What Is the Rule of 85 in Golf

In the world of golf, there are various rules, strategies, and guidelines that players use to improve their game. One such concept is the “Rule of 85.” While not an official rule governed by golf’s governing bodies, this principle serves as a valuable tool for golfers to assess their performance and set realistic goals. In this article, we will delve into what the Rule of 85 in golf entails and how it can help golfers of all skill levels.

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Understanding the Rule of 85:

  1. Basic Concept: The Rule of 85 is a simple yet effective method for estimating a golfer’s potential or expected score on a golf course. It suggests that by subtracting a golfer’s course handicap from 85, you can approximate the number of strokes they should take to complete a round of golf on a specific course.
  2. Course Handicap: To use the Rule of 85, you need to determine your course handicap, which accounts for the difficulty of the course being played and adjusts your handicap accordingly. Course handicap calculations involve factors such as the course rating and slope rating, which can be obtained from the golf course or a handicap service.
  3. Calculating Expected Score: Once you have your course handicap, you subtract it from 85 to determine your expected score for the round. For example, if your course handicap is 12, your estimated score according to the Rule of 85 would be 85 – 12 = 73.

Benefits of the Rule of 85:

  1. Goal Setting: The Rule of 85 provides golfers with a tangible and realistic target to aim for during a round of golf. This can help players set achievable goals and focus on improving their performance over time.
  2. Motivation: Knowing the expected score can be motivating for golfers. It can encourage them to stay focused and avoid getting discouraged during a challenging round, as they have a benchmark to measure their progress against.
  3. Course Management: By using the Rule of 85, golfers can make better decisions on the course. They can strategically plan their shots, prioritize avoiding hazards, and make club selections based on the target score, ultimately leading to improved course management.

Limitations and Considerations:

  1. Variability: Golf is an inherently variable sport, and numerous factors can influence a golfer’s performance on any given day. The Rule of 85 is an estimate and should be viewed as a guideline rather than an absolute prediction.
  2. Skill Level: The Rule of 85 may not be suitable for all golfers. Novices and experienced players may find this rule more or less applicable, depending on their skill level and consistency.
  3. Course Difficulty: Different golf courses have varying levels of difficulty, which can affect the accuracy of the Rule of 85. It is most effective on courses with established ratings and slope values.

How to Implement the Rule of 85 in Your Game:

  1. Calculate Your Course Handicap: To apply the Rule of 85, start by determining your course handicap. You can usually find this information on the scorecard or by using a handicap calculator provided by the golf course or a handicap service. Make sure your handicap is up-to-date as it can change based on recent rounds and course ratings.
  2. Setting Realistic Expectations: Once you have your course handicap, calculate your expected score using the Rule of 85. This score serves as your target for the round. Be mindful that your goal is not to consistently meet this score but to use it as a benchmark for improvement.
  3. Pre-Round Preparation: Knowing your expected score can influence your pre-round preparation. It can help you choose an appropriate strategy, select the right clubs, and mentally prepare for the game. Golfers can also set small, achievable goals during the round, such as staying within a certain number of strokes of their expected score at the turn.
  4. Adapt to Course Conditions: Keep in mind that course conditions can change from day to day. Factors like wind, course setup, and your own physical condition can impact your performance. Adjust your expectations accordingly while still using the Rule of 85 as a general guideline.
  5. Post-Round Analysis: After completing your round, take the opportunity to analyze your performance relative to the Rule of 85. Did you meet or exceed your expected score? What areas of your game need improvement? This post-round reflection can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your game and tailor your practice sessions accordingly.
  6. Tracking Progress: Over time, tracking your performance relative to the Rule of 85 can provide valuable insights into your improvement as a golfer. You can see if you consistently come closer to or surpass your target score, indicating progress in your game.

Understanding the Rule of 85

Rule of 85A scoring methodTo assist high-handicap golfersDetermining when a golfer can take a higher handicapIf a golfer has a handicap of 18 and their age and handicap add up to 85 or more, they can use the Rule of 85.

How to Calculate the Rule of 85 Score

AgeHandicapAge + HandicapRule of 85 ScoreExample
65208585A 65-year-old golfer with a handicap of 20 can use the Rule of 85.

Advantages of the Rule of 85

BenefitLower PressureEncourages ParticipationFairnessExample
Less pressure on high-handicap playersEncourages older golfers to playLevels the playing fieldHigh-handicap golfers can enjoy the game.

Limitations of the Rule of 85

ChallengeInaccuraciesNot for Low HandicapsExampleRecommendation
It may not suit all skill levelsSome inaccuracies in determining fairnessNot applicable for low-handicap golfersA golfer with a handicap of 5 should not use the Rule of 85Use the Rule of 85 with caution.


The Rule of 85 is a valuable tool in the golfer’s arsenal for self-assessment and goal setting. By calculating your expected score based on your course handicap, you can set realistic expectations, stay motivated, and make better decisions on the course. Remember that golf is a sport with many variables, and your actual performance may fluctuate. However, consistently using the Rule of 85 can help you focus your efforts on improving your game and enjoying the sport even more. So, the next time you head to the golf course, consider implementing this rule to enhance your golfing experience.


What Is the Rule of 85 in Golf


  • Anglo Carson

    Anglo Carson, a Certified Golf Instructor, embarked on a remarkable journey, driven by his unwavering love for golf. He founded The Golf Mine with a singular mission - to create a golfing haven where passion knows no boundaries. His lifelong love affair with golf, combined with his expertise as a Certified Golf Instructor, turned into a vision to share his extensive knowledge, inspire, and promote the game he holds dear.

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