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Course Rating

What is course rating?

Course rating is a core service that is provided to all golf clubs affiliated to Scottish Golf.

The course rating process determines the playing difficulty of a golf course for a scratch golfer under normal course and weather conditions.

The course rating is expressed within GB&I as a course rating and a slope rating which is provided for all sets of tees from which qualifying competitions are played from.

Course Rating is also the cornerstone of the World Handicap System.

A Course Rating represents the expected score for a scratch player (Handicap Index of 0.0) under normal playing conditions, while a Bogey Rating represents the expected score for a bogey player (Handicap Index 20.0 to 24.0). These two figures work together to calculate a Slope Rating, which is a measure of the relative difficulty of a golf course between the scratch player and all other players. In other words, the higher the Slope Rating of a golf course, the more strokes a higher-handicapped player will need to play that course on an equal basis to the scratch player.

How is the course rating and slope rating calculated?

The USGA Course Rating System is used to determine these values. The USGA Course Rating System is very objective in nature taking into account all the factors that affect the playing difficulty of a course. It requires numerous specific measurements to be taken on each hole of the golf course, which assists in the consistency of application by course rating teams.

The system is designed to differentiate playing difficulty of all courses relative to each other, which requires a consistent application by all our course rating teams.

The USGA Course Rating System takes account of the actual measured length of a golf course, factors that can affect the playing length and other challenges that influence the playing difficulty of each hole (obstacle factors).

The factors that can affect the effective playing length of a golf course are:

  • Roll – assessment of how far a ball will roll on fairways with various surface conditions/contouring
  • Dogleg – where the dogleg design of a hole does not allow a full tee shot to be played
  • Wind – assessment of average wind strength and direction
  • Elevation – difference in elevation between the tee and green and for player’s approach shots to the green
  • Forced Lay-up – where a player is forced to play short of obstacles that crosses the fairway

The ten obstacle factors that are used to determine the playing difficulty of a golf course are:

  • Topography – nature of the stance and lie within each landing zone and approach shot elevation to the green
  • Fairway – the width of fairway landing zones, hole length and nearby obstacles – trees, hazards and punitive rough
  • Green Target – evaluation of hitting the green with the approach shot – visibility and nature of the green surface
  • Recoverability and Rough – difficulty of recovery if the tee shot landing zones and/or the green is missed
  • Bunkers – size and depth of bunkers and their proximity to landing zones and greens
  • Crossing Obstacle – shot length to safely carry water, penalty areas, OB or extreme rough.
  • Lateral Obstacle – takes account of the distance of obstacles from the centre of fairways and greens.
  • Trees – size and density, proximity to centre of landing zones/greens, shot length to target areas, recovery difficulty
  • Green Surface – putting difficulty on a green – green speeds, surface contours and tiers
  • Psychological – evaluation of the cumulative effect of the other nine obstacle factors

Find out more in the video below:


For all course rating enquiries: T: 01334466477, E: [email protected]