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Q:  Why is a course rating important

A USGA Course Rating is important because without it, you cannot have a USGA Handicap. It is the basis for the handicap calculation. To determine fair and equitable handicaps in golf, there must be a system for comparing the difficulty of various courses for players of all abilities.

Q: Who rates a course?

Volunteers, trained under the USGA’s Course Rating System. All golf associations have been trained to use the exact system used not only Southern California, but all across the United States.


Q: How often is a course rated?


The USGA requires all authorized golf associations, including SDCWGA, to periodically review the ratings of their courses and to revise them if necessary. The USGA has licensed SDCWGA to rate courses according to its guidelines. If your club is a member of SDCWGA, you are required to comply with the guidelines that the USGA has created for SDCWGA to follow.

SDCWGA is required to re-rate a golf course within a 10-year period. All newly constructed golf courses change as they mature. SDCWGA rates these courses five years after the first rating to account for these changes.

If there have been any significant changes to your course, the size of the greens have changed, greenside or fairway bunkers have been added or removed, or a new set of tees has been added, your course may be in need of a rating adjustment. The course probably does not need a full course rating, and an SDCWGA representative can be sent to view the changes made on the course. These changes are entered into the USGA Course Rating Program to calculate an updated Course Rating and Slope Rating.

Q: How do the Course Rating and Slope Rating affect my handicap?

To fully understand how Course Rating and Slope Rating ultimately affect your Handicap Index, you must first understand how a Handicap Index is calculated.

Using equitable stroke control (the maximum score you can take on a hole for posting purposes), a player takes their adjusted gross score and subtracts the Course Rating, multiplies that number by 113 (the Slope Rating of a course of standard difficulty) and divides by the Slope Rating of the tees played (rounded to the nearest tenth).

Handicap Differential = (Adjusted Gross Score - Course Rating) x 113 / Slope Rating

A player’s Handicap Index is based on the best handicap differentials in a player’s scoring record. If a player had 20 scores in her file, the best 10 handicap differentials would be used to calculate their USGA/SCGA Handicap Index. These 10 differentials would be totaled and divided by the number of differentials used (10), multiplied by .96 and rounded to the nearest tenth.

It is important to remember that the Course Rating affects a player’s Handicap Index much more than the Slope Rating. Often, players focus too much on what the slope rating is when it is the course rating that drives the system. For example:

Course A 69.3/125 Player shoots 85 Handicap differential = 14.2 [(85-69.3) x 113 / 125]

Course B 71.1/117 Player shoots 85 Handicap differential = 13.4 [(85-71.1) x 113 / 117]


Some players think that if their golf course’s SLOPE is too high, they will not be competitive when visiting another club. This is not necessarily true. The above example shows the significance Course Rating has on a player’s handicap differential, compared to the Slope Rating.

Q: What is a Slope Rating?

A USGA Slope Rating reflects the relative difficulty of a course for players with USGA Handicap Indexes above scratch, compared to the difficulty of the course for a scratch golfer.

Q: What factors are used in Course Rating?

Yardage is the predominant factor in determining a USGA Course Rating. The effective playing length of a hole may be substantially different from its actual length, which includes roll, elevation, dogleg/forced lay-up, prevailing wind and altitude.

Obstacle factors (bunkers, water, trees, etc.) are considered separately on their effect on the play of scratch and bogey on each hole.

Q: Why is our course rated so high?

Golf courses are rated based on the measured length of the course from each set of tees. The measured length of a particular set of tees is taken from the permanent marker to the center of the green.

Accurate permanent marker placement is essential to an accurate course rating. Permanent markers are to reflect the average placement of the movable tee markers. Permanent markers should be placed on the teeing ground at a spot where the movable tee markers can be placed on either side to consistently reflect the overall length of the hole and course.

Inaccurate placement of the permanent markers is more likely to have a greater effect on a player’s handicap differential than any course obstacle. For instance, if a course consistently placed their movable tee markers in front of the permanent markers by an average of 10 yards per hole, the golf course would play almost one shot easier than the rating indicates. This practice would result in an artificially low Handicap Index.

The USGA recommends placing the permanent markers in the middle of every teeing ground. When two tees share one teeing ground, the teeing ground should be divided in thirds. This process maximizes the ability of the golf course to use the entire teeing area and gives the best chance of reflecting the overall yardage.

At no time should a permanent marker be less than three yards from the front or less than four yards from the back of a teeing area.


Q: Why did our Course Rating and Slope Ratings change?

Changes in Course Ratings and Slope Ratings usually occur following a re-rate. These changes can be attributed to a number of possibilities.

Ratings usually change due to the effective playing length of the golf course. Even though the changes might not seem significant, it is important to note that yardage is the predominant factor in calculating a rating. Increasing the effective playing length of the course by 88 yards adds three-tenths of a stroke to the USGA Course Rating and one SLOPE point.