What is a Golf Course Rating

A golf course rating is a number assigned to a golf course that reflects the difficulty of playing the course for scratch golfers, or those with a handicap of 0. The rating is intended to be a standardized measure that allows golfers to compare the relative difficulty of different courses.


The purpose of a golf course rating is to provide golfers with a way to compare the difficulty of different courses. This can be useful when planning a round of golf, as it allows golfers to select a course that is appropriate for their skill level. It is also used in the calculation of handicaps, which are designed to adjust a golfer’s score based on the relative difficulty of the course being played.


The golf course rating is calculated by a team of experts who visit the course and evaluate its difficulty. Factors that are taken into account include the length of the course, the width of the fairways, the size and contours of the greens, and the hazards and obstacles that are present. Each factor is assigned a numerical value, and these values are combined to produce an overall rating for the course.

In addition to the golf course rating, a slope rating is also calculated. This rating reflects the relative difficulty of the course for golfers with different levels of handicap. The slope rating takes into account the difference between the course rating and the expected score for golfers of different handicaps.

Golf course ratings are used in several ways to benefit golfers, golf courses, and golf associations. Some of the main uses of golf course ratings include:

  1. Handicap Calculation : Handicaps are calculated using a formula that takes into account a golfer’s score and the course rating. A golfer’s handicap is designed to adjust their score based on the relative difficulty of the course being played, allowing players of different skill levels to compete on an equal footing. The golf course rating is a key factor in this calculation, and a higher rating generally indicates a more challenging course.
  2. Course Selection: Golfers use course ratings to help them select courses that are appropriate for their skill level. A golfer with a high handicap, for example, may choose to play a course with a lower rating to increase their chances of scoring well. Conversely, a scratch golfer may seek out courses with higher ratings to test their skills and challenge themselves.
  3. Course Management: Golf course owners and managers use ratings to help them manage their courses more effectively. They may use the ratings to identify areas of the course that need improvement, such as narrow fairways or poorly placed hazards. They may also use the ratings to adjust the course’s difficulty by changing tee placements or adjusting the pin positions on the greens.
  4. Course Marketing: Course ratings can be used as a marketing tool to attract golfers to a particular course. A course with a high rating may be advertised as a challenging course that will test the skills of even the best golfers. Alternatively, a course with a lower rating may be marketed as a more forgiving course that is ideal for beginners or less experienced players.
  5. Course Length: The overall length of the course is one of the most significant factors considered in the golf course rating. Longer courses generally require more skill and accuracy to navigate, as they may require longer shots and may have more challenging obstacles.
  6. Fairway Width: The width of the fairways can also impact the difficulty of the course. Narrow fairways require more precision and accuracy, while wider fairways allow for more forgiving shots.
  7. Green Size and Contours: The size and contours of the greens can also impact the difficulty of the course. Larger greens may be more forgiving, while smaller greens require greater accuracy. The contours of the greens, such as the slope and undulation, can also make putting more challenging.
  8. Bunkers and Hazards: The placement and number of bunkers and other hazards on the course can significantly impact the difficulty of the course. Courses with more hazards require more strategic play and greater accuracy.
  9. Wind and Weather Conditions: The prevailing wind and weather conditions can also impact the difficulty of the course. Windy conditions, for example, can make shots more challenging and require greater accuracy.

Golf Course Rating Criteria

CriteriaDescriptionWeightingScore rangeScore meaning
Overall course difficultyBased on length, hazards, rough, green speeds, and other factors45%67-77Very difficult
Shot valuesHow much each shot on the course affects the golfer’s score20%58-66Extremely important
Course conditionsQuality of the fairways, greens, tee boxes, bunkers, and other features20%48-57Average
AestheticsBeauty and attractiveness of the course10%38-47Below average
ExperienceHow enjoyable and memorable the overall golfing experience is5%28-37Disappointing

Golf Course Rating Scale

69-72Very good
61-64Above average
53-56Below average
45-48Very poor
44 or lessUnplayable

Golf Course Slope Rating

Slope RatingDescription
155-155+Extremely difficult
145-154Very difficult
125-134Somewhat difficult
100-112Somewhat easy
55-89Very easy

Golf Course Rating Formulas

Course rating = (Bogey rating + 2 x Slope rating)/3Used to determine the difficulty of the course for a scratch golfer
Slope rating = (Bogey rating – Course rating) x (113 / Slope value)Used to determine the relative difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer compared to a scratch golfer
Bogey rating = Course rating + (Course rating – par)Used to determine the difficulty of the course for a bogey golfer
Scratch rating = Course rating + (P – S)Used to determine the difficulty of the course for a scratch golfer, where P is the expected score of a scratch golfer and S is the USGA


  • Ray Barnes

    Ray Barnes, our Senior Staff Writer and a Golf Analyst with a PhD in Sports Analytics, is a beacon of insight in the golfing world. With a deep understanding of the sport's nuances, statistical analysis, and a talent for demystifying complexities, he provides in-depth analysis and captivating narratives that engage golf enthusiasts worldwide.

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