents your skill as a golfer. Good players have low handicaps. Bad players (uh... less skilled players) have high handicaps. When a good player plays a match against a bad player, the good player must give the bad player strokes based on the difference between their handicaps. In medal (stroke) play competition using handicaps, a player's "net" score is their "gross," or total score, less their handicap.

How do I get a handicap?

If you belong to a golf club or association of golfers, your club can compute a handicap for you. The USGA (the United States Golf Association), the RCGA (Golf Canada), Golf Australia, and other organizations have published handicap systems for use by members of their authorized clubs. Most also have programs for you to form your own club or association which could compute your handicap.

If you don't belong to a golf club, you can compute a handicap however you wish, but you won't be able to use it in "official" competitions. There are lots of different types of handicaps.

What's a Course Rating?

A Course Rating is a mark of the USGA representing a number which describes the difficulty of a golf course from a particular set of tees for a scratch (zero handicap) player. Course Ratings are established by an evaluation of the course by members of a committee, usually from your regional golf association. Course Ratings are numbers like 68.5, 71.2, etc. In some golf jurisdictions, course ratings might be called something else, and may be expressed to a tenth or as whole numbers.

What's a Slope Rating?

A Slope Rating is a mark of the USGA representing an integer number which describes the difficulty of a golf course from a particular set of tees for a bogey (average) golfer. Slope Ratings vary from 55 (very easy) to 155 (very difficult). The Slope Rating of a course which has not officially been rated is 113, the Slope Rating of a course of "average" difficulty.

What's a Slope Chart?

A Slope Chart (officially called a Course Handicap Table) is a table of USGA Handicap Indexes and the equivalent Course Handicaps computed for a particular set of tees. Your golf club should have a published chart for men and women for each set of tees. You use a Slope Chart to determine your Course Handicap (from your Handicap Index) when you play.

We can build a Slope Chart for you on this web site for any golf club and set of tees.

Or, you can install our TeeChart iPhone App on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch to carry around the Slope Charts for all the courses you play.

Or, install The Scoring Machine, our iPhone, iPad and iPod touch mobile scoring app that has its own Slope Chart feature.

What's a Handicap Index?

Handicap Index is the trademark of the USGA for a number that represents your skill as a golfer, used to determine your handicap on different golf courses. A Handicap Index, when used with a SLOPE chart for the course you are going to play, will determine the handicap you use for that round. You may get a higher handicap on more difficult courses, a lower one on easy courses.

A Handicap Index is a number, precise to one decimal place. A Handicap Index is NOT a handicap - it's used to compute a handicap.

What's a Course Handicap?

A Course Handicap is the handicap you play with. It's computed from your Handicap Index and the Slope Rating of the tees that you play. It will be higher from the longer (more difficult) tees, lower from the shorter (easier) tees.

Our Course Handicap calculator can compute a Course Handicap for you, as will any of Mulligan Software's scoring applications.

What's my Adjusted Gross Score?

Your Adjusted Gross Score is your gross score, adjusted for ESC (Equitable Stroke Control), which limits your individual hole scores for unusually high scores, based on your playing handicap. Adjusted gross scores are only used to compute handicaps.

Can someone have a negative handicap?

Yes they can, except it's actually called a "plus" handicap - the number of strokes the player has to add to their gross score to compute their net score. Golfers with plus handicaps are expert players - capable of shooting below par or the course rating.

Isn't this all just 'way too complicated?

Yes it is. Almost no one computes their own handicap - or can verify that their handicap is being computed correctly, considering calculated Course Handicaps, Equitable Stroke Control, tournament round adjustments, etc. Unless, of course, you have software that will do these calculations for you!

What are hole handicaps?

Also called handicap stroke allocations, a scorecard identifies hole handicaps (numbers from 1 through 18 on an 18-hole course) to designate where strokes should be given in a match between two players of different handicaps. The hole marked "1" is determined to be the hole on which there is the maximum likelihood that a player would score worse than their lower-handicapped opponent. The No. 1 handicap hole is not necessarily the most difficult hole.

For example, if the difference between the playing handicaps of two players is 5 strokes, the higher handicapped player receives their 5 strokes on the holes with handicap numbers 1 through 5.

What about hole-by-hole medal (stroke) play?

In stroke play, a player gets his strokes where his handicap falls... a player with a 10 handicap gets strokes on holes with handicap numbers 1 through 10. A player whose handicap exceeds 18 gets a stroke on every hole and 2 strokes on those holes whose handicap reflects the number of strokes by which the handicap exceeds 18.

A player with a "plus" handicap adds strokes beginning with the hole handicapped 18, backward for each plus handicap stroke.

How are strokes given when hole handicaps are 1 through 9?

When playing an 18-hole match on a 9-hole course or a course where the hole handicaps are given as 1 through 9 for each nine, the first handicap stroke is given at the no. 1 handicap hole on the front nine, the next at the no. 1 handicap hole on the back nine, then the no. 2 handicap hole on the front nine, etc.

You may notice in the United States that handicap holes are typically arranged such that the odd handicap holes are on the front nine, even handicap holes on the back nine. This allows an "even" allocation of strokes for an 18-hole match, a convenient way of allocating strokes in a 9-hole match, and a fair way to allocate strokes for a match that requires more than 18 holes.

Who's Al Czervik?

Al is a member of Bushwood Country Club, where he plays golf with Ty Webb, Judge Elihu Smails and Doctor Beeper. They made a movie about Al and his friends called Caddyshack.