How Does Rating And Slope Work In Golf?

How Does Rating And Slope Work In Golf

When getting ready to play at an unknown course, most golfers want to know one thing: how hard is it? Important weather considerations include weather, course conditions, and whether the player has their best swing that day. Still, ultimately each course is different, and its difficulty can be measured in a couple of ways. The two universal measures of course difficulty are rating and slope. These two numbers are printed on every scorecard and give golfers a pretty good idea of what kind of challenge they’ll be taking on.


A course’s rating is defined as the expected score a scratch golfer (someone who plays at even par) would shoot at a given course. Each course will provide a rating for every tee box, with the number usually rising the further back golfers play (as distance is a major factor in course difficulty). The course rating is calculated by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and is based on how long a course plays and how many obstacles there are. How long a course ‘plays’ is usually determined by factors such as wind, roll out on fairways, and doglegs. In addition, there are ten defined obstacles that impact rating, including topography, green size, bunkers, and water hazards. If a course’s rating is higher than the par of the course, it is above-average in difficulty. So, if a scratch golfer plays a course with a par of 72 and a rating of 74, they would be expected to shoot two over par (+2).


The other major determinant of a course’s difficulty is slope. The formula for slope is much more mathematical: it is found by taking the difference between the USGA’s rating and the expected score of a high-handicap golfer, then multiplying that difference by 5.381. The average slope for a golf course is 113, meaning anything below that would be considered ‘easy’ and anything higher would be considered ‘hard.’ Much like rating, slope is given for all tee boxes at a course. It increases the further back golfers choose to tee it up. Since distance is a key factor in rating, the longer a course, the more difficult it is.

How Slope and Rating Affect Play

Though slope and rating may seem like just numbers to many casual golfers, they are both important things to take note of. While many players may just look at how many yards long a course is, there are so many more factors that go into the difficulty of a course. Slope and rating help players understand the course and its level better and give players a more complete picture than just the total length. These ratings allow golfers to play from the appropriate tee box for their skill level and can make golf at every course accessible to all types of players. Whether that means playing from a different tee box than normal or accepting that a course will provide more of a challenge, slope and rating give valuable information for everyone to take in.