Course rating, slope part of handicap system

On every scorecard, many times next to a corresponding tee box, there are listings for the course rating (i.e. 71.2) and the slope rating (i.e. 128) for that set of tees on that particular golf course. Since many golfers may not understand these numbers, here’s a quick explanation to help.

The course rating indicates a golf association’s evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for a scratch golfer under normal weather and course conditions. Yardage is one of the factors that is considered along with other obstacles like hazards that affect the scoring for the better players. The higher the number, the more difficult it is for the scratch golfer. For example, the back tees at Dallas National Golf Club carry a 77.1 rating while the back tees at Waterview Golf Course in Rowlett carry a 74.1 rating. So a scratch golfer would normally score three strokes higher on Dallas National.

Just what is a scratch golfer? According to the United States Golf Association, it’s a golfer who plays to a zero handicap—there’s not many of them around. The male version hits tee shots an average of 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots. The female version—even fewer–hits tee shots 210 yards and can reach a 400-yard hole in two shots.

 Slope rating is an indication of the relative difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer compared to a scratch golfer; the greater the gap, the higher the rating. Dallas National carries a slope of 155 from the tips—no place for most golfers. Waterview has a 128 slope from the tips.

What’s a bogey golfer? The USGA defines him as one with a handicap of 20 or her as one with a handicap of 24. He can hit tee shots an average of 200 yards and reach a 370-yard hole in two shots while she can hit a tee shot an average of 170 yards and can reach a 280-yard hole in two shots. Men who fit this description would be better off playing from tees in the 6,000 range while women bogey golfers probably need to stick closer to the lower 5,000 range.

When going to a new course, a player can take his current handicap index and compare it to a chart from the USGA to translate it into a handicap. For example, a 6.1 might translate to a 6 on a course like Waterview and an 8 on one like Dallas National. Another way is to take the index and multiply by the slope of the tees played and then divide by the standard slope of 113. For example, 10.4 X 125 /113=11.5 (rounded up to 12).

The USGA sets a maximum score for players as follows—double bogey for 9 or less, 7 for 10-19, 8 for 20-29, 9 for 30-39 and 10 for 40 or more–when posting scores. Then you note the course rating and slope from the tees played. For a score of 80 on a course with a rating of 68.1, that number becomes 11.9.  All you have to do is leave it up to the computer to give you your index. For those who want the formula: take the best 10 differentials of the last 20 and multiply by .96.


ABOUT: James McAfee

James McAfee is a freelance writer now living in Plano, TX after recently retiring as the editor of the Knox County News-Courier for eight years, He is currently writing for, Divot Magazine in Colorado, Hometown Living as well as this site. He had worked previously for newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma for 30 years as sports writer and sports editor. He was an editor of Golf Shop Operations and Golf Digest in the 1970s. He then served as the executive director of the Northern Texas PGA and the Dallas District Golf Association for 24 years, In addition, he spent three years in Costa Rica as director of golf and marketing at Playa Conchal.

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