In golf, there is a mechanism that makes it so players of drastically different skill levels can have an even match. Your “handicap” is a number that you can use to objectively compare abilities with other golfers.
Suppose I’m a 14 handicap and you’re an 8 handicap. On average, I would shoot 14 strokes over par (86) and you would shoot 8 strokes over par (80). This means, that when we play each other, we take that discrepancy into consideration. If I shoot an 85 and you shoot an 81, I would win. Even though your score is better, given our handicaps you should be six strokes better.
Knowing your handicap is critical for playing with others, but it’s also a good benchmark for yourself. Thus, many amateur golfers keep handicaps.
When you calculate a golf handicap, you need to know five pieces of data:
The course you played, the rating, the slope, the date of the round and your score.
Apps and associations have created a market by convincing you to enter all your scores in their database, so they can run some simple calculations and give you your handicap. Some charge money up front, some start free and charge later.
Just last week I considered downloading a free app, entering in the 30 scores that have been in my notes since 2012, and finally knowing my handicap. Until I realized that all of the work it would take to enter the data would be useless if the app ever fails, or if I want to switch services. Plus, how hard would it be to calculate your own handicap?
I set out to try it using an excel spreadsheet and this post explaining how the handicap algorithm works. Now, I own my data, I know more about spreadsheets, and if you want to recreate your own sheet, go ahead and copy mine!