What is Slope Rating in Golf?

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Golf is a lot of things but easy isn’t one word many people would use to describe the sport.

It is difficult to become a great golfer. Most golfers struggle to get into the 80s and 70s. It can take many years, if not decades, to realize your golf potential.

While the game isn’t easy, the scoring system isn’t either. It’s easy to get confused when you see things like slope, rating, course rating, handicapping, and all kinds of other golf terms. 

Keep reading to learn more about these terms as we’ll simplify them. This will help you decide which tees are best for you based on your level of skill. 

What is Slope Rating in Golf 101?

What is a slope rating anyways? 

According to the USGA (United States Golf Association), “Playing length and obstacles impact higher-handicap players more than lower-handicap players, and Slope Rating measures the relative difficulty of a golf course for players who are not scratch players compared to those who are scratch players.”

A slope rating of a course is a way to determine how difficult it is for average bogey players. A bogey player is about the same as a 20 handicap index golfer. This is a great way to compare the average bogey players score against a scratch golfer. 

As Wikipedia said, “It is used by handicapping systems to equalize the field by accounting for the likelihood that, when playing on more difficult courses, higher handicap players’ scores will rise more quickly than their handicaps would otherwise predict. The term was invented by the United States Golf Association.”

History of Slope Ratings in Golf 

Despite the long history in golf (which dates back hundreds of decades), the slope rating system is relatively new. Dean Kruth (a Lt. The Naval Postgraduate School and Commander Dean Kruth began to develop a course rating system. 

He then developed a “bogey rating” by analyzing shot data for volunteers who played local golf courses. He was eventually hired by the USGA in 1981 and worked there for 16 years. He was paired with a Handicap Research Team, (HRT), and they created the modern slope rating system.

This allows you to calculate the difference between a course rating process, and bogey rating. It also gives you a numerical indication of how much a bogey player would shoot. The system was finally implemented in 1987 after years of testing. 

It wasn’t until 1990 that all golf associations began to rate golf courses using the USGA course rating system. This numerical rating system can be used to distinguish between scratch and bogey golfers on any given course. The rating process takes into account measured length, overall lengths, forced lay ups and green target. There are tons of other factors that can be used to give a course rating.

Here’s what is important to remember, the system shows that higher handicap golfers will shoot higher scores on more difficult golf courses (higher slope ratings). This will increase much faster than low handicap golfers, who can stay close to par. 

Let’s get into how the slope rating is calculated by each rating team… 

How is the Slope Rating Measured 

The following formula can be used to calculate slope rating:

  • Slope rating for men: 5.381 x (Bogey rating – USGA course rating)
  • Slope rating for women: 4.24 x (Bogey rating – USGA course rating)

The slope rating of a golf course is calculated by multiplying the number (which is 5.381 for men or 4.24 for women) by the bogey rating – the USGA rating. It’s also important to note that bogey golfers are classified as 20 handicaps for men, while women are 24 handicaps. The bogey rating and course rating are determined by professional course raters (wouldn’t that be quite a job)? 

They use more than 460 variables to determine the standard course rating using multiple tee box tees. Some of the most important factors are length, trees and hazards, as well as rough. 


Course Rating

The course rating (not to be confused with slope rating) refers to a golf course’s difficulty level for scratch golfers. Scratch rating is much easier to understand as it’s measured in strokes on a particular set of tees.

A stroke rating of 69.2 might be an example for a course that is easier. A scratch golfer should shoot below par (assuming 72 is standard). A course rating of 75.1 might indicate a difficult course, but an average 0 handicap golfer will shoot three over par. 

It’s important to note course rating is not a measure for the everyday golfer but instead, a scratch golfer. Which if you didn’t know, refers to a player with 0.0 index rating – i.e. They aim for par on the golf course. This is a great goal for many players as it only happens to a small number of golfers. 

According to the USGAThis is only 20,000 men! If someone is better than average, they have a plus (+ handicap). This report also shows that just over 30,000 men have elite handicaps (about 1% of the country). 

Slope Ratings

The slope rating is a measure of how difficult a golf course is for bogey players. This is not measured in strokes like course rating. 

Course rating can be used to determine how difficult a course is on a sliding scale based on the tee boxes. The USGA rating can be used to gauge how difficult it is for average bogey golfers.

The course will determine the slope rating. They can be anywhere from 55 to 150 with the average course at 113. 

