Course and Slope Rating Explained – What You Need To Know!

What Is Course and Slope Rating? The next time you are out for a round of golf, take a look at the scorecard to be best at your game.
Course and Slope Rating

The next time you are out for a round of golf, take a look at the scorecard. Most people fill in the boxes with their scores but don’t look at the other information on the scorecard. A golf scorecard offers quite a bit of information about the course that all players should be paying attention to. If you have ever wondered how course rating and the slope rating system works, we are here to help. Understanding these numbers can give you more insight into your golf game and the golf courses you are playing.

What Is Course Rating?

A golf course rating is a number that tells you what a scratch golfer should be shooting at that golf course. Scratch golfers are known for their ability to shoot par on a golf course. However, not all golf courses are made to be the same difficult.

If you have a scorecard lying around, you can take a look to see what the course rating is. Chances are it is somewhere between a 71 and a 74. Let’s say, for instance, that your favorite golf course has a course rating of 73.1.

This is essentially a scratch rating, letting you know that a scratch golfer would typically shoot about a 73 at this golf course. Considering par is 72, this shows that the course is actually quite tricky.

If you notice, to get an accurate course rating, you will have to look at the tees form which you are playing. The course rating will vary from one set of tees to the next. This is because the golf course can change considerably as you move from one set of tees to another.

Playing a golf course with a high course rating and breaking 80 is a great feeling. Although breaking 80 is something to be valued wherever you play, it will undoubtedly matter more when the course rating is more complicated.

What Is Slope Rating?

The slope rating is a number that indicates how challenging a golf course is for a bogey golfer. Of course, nothing in golf is quite that simple, so the slope rating is not as easy to figure out as the course rating. When we looked at the course rating, you saw that the number kind of coincided with what par is on the course. The bogey rating or slope rating is much different.

The slope values can range anywhere from 55 to 155. The average golf course is 113. This may seem like an odd number for a bogey golfer to have to remember and base their golf round off of. The United States Golf Association came up with these systems, and they work pretty well, but there is undoubtedly a learning curve involved.

The slope rating is a great way to compare one golf course to another, and that is the entire purpose behind the course rating and slope calculations.

The Importance of Course And Slope Rating

Now that you have a better understanding of what course and slope ratings are, it’s a good idea to try and understand the importance of these numbers. The slope rating and course rating can be used for several different reasons that help make the game of golf fair and fun for everyone involved.

Course and Slope Rating -Calculating Handicaps

Calculating Handicaps

The slope rating is used when you are calculating your handicap; the course rating is used to develop a handicap index.

The handicap index is created by calculating an average of 20 score differentials of a player. The score differential is the difference between your adjusted gross score and the course rating. Therefore if you are a golfer that shot 90 on a course with a 72.5 rating, your score differential would be 17.5.

The 17.5 score differential would give you an excellent idea of what your handicap index is. A scratch golfer would have a 0 index, and mid-handicap golfers tend to be around a 15-20. Having this index is essential, but it won’t help you much when you head to another golf course for a round.

When playing a golf course that is not your home course, you need the formula for a course handicap. The course handicap is calculated with this formula:

  • Course Handicap = Handicap Index x Slope Rating / 113

Doing the calculation of course handicap will help golfers to understand what their handicap is at any golf course. If you are used to playing as a six handicap, going to a golf course with a higher slop rating may make you an 8 or 9 handicap. Course ratings allow golfers to have matches that are more fair and more fun.

Comparing One Course To Another

The concept of the USGA course rating system is to help ensure that you can play any golf course and have a good idea of what you are getting yourself involved in.

Have you ever played a golf course and felt that it was challenging? Even if you hit shots that were impressive and felt as though your game was on, maybe your scoring was just a little bit off that day.

The chances are that the golf course has a higher course rating and slope rating, and this is what caused you to shoot the larger numbers that day. Understanding this scratch rating and bogey rating system can give you better insight into why you shoot what you do.

Of course, there are things like weather and course conditions that are difficult to consider in both the bogey rating and scratch rating, but you can at least have a general idea of what to expect.

Playing Golf Courses Other Than Your Home Course

At your golf course, you will know what your course handicap is and how to have a fair match with your friends. However, when you are going to play away for the day, you need to have some way to transfer your handicap. If you are invited to play as a guest at another club, knowing how to determine your course handicap at that course is quite important.

The handicap system allows bogey golfers to have a fair match against scratch golfers, which makes golf such a special and vital sport.

Frequently Asked Questions

Calculating Handicaps-Faqs

Now that you have a bit more understanding of the slope rating and course rating, here are a few of the questions that are often asked about this process. Don’t feel bad if you don’t fully understand the USGA handicap system. There is quite a bit involved in this, and sometimes it takes a while to get used to the concepts.

Is A Higher Course Rating Harder?

A higher golf course rating means that the course raters have decided that it is much harder for a scratch golfer to shoot par at the golf course. Chances are the course rating is closer to 74 or even 75, and therefore that is what a typical scratch player would shoot.

If a scratch golfer plays this course and shoots a 74, the player’s handicap differential would still be zero. Therefore the golfer’s handicap index is not going to be adjusted or changed all that much because they were playing a more challenging golf course.

If you are a new golfer, staying away from golf courses with higher course ratings and slope ratings may be a good idea. You will find that you may get a bit frustrated with these golf courses as opposed to those that have lower ratings.

What Is A Good Course Rating and Slope?

As we have mentioned, the average slope rating for a golf course is going to be 113. If your local golf course is anywhere near this 113, you can consider it a course with average difficulty. A higher slope rating would mean that the course is much harder for a bogey golfer to play well.

When it comes to course rating, anything around the par of the course is considered to be quite good. These are the courses that make it easy for you to understand why your handicap is what it is. Lower handicapped golfers sometimes like a more difficult golf course challenge and will look for something with a higher USGA slope rating.

Do Course and Slope Ratings Ever Change?

The slope rating and a course rating of a golf course can change. The process is quite extensive when newly constructed golf courses are rated and a bar is set. After that, authorized golf associations will come out and adjust the numerical value of the slope and course handicap through the years as needed.

Overall, it is uncommon to see a significant change in the ratings unless some work was done on the golf course. This could impact the way the course plays and therefore change the full course rating or slope rating.


Hopefully, you now understand the concept of course and slope rating. This is not something that you will need to fully understand to play well the next time you hit the course. However, it is good to have an overall awareness of how these systems work.

Golf course handicaps will update every two weeks or so. If you all of a sudden have an increase in your handicap, yet you have been playing great golf, don’t forget to consider that it has to do with the golf courses that you have been playing.

Chances are you played a course with a very easy slope rating, and it had an impact on your handicap. The most important thing that golfers can do is be honest and accurate about their scoring; this is the only way to play the game.

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