06/23/2014 10:44 EDT | Updated 06/23/2014 10:59 EDT

# Golf 101: We Explain The Golf Handicap (So You Can Stop Faking)

If you’ve ever wondered what exactly constitutes a golf handicap, you probably aren’t alone. And now, you don’t have to fake and bluff your way through conversation with your putt-head buddies; you’ll understand the whole process by the end of this piece. To put it simply, what the handicap does is make the game more enjoyable for you; allowing you to compete at your level of skill and still have fun.

Here are a few key things to remember about golf handicaps that can allow you to either improve or confidently lie about your own number.

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What is a handicap?

The Handicap Factor is a unit of measurement for you and other potential golfers so you can play more proportionately with players of differing skill. The higher the handicap is the poorer the golfer will be relative to other players. This is something that travels with you whenever you’re playing golf. You will be playing to your handicap approximately every one and five times.

What are scratch and bogey golfers?

They seem like hilarious classifications, but these labels are vital for discerning where your handicap falls in terms of skill.

A scratch golfer is someone whose handicap is at zero, therefore meaning the individual has a higher skill level. A bogey golfer is someone who is at a handicap of 18, thus at a lower level of skill.

Course rating

The course rating is a component in calculating your handicap. Essentially, the rating is expressed in the number of strokes. A golfer with a lower handicap will have fewer strokes, whereas a golfer with a higher handicap has more, which is proportionate to your skill level and how many strokes you require in each round to meet par.

To calculate your golf score you must do the following first: figure out your Handicap Differential, which is your adjusted score minus the course rating, multiplied by 113, divided by the Slope Rating, and rounded to one decimal place. (Simple, right?)

This seems like a lot of math all at once, but it is completely doable. Average the lowest 10 of 20 of these differentials and then multiply by 0.96 — and voila! You have successfully calculated your golf handicap.

Course Handicap

Whenever you play, your golf handicap gets converted to a course handicap, which allows for difficulty of the course and tees played. In that round, it will represent the number of strokes you will receive. It will be deducted from the gross score to determine the net score.

Play a few rounds, calculating your handicap each time, and you’ll find that the math becomes second nature in no time. You’re that much closer to Tiger Woods (with a few less scandals, hopefully)!