This is covered in some detail in a later section. Basically, this is the number of strokes a player receives, over and above the ‘par’ for a course. The higher the handicap, the more strokes received. The highest ‘official’ handicaps are currently 28 (men) and 45 (women). A very good golfer plays off ‘scratch’ (zero handicap) or even a ‘plus’ handicap!
If a player plays off an 18 handicap, he/she would receive 1 shot per hole over and above the course par.
If the handicap is lower than 18, the Stroke Index is used to determine on which holes the strokes are received. In the above example, a 15 handicap player (man) would get an extra stroke at all of the holes where the S.I is 15 or less – so no strokes at the 4th, 7th and 15th.
If the handicap is higher than 18, they would receive a second shot at the holes where the stroke index is equal to or less than the handicap – 18. So a 20-handicapper would get an extra shot at the 5th and 14th holes.