How does a holes handicap correlate with the holes difficulty?

While it is widely believed that the hole handicap is a measure of a holes difficulty this is not strictly correct according to the USGA.

The USGA states “The stroke hole allocation (hole handicap) should not be based on the difficulty of a hole, but rather where players with higher handicaps need strokes in order to obtain a half in match play. ”

So even with this explanation from the USGA most players would agree that often the #1 handicap hole on a course is perceived to be one of the easiest holes and the #18 handicap hole is often times one of the easiest holes on the course to par.

In order to see just how right or wrong this belief that hole handicap = difficulty I have taken the scores from roughly 27,000 scores logged on and graphed the average (mean) score relative to par (e.g. birdie = -1, par = 0, etc.) against the hole handicap number.


Here is the table to support that graph:












As you can see in the table and graph the holes with the lowest 4 handicap numbers (#1 through #4) are significantly more difficult than the average hole. Also the holes with the highest 4 handicap numbers (#15 through #18) are significantly easier than the average hole. So just looking at these 8 holes it seems that the belief that the hole handicap number is a good measure of the hole difficulty holds up.

The middle 10 handicap holes do not really seem to be as closely mapped to their actual difficulty as they have some weird anomalies such as #11 being on average significantly more difficult than #12.

Want to play better golf? Play more often



One of the great things about is that I have a wealth of golf data at my fingertips. Every once in a while I come up with a question and then can go run a few reports and pull data to see if the data supports hypotheses.

The question I asked myself today is “If I played a lot more golf then would I play better golf?”. According to the data…the answer to that question is Yes.

Here is a scatter plot of players on and how many rounds they have played. I removed some outliers and this is the plot:


The first thing that struck me about this plot is that there is a pretty big cluster of players around 50 rounds a year (playing once a week or twice a week in the summer) with handicaps between 10 to 15. It is also pretty clear that the best players are playing 100+ times a year and the worst players are playing less than 50.

Here is a table with average rounds per year for each handicap bracket:






Based on that data if your handicap is above 10 and you want to drop a stroke off your handicap then you need to play an extra round every month. If you are below 10 then it isn’t that easy and you probably need to spend time practicing in addition to playing more.