A golfer's handicap is the barometer by which he measures his golf game. Not only that, it's also a great way for measuring progress and keeping an even playing field at scramble tournaments and other fun outings. Although the range of handicaps is quite extensive, there is a maximum handicap for both male and female golfers.
The United States Golf Association defines handicap as a "mark that indicates the number of handicap strokes a player receives from a specific set of tees at the course being played to adjust the player's scoring ability to the level of scratch or zero-handicap golf."
The maximum USGA handicap allowed by for men is 36.4, meaning a golfer who routinely shoots 40 over par may not list their handicap as 40.
The maximum USGA handicap allowed for women is considerable higher for women, and is 40.4, four strokes higher than the maximum handicap allotted to men.
Course Rating and Slope
Among the most important factors in determining a handicap are the rating and slope of a golf course. Course rating is a single number that indicates the difficulty of a golfer course to a "scratch golfer," one who has a 0 handicap. Meanwhile, course slope is a number that indicates the difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer, one who averages a bogey on every hole played over 18 holes.
There are a number of free online handicap calculators for those interested in learning their handicap. To do so, simply enter the dates and scores of each round, along with the course rating and slope of the corresponding courses. Keep in mind, however, that a golfer must record five rounds before an official handicap can be registered.