what is golf course slope rating

What is a Golf Course Slope Rating?

Let me guess…you’re here, trying to settle a bet on what is a golf course slope rating. Amirite? You think a golf slope rating measures how fast a green is. …and the person you’re betting thinks a slope rating is anything else.

So, what is a golf course slope rating? A golf course slope rating is a measure of the difficulty for a scratch golfer compared to a bogey golfer. Basically, it is used by handicapping systems to essentially even out the playing field for golfers of different skill levels.

Now if you’re still a bit confused, stick with us as we break down more about what makes up a slope rating, and how it might impact your game. But first, in order to fully understand a golf course slope rating you’d need to understand the handicapping system…

Handicapping System

The handicapping system in golf is a way to measure a golfer’s potential numerically. The idea of this system is to allow players of different abilities to still fairly compete against one another. The lower the score of your handicap, the better the golfer.

You most likely will hear the terms “Bogey golfer” and “Scratch golfer” as you start to play golf more often. A Bogey golfer is a golfer whose handicap is in the range of 18 to 24. While a scratch golfer is a golfer whose handicap is zero.

Members of golf clubs are often able to be peer reviewed in order to identify what their handicap is. If you aren’t a member of a golf club, there are often times other golf organizations that will give you an unofficial handicap typically free of charge as well. You are also able to calculate your own unofficial handicap if that sounds like an easier route for you.

Now if you’ve never played golf, you don’t have a handicap yet. You want to start by tracking your 9 and 18- hole scores. These scores need to be recorded by you and one other person, to ensure that your scores are valid. You will need to submit 3 different 18-hole scores in order to obtain your handicap index this route.

The total number of strokes taken for you to get the ball into the whole before accounting for the handicap is called the “gross score” for that specific round. The number of strokes after subtracting your handicap allowance is in turn called the “net score”.

History of Golf Course Slope Rating

In order to try and create more fairness in the game of golf, the USGA set up the Handicap Research Team in 1979. Lt. Commander Dean Knuth, a student in a graduate program at Naval Postgraduate School, devised improvements to the existing course rating system. He included weighted ratings of ten characteristics at each hole.

Knuth created a calculation based on the difference between the course rating and the bogey rating to allow players to differentiate the difficulty of each course by player’s handicaps. This allowed for the slope rating to be even more accurate due to taking into account the distance rating for the course as well.

Slope Ratings and Their Meanings

what is a slope rating in golf

Slope ratings represent the difficulty that comes from a combination of playing length and obstacles throughout the course. The slope number allows you to see how hard the course would be for a bogey player compared to a scratch player.

Essentially, the process of determining course slope takes the actual rating for the Bogey golfer is calculated, and it’s the gap between the Bogey and Scratch rating that determines the Slope rating for the course.

Slope rating is determined through the following formula:

(Bogey rating – Course Rating) x 5.381= Slope

Slope ratings are typically anywhere in the range of 55 to 155. A course that is standard relative difficulty has a rate around the 113 range. The higher the number of the golf course slope rating, does not actually mean that the course is more difficult to play.

Course rating is different from slope rating and that does in fact determine the difficulty of the course itself. It’s also important to note that if two courses have the same slope rating, they may have different levels of difficulty.

Keep in mind, the slope rating does vary based on whether men or women are playing and this does effect the equation above as well.

For women this formula looks more like:

(Bogey rating – Course Rating) x 4.240 = Slope

The courses are rated based on the length of the course from each set of tees. They measure the length of a set of tees from the permanent marker in the center of the green.

Another factor that can affect the slope as well is forced lay-ups.

If a Scratch player is forced to lay up on a hole due to an obstacle of any kind (ex. water hazards) the Scratch rating will increase due to the extra yardage needed to make the shot. This wouldn’t affect the Bogey rating, which would in turn create less of a gap between the two ratings. This would change the degree of slope for this specific course.

Golf courses are rated by the United States Golf Association (USGA) Course Rating System. Just about every single golf association around the world has been trained how to use the exact same system. This ensures that all courses are rated appropriately and accurately worldwide.

Conclusion: What is a Golf Course Slope Rating?

A golf course slope rating is used by handicapping systems to even out the playing field for golfers of different skill levels. Slope ratings are typically somewhere in the range of 55 to 155 and are calculated by the following formulas:

  • Male Slope Rating = (Bogey rating – Course Rating) x 5.381
  • Female Slope Rating = (Bogey rating – Course Rating) x 4.240

There you have it, now you know what a golf course slope rating is! Next time someone brings up the slope rating of the course, you’ll have a better understanding of how that number was determined and what kind of course you are facing.