What Is Tiger Woods' Handicap?

Tiger Woods handicap, if he had one, would be amazingly low

Trick question: Tiger Woods doesn't have a handicap. But if he did, it would be an amazingly low one, as we'll see below.

No professional golfer has an official handicap. As soon as a golfer turns pro — any golfer, not just touring pros — they stop carrying a handicap index. But that doesn't mean we can't answer the question! There are ways to figure out what a professional golfer's handicap index would be if, in fact, he or she had one. And we also have some information about Woods' handicaps during his junior and amateur golf career.

Woods' Handicap as an Amateur

Tiger Woods was a 2-handicapper at the age of 11. He became a scratch golfer at the age of 13. That means his handicap was zero at that point. And by the time Woods turned pro, which he did at age 20, his handicap was a remarkable +8. That's eight strokes below scratch. Ninety-nine percent of golfers use their handicaps to adjust their scores downward; a plus-handicapper has to adjust his score upward. So Woods, at +8, would have had to add eight strokes to his score if playing a handicap round.

Figuring Handicaps for Pro Golfers

Professional golfers don't carry official handicaps, but enterprising fans can figure out approximations. All you need is the golfer's last 20 scores, plus the USGA course rating and slope rating of the golf courses on which those scores were achieved. For tour golfers, that info is easy to get.

Then plug that info into one of the golf handicap calculators that you can find online, and you have an approximation of a tour pro's handicap.

We say "approximation" because the golf courses the tour pros play are even tougher than their stated course/slope ratings: The pros aren't playing those courses as they are set up for daily play, after all. They are playing tour set-ups. We laymen can't know how much of an adjustment that would make to a golfer's handicap, just know that any figure you derive, if you put in the work of doing the calculations described above, is going to be a little high. The pros' handicaps, in other words, would be even lower than the figures derived from using the USGA course and slope ratings.

Tiger Woods' Handicaps as a Pro

Has anyone calculated what Woods' handicap would be if he carried one as a pro? Of course. There's not much of anything about Woods' career that hasn't been explored.

We know that he turned pro with a handicap of +8. Over the years, Golf Digest has done a few calculations of Woods' handicap. And during his 2000 season — when Woods won three majors and completely dominated the year — Woods' handicap ranged from around an amazing +11 to an even more astonishing +13. According to Dean Knuth, inventor of the USGA Slope Rating, at no point during the 2000 PGA Tour season would Woods' handicap have dropped lower than +10.

That's almost unimaginably good ... except that we watched (those of us who were lucky, anyway) Woods do it in real time.

Perhaps a better gauge of just how good PGA Tour pros are, though, is Woods' handicap during 2015. That was a year when Woods failed to win; he posted only one Top 10 finish. He had rounds in the 80s that year, and missed multiple cuts. It was a miserable year for Woods as he struggled with back pain and swing woes.

What was Woods' handicap during that year? Knuth took on the calculations for Golf Digest, making adjustments to course/slope ratings to account for the tougher tour set-ups.

And Knuth found that, at the time he did the calculation (using Woods' 20 most-recent tour rounds), Tiger still had a +5.9 handicap. And that was the worst year of Tiger's career in which he played close to a full season!

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Photo credit: "WPT Foundation Tiger Jam 2018"by World Poker Tour is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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