Connecticut Women's Golf Association
providing competitive golfing opportunities for its members since 1919

Course Rating

In 1987 USGA implemented the Slope System. This was designed to address the portability of handicaps and adjust a player’s handicap according to the difficulty of the course. The current system, which the USGA updated in 1994, includes both a course rating and slope rating. Courses are rated according to the relative difficulty for both scratch and higher handicapped golfers. The program is designed to ensure that the rating of a course is in proper relation to other courses. Trained and experienced rating teams help assure accuracy and consistency in this rating work.

There are many factors that affect the playing difficulty of a course. The most essential factor is accurate yardage measurement, which must be adjusted for "playing length." Obstacles that affect playing difficulty are factors also rated in accordance with established standards.

Four adjustments are evaluated to arrive at playing length:

  • Roll (firm or soft ground, tilt, or slope of landing area)
  • Changes in elevation (level, up or down tee to green)
  • Forced lay-up and/or dog-leg (such can increase or decrease the playing length of the hole)
  • Prevailing wind and/or altitude (seaside or plains winds normally blow steadily from one direction and the ball flies farther as altitude of the course increases)

Ten obstacles that affect playing difficulty must be evaluated by established rating standards and these defined standards reduce subjectivity and increase the essential objectivity. The ten obstacles that affect playing difficulty are:

  • Topography (lie of ball, even or uneven ground, stance)
  • Fairway (width, length, nearby trees, hazards)
  • Green target (size, distance, visibility or green or flag stick)
  • Rough and recoverability (difficulty of shots from the rough that miss the fairway or green)
  • Out-of-bounds (which side, how close, distance)
  • Net effect (most frequently there is some change: there have been some unchanged ratings: most are changed modestly)
  • Bunkers (what fraction of green is closely bordered by bunker, depth of bunker)
  • Water hazards (distance to cross hazard; for a lateral hazard, from center of target landing zone)
  • Green Surface (contour of green)
  • Psychological (sum of obstacle value)

USGA policy prohibits any rating work to be done by a rater who is a member at a course being rated (reliable objectivity cannot be assured).

When changes are made in the rating of a golf course, all of its’ members are affected. If the ratings go higher, handicaps decrease slightly, or, if the ratings go lower, handicaps increase slightly. The computation of handicaps is fully explained in the USGA Handicap System Manual, a book printed by the USGA which all Golf and Handicap Committees should have.

Courses are rated every ten 10 years unless the course at your club has made a significant change in yardage or layout. An application for having your course rated can be obtained by contacting us at the link below.

If you are interested in learning more about course and slope rating, please contact us.   

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Connecticut Women's Golf Association


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