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Officially defined by the United States Golf Association, a Course Rating is the mark that indicates the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course under normal course and weather conditions. It is expressed as strokes taken to one decimal place, and is based on yardage and other obstacles to the extent that they affect scoring difficulty for the scratch golfer. A USGA Course Rating is equal to the average of the better half of a scratch golfer’s scores under normal conditions. This value is the most accurate indicator of the difficulty of a golf course.
A secondary but essential component of the Course Rating system is the Bogey Rating. The Bogey Rating is computed for a player who plays to a higher handicap on a course of standard difficulty. A male bogey golfer carries a Course Handicap of approximately 20 on a course of standard difficulty; a female bogey golfer carries a Course Handicap of approximately 24 on a course of standard difficulty. It is also given that a bogey golfer’s tee shots travel a shorter distance than the scratch golfer's and have a greater chance of landing further away from the fairway landing zone.
Both the Course (scratch) Rating and Bogey Rating are the basic derivatives in calculating the Slope Rating. Defined by the USGA, the Slope Rating is the mark that indicates the measurement of the relative difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers compared to the USGA Course Rating (i.e., compared to the difficulty of a course for scratch golfers). Slope Rating is computed from the difference between the Bogey Rating and the USGA Course Rating. The lowest Slope Rating is 55 and the highest is 155. A golf course of standard playing difficulty has a Slope Rating of 113.
A simplistic explanation of how a Slope Rating is determined is to consider the method in which both the Course Rating and Bogey Rating are computed. When a Course Rating Committee visits a facility to conduct a rating, two distinct ratings are calculated. One rating is for scratch golfers; the second is computed for Bogey golfers. Within these two ratings, two main items determine the degree of difficulty of a course: yardage (length) and obstacles.
Yardage is the predominant element of a Course and Bogey Rating; obstacles include bunkers, trees, water hazards, out of bounds, extreme rough, and the size, shape, speed, and contour of the green. In order to assess the difficulty of these various obstacles, numeric values 1 (minimal) through 10 (extreme) are assigned to quantify the difficulty of each.
Understanding that the Course Rating is designed for scratch golfers and the Bogey Rating is designed for bogey golfers, the assigned values which reflect the difficulty of yardage and obstacles are naturally higher for the bogey golfer due to the increased impact of these factors. For example, if the yardage of a course is 6800 yards, its impact on difficulty would be more profound on bogey golfers because they theoretically take more strokes to finish a hole. Obstacles, as mentioned above, also have a more profound effect on bogey golfers due to their propensity to impact a shot. Because of these two items, a bogey golfer is inherently more likely to take more strokes on a hole and post a higher score.
The Slope Rating, therefore, is the measure of the relative difficulty for a scratch golfer versus a bogey golfer. If the relative difficulty is extreme between the two, the Slope Rating will be higher, and vice-versa if the relative difficulty is minor.
Please see the Course and Slope Rating lookup for specific information on all NJSGA member clubs and courses.