GolfCap, your personal handicap caddy

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How is the golf handicap calculated?

The golf handicap is a complicated calculation. There are 9 that relate to a single round of golf:

  1. Your Prior Handicap Index. This is the number that most people think of as the Handicap. It's a measure of your potential score over par on a course of average difficulty on a good day. For example, a golfer with an 18 handicap index will likely shoot bogey golf.
  2. The Course Rating. A measure of how hard the course is for a par golfer. It is provided for you on your score card.
  3. The Slope. A measure of how much harder the course is for a bogey golfer than it is for a par golfer. It is also listed on your score card.
  4. Your Course Handicap. This number determines how many strokes you’ll reduce your score by on a particular course if you're playing competitively with handicap scoring. It allows golfers of different abilities to compete against each other fairly, and varies with every round of golf you play. It is calculated from your handicap index and the slope. Even if you aren’t playing with handicap scoring, you’ll need to know this number because it’s used to calculate number 5...
  5. Your Maximum Strokes Per Hole. This is how the handicap system prevents blow up holes from over-inflating your handicap index. When reporting a round’s score to the handicapping system, it must be adjusted so that no hole’s score exceeds this number. If you don’t have this number calculated correctly with each round, you can easily record the wrong scores to your handicap.
  6. Your Score. The raw, unadjusted score you shot on a round. For example, if you shot a 12 on one hole after going out of bounds a couple of times, it is, unfortunately, a 12. It’s the score that counts in competition.
  7. Your Adjusted Gross or "ESC" Score. Your score after knocking down your blow up holes to your maximum, from step 5. If your max per hole is 8, for example, that 12 from going out of bounds gets reduced by 4, as does your total adjusted score for the round. This is the score that counts toward your handicap index. (FYI: ESC stands for Equitable Stroke Control.)
  8. Your Differential. This is the fairest measure of how you played a round. It’s takes into account your adjusted score and the rating and slope of the course to come up with an adjusted over par number. It takes your current skill level and the course’s difficulty into account, so a high score on a brutally tough course can have a much lower differential than a low score on a course with few hazards.
  9. Your Handicap Index. This is your new handicap index as a result of this round. It is also the number that will be used as your prior handicap index (number 1 above) for the next round that you play.

All that is for a single round of golf. Then the handicap index in item 9 is calculated as a function of up to 20 of the past differentials, where the system choses a number of your best rounds depending on how many you’ve played total. It’s not the easiest system to get right without help.

Golfcap helps you keep all this straight so you can enjoy your game.

Q: How do I delete a round?

That depends on whether you are using GolfCap on iOS (iPhone or iPad) or on Android, as each operating system has its own idiom for protecting against accidentally deleting something.

On iOS, on the Main List screen, swipe your finger from left to right across the round you want to delete. This will cause a red "Delete" button to appear on the right. This swipe gesture is a common idiom in iOS apps. Try it in other programs too!

On Android, on the Main List screen, hold your finger on the round you want to delete for a few seconds. Eventually a context menu will pop up with Delete as the only choice.

Q: What does "ESC" mean?

"ESC" is short for Equitable Stroke Control. The golf handicap calculation tries to measure your potential as a golfer more so than how you play on average, which means giving more weight to when you play at your best and deemphasizing it if you occasionally blow up (as most golfers do). The handicapping system does this in several ways, one by throwing out your worst rounds, but also by knocking down your worst holes to some allowable maximum. Your score after reducing any bad holes to that max is called your Adjusted Gross or ESC score. For example, if for one particular round your max allowed was 8 strokes, you shot a 93 but that included a 10 on one hole (but you made 8 or better on the remaining 17 holes), your ESC score would be 91 after reducing that 10 to an 8. The potentially tricky thing is that your maximum per hole can change from one round to the next based on your current skill level and the difficulty of the course you happen to be playing that day. So GolfCap helps by computing that maximum on a round by round basis, and letting you know that number at the top of the Round Entry screen as well as on the entry screen for the Adjusted (ESC) Score (starting with GolfCap version 2.1).

Q: I've entered at least 5 rounds and it still shows blank for my Handicap Index. What gives?

Odds are you are missing one or two pieces of information GolfCap needs to perform the handicap calculation. Most commonly, you likely put in your raw Score but missed the Adjusted (ESC) Score. "ESC" stands for Equitable Stroke Control, and is the handicapping system's way of making sure your occasional blow up hole doesn't inflate your handicap too much. You're allowed a maximum number of strokes per hole towards your handicap calculation based on your current skill level and the difficulty of the course. So you always need to check your Maximum Strokes Allowed (at the top of the New Round entry screen) and subtract any strokes above that per hole from your final raw Score. Even if you didn't have any bad holes and your ESC Score is the same as your plain vanilla Score, you still need to enter it again as ESC so GolfCap knows you've looked at it and ensured no adjustments were needed. If you have entered the Adjusted (ESC) Score and still get "--" for your handicap index, you may be missing the Course Rating or Slope for some of your rounds. Rounds with missing information will be highlighted red on the main List view.

Starting with version 2.1, missing fields that GolfCap absolutely has to have to make the calculation will highlight red. Also, your Maximum Strokes Allowed will be displayed below the text entry field for Adjusted (ESC) Score so you won't have to go looking for it.

Q: Can I keep track of my buddy's scores and handicap too?

The coolest thing about GolfCap is that it is mobile. We want you to get instant gratification as you walk off the 18th green to that question: "Hey, did that round lower my handicap any?" Since you likely always have your phone with you, you can do that. The tricky thing with keeping your buddy's scores is that your buddy may play without you at times and not have your phone with them at the time. So sorry, no, GolfCap is a personal handicap calculator, just one handicap per phone. That keeps the user interface simple for the most common case.

Q: Can I track 9 hole scores with GolfCap?

This is a toughie. Technically, no. GolfCap is not set up to accept partial scores, simply because the handicap calculation involves throwing out your worst 18 hole rounds and it isn't straightforward how to combine 9 hole rounds together to make 18. I know what you're thinking, just take two 9 holes scores and add them together to get 18, right? The gotcha with that is that part of the calculation is the difficulty of the course as represented by the Course Rating and Slope. Those values are a measure of the difficulty of the entire 18 holes taken as a whole. If the back nine is way tougher than the front nine, those tougher holes are part of what makes the whole Rating and Slope higher. But if you play the front nine twice and combine it for an 18 hole score, you played much easier holes than the Rating and Slope for 18 indicate. GolfCap can't assume that two nines are a front and a back to make a proper 18. It requires a little human judgment how to combine nines accurately.

However, that said, yes, you can use nine hole scores in GolfCap, provided you combine a front and a back from the same course (from the same tees) and enter it on the date you completed the second nine. You may even be able to use two fronts or two backs combined if your course has a Rating and Slope for a side played twice (some do, ask your pro shop).

Q: Can I use my handicap index from GolfCap in competition?

No, unfortunately that would be in violation of the USGA's rules (and probably the R&A's too). GolfCap only provides an unofficial handicap for entertainment purposes. It lets you know what your index would be if you joined an officially sanctioned Golf Club for competition, or it lets you get more details what's going on with your handicap (and stats) if you do belong to an official Golf Club. We recommend you get an official handicap for anything beyond just bragging rights ("I'm a 13 handicap..."). The USGA provides great information at USGA: Getting a Handicap Index.

Other questions

If we haven't answered your question above, we'd love to hear from you and help you out. Please visit our contact page and we'll get back to you as soon as we can!