Luke is an avid weekend-warrior golfer from the East Coast who plays golf more than he cares to admit.
If you’ve been playing golf for a while now, you will likely know that every golf course is different. Some are much more difficult than others, and you will see this reflected in your handicap!
However, due to such a large variance in these golf course difficulties, a system was created to help to determine the level of difficulty the course has.
This system is known as a slope rating, or slope for short.
This might sound simple enough, but determining the slope rating of a given course certainly is not and it can get a little complex and confusing.
So, we’ve written this guide to try to more simply explain it.
If you want to know more about a slope rating, read below!
So, What Is A Slope Rating?
The USGA describes a slope rating as the:
‘measurement of the relative playing difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers, compared to scratch golfers’.
So, when we look at the difference between a scratch golfer and a non-scratch (or bogey) golfer, then the higher the slope rating, the greater the score difference should be when compared together.
This is where people are often confused, because one of the biggest myths with a slope rating is that people believe the higher the score, the more difficult the course is.
While this is somewhat true, it’s not the full story and it’s not always the case.
It is merely the numerical difference when you compare scratch and non scratch golfers scores together on that particular golf course.
You may now be wondering – well, how do they do that then? Here’s what you need to know about that, in the next section!
How Is A Slope Rating Calculated?
In order to determine a golf course’s slope rating, you’ll need to look at two figures. These figures are the course rating and the bogey rating.
The first, the course rating, is a score that determines the difficulty of the course for a scratch player (0 handicap) and then the bogey rating is the determining difficulty for the golf course of a bogey player (a 20 to 24 handicap).
Both of these ratings are determined by the USGA course rating system and this is done by putting in factors of more than 460 variables from each set of tees on a standard course rating.
Things included in the determination may be the length of the golf course, challenges that could affect the playing length of the course and other factors which could increase the overall course difficulty of each hole.
The slope rating will therefore be calculated by taking the course rating from the bogey rating and multiplying this by a constant. This constant in the men’s game is 5.381.
What Is An Easy Slope Rating?
You may now be wondering what an easy slope rating could be and where exactly you will find the rating anyway.
Generally, the slope rating will be printed on the scorecard and you will notice all of the tee boxes will have their own rating.
The generally considered average slope rating is 113, so if you see any slope rating that is below 113, you could theoretically say that this is an easier slope rating.
However, this is only based on the idea that the course is lower than the average slope rating.
What Is A Hard Slope Rating?
Conversely, as the average slope rating is 113, anything over 113 would be considered as a hard slope rating.
Once again though, this is essentially a numerical rating of being more difficult than an average slope rating.
How Accurate Is A Slope Rating?
The slope system accuracy will always be an area of contention among golfers.
This does not matter if you are a pro golfer or even a newbie to the sport, the definition of a slope rating is an area that most golfers have their own thoughts and feelings about.
The main problem is that the USGA course system relies heavily on the idea that every player is a scratch player and as a result, the overall methodology completely underestimates the course rating itself.
This in turn will show a major fault in the bogey rating system and then overall, the slope rating system.
Currently though, this is the only slope rating system that US golfers will go by, so while it may have its faults in terms of its accuracy (depending on who you ask), it is the system that we must use.
What Is A Good Slope Rating For Beginners?
If you are new to golf, you might be wondering what a good slope rating might be for you to improve your game.
While this is again, an area of contention, the general consensus is that you should look at a number below the average.
However, it’s a good idea to try out higher slope ratings and learn for yourself. You may determine that the slope rating is not an accurate representation of your abilities to that specific course.
Should I Pay Much Attention To The Slope Rating?
A slope rating will always be a great indicator for the course’s difficulty, despite its arguable flaws. However, many golfers will wonder how much attention they should be paying to it.
In short, there’s no real answer to this. It’s always going to be better for you to work on your technique and general game rather than worrying too much about the slope rating.
Having said that, you may want to focus more on lower slope ratings if you are new to golf. It really comes down to you and your ability.
Slope is simply a way to work out the course’s difficulty based on a comparison of a scratch and bogey player.
We hope this guide has been helpful to clear up some of the confusion!