Understanding USGA Course and Slope Ratings
The USGA Course & Slope Rating system is the standard that the USGA Handicap
System is built around. The USGA Course Rating system allows players to "play to
their handicaps". The basis of the USGA Course Rating System are the factors
that affect the playing difficulty of a golf course.
The USGA Course Rating System is one of great detail and is the only recognized Rating System in United States. The SC Golf Association has eight Course Rating Teams, trained and authorized by the guidelines set forth by the USGA Course Rating System to carry out the on-course portion of the rating process. Following a Rating Team visit to a golf course, information is then reviewed and transmitted through the SC Golf Association to determine and issue accurate and consistent ratings.
Because the key essentials for all Course Ratings lie in the accuracy and consistency of the rating, each course must first be accurately measured prior to a rating. Both course measurement and Course Rating services are free to SCGA Member Clubs.
Bogey Golfer: A male bogey golfer has a Course Handicap of approximately 20 on a course of standard playing difficulty. This player hits tee shots an average of 200 yards and can reach a 370-yard hole in two shots. A female bogey golfer has a Course Handicap of approximately 24. This player hits tee shots an average of 150 yards and can reach a 280-yard hole in two shots.
Scratch Golfer: A male scratch golfer is an amateur player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any and all rated golf courses. This player hits tee shots an average of 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots. A female scratch golfer is an amateur player who hits tee shots an average of 210 yards and can reach a 400-yard hole in two shots.
Course Rating: The evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers assuming normal course and weather conditions. It is expressed as the number of strokes taken to one decimal point (72.5), and is based on yardage, effective playing length corrections and other obstacles that affect play for the scratch golfer.
Bogey Rating: The evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for bogey golfers assuming normal course and weather conditions. It is expressed as the number of strokes taken to one decimal point (92.1), and is based on yardage, effective playing length corrections and other obstacles that affect play for the bogey golfer.
Slope Rating: The USGA’s mark that indicates the measurement of the relative playing difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers, compared to scratch golfers. It is computed from the difference between the Bogey Rating and the Course Rating for the same set of tees on the same course and is expressed as a whole number from 55 to 155. A course of standard playing difficulty has a Slope Rating of 113.
The Rating Process:
The rating process requires a study of each hole, including detailed data obtained at all landing areas for both the scratch and the bogey golfer. The shot lengths discussed in the definitions for these two types of golfers are used by the rating teams to determine where the landing areas are. Both length corrections and obstacle values are considered at each point along the hole.
Effective Length Corrections: These correction factors are evaluated to determine if the hole plays longer or shorter than the actual measured length.
Roll: Does the ball get the normal amount of roll off of the player’s tee shot?
Elevation: Is the hole uphill or downhill from tee to green?
Dogleg/Forced Lay-Up: Does the hole feature a bend, forcing a player to hit less than a full tee shot to the pivot point? Or, can a player shorten a hole by cutting an unprotected dogleg corner? Does the player have to hit less club to stay short of a severe obstacle that cannot be carried?
Prevailing Wind: Is there a prevalent, constant wind that may affect the distance that the ball travels? (Normally used on seaside courses)
Altitude: Is the course located at over 2,000 feet or more above sea level?
Obstacle Factors: The following obstacle factors are determined for each landing area for both the scratch and the bogey golfer:
Topography: The evaluation of the difficulty of the stance or lie in the landing areas, and also the elevation change on the player’s landing areas into the green.
Fairway: The evaluation of keeping the ball in play from tee to green. Each landing area fairway width is measured, and adjustments may be made if the ground tilts or there is an obstacle that makes the fairway play narrower than it measures.
Green Target: The evaluation of hitting the green with the approach shot. The rating value is a combination of the size of the green and the length of the shot needed to reach it.
Recoverability/Rough: The evaluation of missing the green or fairway and the difficulty of recovery if either, or both, if missed. The rating value is driven by the Green Target rating.
Bunkers: Bunkers are evaluated around the green for coverage and depth. Fairway bunkers count, but do not earn rating values as high as greenside bunkers. Bunker ratings are also drive by the Green Target rating so a long shot into a small green with lots of deep bunkers will earn a higher value than a short shot into the same green.
OB/Extreme Rough: The evaluation of the distance from the center of the landing area to the OB/Extreme Rough and whether there are factors such as cart paths or fences that will influence where the ball goes.
Water Hazards: Lateral and carry water hazards are considered for each shot that is affected. This value is based on the proximity of the boundary to the fairway landing zone or green.
Trees: Trees are evaluated based on the length of the shot and the probability of recovery from the trees. Also considered are factors such as strategic location, size and density of the trees.
Green Surface: The measurement of the difficulty of a green from a putting standpoint. The speed of the green is measured with a stimpmeter based on mid-season playing conditions. All greens are then evaluated for surface contours or tiers.
Psychological: The cumulative affect of other obstacles and how their severity may create uneasiness in the mind of the player. This value is purely mathematical and is added after the on-course rating is complete.
Each obstacle is assigned a value of 0 to 10, depending on their relation to how a scratch or bogey golfer would play the hole. When the evaluation is complete, the numbers for each factor are totaled and multiplied by a relative weight factor. The weighted obstacle values are applied to scratch and bogey formulas, and then converted to strokes. Those strokes are added or subtracted from the yardage rating to produce Course and Bogey Ratings.
USGA standards call for courses to be re-rated every 10 years, or if it is a new golf course, every 3 years for the first 10. In South Carolina, to keep with the strong standards set forth by our Executive Board, we re-rate golf courses every 3 years for the first 10 and every 6 years there after. A course must also be re-rated if significant changes have been made. These changes might include re-location of tee boxes, alterations to green surfaces and sizes, and removal and / or addition of bunkers, hazards, Out of Bounds, and trees.
For more information on having your course rated or to become a volunteer Course Rater, please contact James Park, Manager of Member Services.