Golf Handicaps are different for 9 and 18 hole rounds

I am sure you know that Golf Handicaps are calculated for 18 hole rounds. But did you know that if you only play 9 hole rounds you would have a Handicap Index called N?

You will see in our Trends section that there are a set of “9 Hole Rounds” graphs. In there you will be able to see your Handicap Index N which is calculated using your 9 hole rounds. (it won’t show if you don’t have any 9 hole rounds)

To calculate this handicap you simply use the course rating of the 9 holes you played and use the same formula you use for 18 hole Handicaps. You will see that this handicap ranges from 0-18 instead of 0-36 like the regular Handicap Index.

NOTE that 9 hole rounds are not utilized for the regular Handicap Index calculation.

Why not simply multiply your score times 2 for 9 hole rounds?

Well, the USGA doesn’t really explain the reasoning behind having two different handicaps but based on all my readings and interpretations of the USGA thinking, I will give you my best guess. (so please interpret this post as my opinion and not the USGA’s)


“Playing 9 hole rounds requires different level of concentration than 18 hole rounds. Keeping the focus for 18 holes (~4.5 hours) is much more difficult. So it wouldn’t really be fair to multiply by 2 the score and then get the equivalent 18 hole round score.”

But I figured you wouldn’t believe it so I ran a couple of analyses, here they are!

What would be my handicap if I calculated front and back nine separately?

We looked at 5 different golfers, and while there is only significant difference in 2 of them, it is; in my opinion, enough . See the graph below comparing the handicaps of 18 hole rounds versus the handicap calculating every 9 holes (multiplying by 2)

Look at golfer 1 and golfer 5. There are ~4 points difference between the regular handicap and the equivalent handicap we calculated using their 9 hole rounds. And out of the 5 there is only one of them that have less than 1 point difference.

What is the average difference between the front and back 9 per round?

We looked at the front 9 and back 9 of the same 5 golfers. We found that the difference between the two average 4.2 strokes. That means that on average, those golfers had a 4 strokes difference between the front 9 and the back nine. So, if one of this 5 golfers shoot 44 on the front 9, he was expected to shoot a 40 or a 48 on the back 9. That’s a lot of strokes since 4.2 would mean a 8.4 difference on a 18 hole round.

In conclusion…

I know that this is not enough statistical proof and that we would have too look at a larger sampler. But I do believe that it is a lot easier for the regular golfer to shoot a 41 on 9 holes than it is to shoot an 82 on 18 holes. So you be the judge, but I think the USGA is right in separating the two and having a Handicap Index (18 Holes) and a Handicap Index N (9 holes).

What do you think?

Enjoy your golf!

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  1. Rawley Burbridge

    I just signed up to use your site, so far seems like a great service! I found this post regarding 9 hole rounds because I tend to play those more. Is the information you have provided here from 2012 still accurate. I noticed on the USGA site they indicate that two 9 hole rounds will eventually be combined.

    • Hi Rawley, good morning!
      You can combine your 9-hole Scores to make them 18-hole Scores. But they have to be from the same Course of course.
      Unfortunately, we do not have a feature that combines those Scores automatically, so if you want to combine two 9-hole Scores, you have to combine them manually, either using the App or the Website.

      You do have two Handicaps, the 18-hole Handicap and 9-hole Handicap. You can view your Handicaps on the Trends Section on the Website.

      If you have any questions or need anything else, you can contact us directly at


  2. Curt Sims

    There are instances where I head out not knowing if there is enough time to finish 18. I will start with the front 9 and decide to go on after it is completed. It would be great if there was a “continue on” option after completing 9 so the scorecard automatically switched to 18 holes. I make a new round and combine the two manually currently.

    • Hi Curt – Thanks for your comments. If you are using an iPhone, you can click the menu on the top left, and click “Round Settings” to change the round from 9 to 18 holes.

      If you are using Android then what you are currently the best option until this feature is ready to be released.


  3. Rebecca Killion

    Are there golf handicap calculators for nine holes.I can’t find

    • Hi Rebecca, good afternoon. If you track your 9-hole Scores with us (TheGrint), we calculate your 9-hole Handicap.
      You can see it in your Profile and on the Trends Section in your Profile, where it says “Hdcp Index N (9)”.
      You can contact us directly to if you have any questions.

  4. brian

    Hi there, I just sent an email separately but then found this article and comment thread. One clarification: if i do play 9 hole rounds (on the same Course of course) and enter them in manually later do those rounds have to be the front and back nine? Or can i play the front twice (on different dates) and enter those together manually as 18?

    • Hi Brian, good afternoon. Sorry for the late response.

      The Scores can be the same Course, same Tees and same 9-holes. You should be able to combine them manually through the Website.

      Let us know if you have any questions.

  5. Jay Landwehr

    In general, your 18-hole handicap will be higher than twice your 9-hole handicap, or handicap (N) – and potentially significantly higher.

    Remember that your 9-hole handicap is based on the best 10 of your last 20 9-hole scores, and your 18-hole handicap is based on the best 10 of your last 20 18-hole scores. For your true 18-hole handicap to equal twice your 9-hole handicap (N), that is like saying you always shoot your best 10 of 20 scores on the front 9 and your best 10 of 20 scores on the back 9 together in the same “round”. That would almost never happen.

    Exaggerating and simplifying to illustrate. let’s say Player A shoots 20 18-hole rounds where he shoots 40-50=90 each time, and Player B shoots 20 18-hole rounds where he shoots 45-45=90 each time. Player A and Player B will have identical 18-hole handicaps, since they always shoot the same 18-hole score. But if you take 10 of thise 18-hole rounds and treat them as 20 random 9-hole rounds, Player A’s handicap (N) will be based on a score of 40, while Player B’s handicap (N) will be based on a score of 45. If these 2 players multiply their handicap (N) by 2 to get and 18-hole handicap, Player A would have the 18-hole handicap of a golfer who shoots 80 – way below what he normally shoots – while Player B would have the 18-hole handicap of a golfer who shoots 90 – consistent with what he normally shoots.

    For those of us who primarily play 9-hole rounds, the USGA would do us a service by developing a formula for converting a handicap (N) into an 18-hole handicap that can be used for those occasions when an 18-hole handicap is needed. I’m sure they have enough data at their disposal to come up with a reasonable, fair approximation.

  6. Timo Granberg

    For a 24 handicapper playing on a course consisting of 3 times 9 hole courses. When playing 18 holes, does he calculate 9 strokes on both 9 holes first and then 3 holes second time on both 9 hole courses? Those three additional holes on 1., 2. and 3. HCP holes from both 9 hole courses.

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