If you're out playing golf with your buddies and looking to play a match, there will typically be some form of handicap strokes involved. After all, the point of handicaps is to level the playing field between golfers of different skill levels.
However, not every golfer prefers to play from the same set of tees as their playing partners. Some golfers want to play the back tees. Some want to play forward. Others may play up because they don't hit it as far as the other players in their group.
These differences don't mean, though, that a match can't be played. In fact, the golf handicap system makes it possible to adjust golf handicaps even when players are competing from the same sets of tees.
How to adjust golf handicaps when playing from different sets of tees
Figure out your course handicap: Your course handicap is the translation of your handicap index for the golf course you're playing that day. You can use our easy USGA Course Handicap calculator to look up your course handicap using your handicap index, as well as the course slope, rating and par for each player in the group based on the set of tees each is using.
Compare course handicaps: You'll then compare the course handicap for each player in the game. The player with the lowest course handicap will have their strokes zeroed out, and that player's course handicap will be subtracted from each other player in the game. That will be their course handicap for the round. If you're playing a nine-hole game, then half that final course handicap. Compare your course handicap with your opponent’s. Whoever has the higher course handicap will receive the appropriate number of strokes.
That's (most likely) it!
Accounting for differences in par: Under the old handicap system put in place before 2020, there were additional steps involved. However, with the advent of the World Handicap System, the course handicap calculation adjusts for the difference between course rating and the course par. Now, so long as par is the same from each set of tees being played, no course handicap adjustment is needed. If there is a difference in par, the player(s) competing from the set of tees with the higher par must add the difference in par to their course handicap before the comparison is made.
Now you can play a competitive, fair game where everyone gets to play from the set of tees that make them most comfortable.