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Biden's golf handicap explained after presidential debate stirs skills controversy

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Thursday night’s presidential debate hosted by CNN featured a topic that no one could’ve predicted—golf handicaps. 

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump raised the issue when discussing their physical fitness and, in turn, their ability to serve as the head of state at the ages of 81 and 78, respectively. In the midst of that debate, Bide alleged that he had gotten his golf handicap down to a six as vice president, and later corrected it to an eight. 

President Joe Biden plays golf at the Buccaneer Golf Course in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, on December 30, 2022.  (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

For any avid golfer, that number was particularly surprising. Trump himself didn’t believe it. 


And so, an argument typically reserved for the course made its way to the debate stage. 

But to best understand the argument, you have to first understand the basics. 

A golf handicap, or a handicap index, is a numerical figure used to describe a player’s ability or potential. It represents how many strokes a player is expected to play above a particular course’s par. 

Professional golfers do not keep a handicap. 

Anywhere under 10 is considered low, under 18 is considered mid-range, and over 19 is high. A zero would be considered a scratch golfer. 

Biden’s estimated six or eight would mean he averages in the high 70s or low 80s a round. 

President Joe Biden stands at his podium during the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections between himself and former president Donald Trump at CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, June 27, 2024. (Kevin D. Liles