The slope rating of a golf course is the most important determinant of whether a player can score well. 

This is why it’s beneficial to check out the slope rating online or check the scorecard when you play a new golf course. This calculation allows you to determine the best tee boxes for your round. 

Example of Course Rating and Slope

To better understand this complex concept, let’s review what it looks like on a scorecard at Pebble Beach.

Average male scratch golfer should average 2.9 shots above par from the tips (blue Tees). They should shoot around par (71.8) if they move up to the white Tees. This is the difference between making the course shorter or easier to play.

While the slope rating from the tips is extremely high – 144 for a bogey golfer. This is significantly higher that the average 113 slope rating, which is because the course is challenging even for golfers with lower handicaps.

FAQs about Rating and Slope 

Do you have questions about slope rating, handicap index, and USGA rating? Continue reading if you have more questions about slope, rating and USGA handicap index. 

Is it harder to get a higher slope rating?

Yes, the more difficult the golf course will be if it has a higher slope or rating. According to the USGA “It is determined by comparing the Course Rating™ to the Bogey Rating™. A course of standard difficulty has a Slope Rating of 113.” 

What does a 130 slope rating mean? Is a 130 slope rating difficult?

Since the average slope rating is 113, a 130 is a big jump up meaning it’s much more difficult for the everyday golfer. If the course is altered in construction, lengthened, or otherwise modified, a course can receive an updated rating.

Are all new courses given a slope rating and a course rating?

Yes, the USGA slope rating takes place from each set. It establishes both the scratch rating and the bogey rating for newly constructed golf courses. This determines the standard playing difficulty of the world handicap system.

What is a difficult golf slope rating? 

The average slope rating is 113, so any higher is considered more difficult. Pebble Beach, for example, is one of the most challenging courses. 

What is an easy slope rating? What is a hard-slope rating?

Since 113 is the average rating, anything below about a 90 is considered “easy.” But technically, anything under 113 can be considered easier as it’s less than average.

The opposite is true for slope ratings higher than 113.  It’s important to note that each tee box has its own slope rating as well. 

What is Augusta Nationals slope rating 

Augusta National is one the most exclusive golf courses worldwide. It’s also one of the most challenging golf courses (not only to play but get on as well).

Ironically, there is not an official slope rating or rating for the course. According to Wikipedia, the Augusta Nationals unofficial slope rating and rating is 78.1 course rating and 13 slope rating.

This is without a doubt the most difficult course in the country. It’s also very long at over 7,500 yards from the tips and continues to test players like no other course.  

What would an 18 handicap shoot at Augusta look? 

Here’s what Golf Digest said, “I estimated that a player with a Course Handicap of 0 could expect to shoot an 81, a 9 might shoot 91, an 18 would shoot 103 and a 36 approximately 125.”

What is the slope rating of TPC Sawgrass 

TPC Sawgrass is home to the Players Championship each year and often referred to as the “5th major” in golf. It’s an exciting golf course that is also treacherous if you find yourself in the wrong spot. 

A fun tournament to watch on TV is made up of long holes, sloped fairways and tons of water hazards. But it’s not as fun for the players who can really struggle and close down the final three holes. 

The course has a slope rating of 155 rating and 76.4 rating by the Florida State Golf Association. But it’s important to note this is measured during normal playing conditions, not when it’s set up for the PGA Tour event. 

Needless to say, it’s one of the most challenging golf courses and amateurs should be aware of playing this bucket list course. The same Golf Digest article states that “A golfer with an 18-handicap typically would shoot 116, but would be in the 122-124 range under tournament conditions (see accompanying chart).”

Final Thoughts 

It can be difficult to understand slope rating and course rating. But you don’t have to worry about it too much as most golf apps will take care of the hard work for you.

Just remember…

Course rating is determined by a scratch golfer. This is easier to understand as it’s a numerical value relating to par. For example, 71.0 (under par), 74.0 (overpar).

The Slope rating does not consider a bogey player. This can vary depending on the difficulty level of the course.

Do you ever use the slope rating or course rating to decide which tees are best? Do you primarily focus on yardage? 

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. 

You want to learn more about handicapping or other golf rules? You can also check out our other popular articles:

  • Explained: The Handicap of Golf
  • Golf Etiquette for Dummies
  • Rules of Golf (Simple version)

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