Is A 12 Handicap Good?

Is A 12 Handicap Good?


A 12 handicap in golf is generally considered average. It indicates a golfer who consistently shoots 12 strokes above the course rating. While there may be varying opinions on what constitutes a “good” handicap, a 12 handicap reflects a solid level of skill and performance in the game. 

The handicap index in golf gives players different skills, abilities, and experience levels on a relatively even playing field. According to stats from USGA, 98.5% of golfers in America have a handicap, and beginner golfers average start at 28 and 36 (for men and women, respectively), while the average pro golfer has a handicap. 

You may be wondering how ‘good’ a 12 handicap level is, especially when compared with other ranking factors. In the rest of this guide, you’ll learn what the 12 handicap level says about your golf skills and tips for lowering your handicap to become a better golfer. 

What Does A 12-Handicap In Golf Mean?

A 12 handicap in golf indicates a player’s average score is 12 strokes above the course’s par rating. Par is the predetermined number of strokes an accomplished golfer should require to complete a hole or an entire round. 

If you’re a 12-handicap golfer, you probably possess solid ball-striking abilities, moderate consistency, and an understanding of course management.

On par 72 courses, a 12-handicap golfer will shoot an average score of around 84. This means they consistently make bogeys on par 4s and par 5s while occasionally making a par or birdie.

 For example, if you’re a 12 handicap, you may reach the green in regulation and two-putt for a bogey on a par four hole, whereas on a par 3, you may require three shots to get the green and two-putt for a double bogey.

Indeed, a 12-handicap golfer may occasionally shoot below or above their average, but this level indicates a strong foundation in the game with room for improvement.

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What Is A Respectable Handicap?

A respectable handicap in golf is generally considered to be around 18 or lower for men and 24 or lower for women. This handicap indicates a player’s skill level and is calculated based on their average scores relative to the course and slope ratings. 

Meanwhile, lower handicaps signify better players who consistently score closer to par, while higher handicaps represent players who score above par more frequently.

The truth is that there’s no one-size-fits-all measurement for what a “good or ‘bad’ handicap is, but I have attempted to put a hierarchy to it so throw in enough perspective:

Handicap levelRemarkDescription
Above 36 for men and 45 for womenBadThese players struggle to execute shots consistently and often score well above par. They may have limited experience, technical challenges, or are relatively new to the game. 
From 19 to 36 for men and 25 to 45 for womenGoodPlayers within this range have progressed in their game, displaying improved skills and more consistent scoring. They are capable of executing decent shots but still have room for refinement. 
Around 10 to 18 for men and 18 to 24 for womenRespectableThese players have honed their skills and can consistently score closer to par. They display solid shot-making abilities, a good understanding of course management, and a higher level of proficiency overall.
Between 4 and 9 for men and 10 and 17 for womenVery GoodPlayers at this level exhibit high-level skills, consistently scoring near or below par. They possess refined swing mechanics and excellent course management abilities.
From 0 to 3 for men and 0 to 9 for women.Excellent Highly skilled, with exceptional shot-making abilities, precise control over their game, and extensive knowledge of golf strategies. They consistently score under par and compete at an elite level in tournaments and championships. 

What Is Considered A Low Handicap In Golf?

A low handicap indicates a skilled player who consistently scores less than their peers. 

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Opinions widely vary on what a low handicap is, but a handicap of 0 to 5 is typically recognized as a low handicap. 

You possess excellent ball-striking abilities, strategic course management, and short solid game skills if you’re within this range. 

For instance, professional golfers like Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas, who consistently rank among the top players in the world, maintain low handicaps. 

Achieving a low handicap requires a combination of talent, dedication, and relentless practice to refine one’s skills and compete at a high level.

What Would My Handicap Be If I Shoot 110?

Handicap calculations are based on your average score relative to the difficulty of the course you play. If you shoot 110 in a round of golf, your handicap would likely be between 30 and 40 

Generally, for players shooting in the 110 range, their handicap would typically be in the high double or even triple digits. 

To accurately get your handicap, divide your scores by multiple course rounds. The handicap system assesses the difficulty of the study and calculates a differential for each game played. 

This differential represents the deviation from the course’s rating and slope. By taking the average of these differentials and applying the handicap formula, your handicap index can be calculated.

What A 12 Handicap Means In Terms Of Skill Level

A 12-handicap golfer, in terms of skill level, means you’re an intermediate player that has already honed solid fundamentals and consistency.

It means you can hit the ball with decent accuracy and distance but may lack consistency in certain aspects of your game. 

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For instance, you may struggle with challenging shots from uneven lies or experience occasional difficulties with your short game. 

It is unlike scratch golfers who consistently shoot par or better, showcasing superior shot-making abilities and a well-rounded skill set.

A 12 handicap comparison to average golfer handicaps

According to USGA’s real-time data, the most common handicap range for male golfers is between 13.0 and 13.9 for men and 27.0 – 27.9 for women.  But there are many more details when we look through the lens of comparative analysis. 

When placed side-by-side with the recorded average golfer handicaps, a 12 handicap is a pretty decent level in 2023. 

Here’s the illustration from USGA:

You can access the complete analysis HERE.

Evaluating your improvement as a 12-handicap golfer

First, I’d recommend you analyze your scoring trends over time to assess consistency. 

A decrease in scores signifies improvement. Secondly, focus on your tee shots, evaluating accuracy, distance, and club selection. With TrackMan or a high-quality driver such as the TaylorMade SIM2 Max, you can see valuable data and aid improvement in these areas.

Apart from the above, consider your iron play and green approach. It’s progress when you achieve precise yardage and execute consistent ball striking. I recommend you use forgiving irons like the Callaway Apex CF19 or undertake lessons with a certified golf instructor for better (and faster) performance.

Short-game proficiency is another critical aspect of lowering your handicap. This includes chipping, pitching, and bunker play. In this case, wedges like the Vokey SM8 come handy. You can also attend short game clinics like the ones at the Dave Pelz Scoring Game School

Probably the best way to improve on your golf score is to enhance your putting. I recommend looking into putting mirrors, as every putt counts just as much as a drive or fairway shot, and making more putts will help you improve your score.

The Takeaway

Remember that handicaps are not solely about being labeled as average or good. They represent a golfer’s progress and dedication to the game. 

A 12 handicap reflects the effort put into honing skills and achieving consistency. Whether you aspire to reach a lower handicap or enjoy playing at your current level, your passion for the game truly matters. 

Also, each golfer’s journey is unique. Your 12 handicap should be celebrated as a testament to your commitment and love for the sport.

If you want to lower your handicap, you can begin by getting fitted for equipment, improving your drive and precision, analyzing your game, and pinpointing your shortcomings. 

Playing with low handicappers will also help you achieve low handicaps and become a better player. 


Kevin Stone

Kevin is a gold addict playing off of an 11 handicap. A Midwest native, he works on his game 2-3 times per week, even in the winter! When he's not golfing, he enjoys cigars, libations, and watching the PGA Tour.