What is a slope rating?

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The slope system is still some time away from being introduced to Australian golf, but let’s take a look at how its calculated and its projected impact.

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Golf Australia will soon be rolling out new course ratings for every Australian golf course. Each course will soon have a new course rating for at least three sets of plates, from which they can place the tees for competitions. A few weeks ago we outlined what these new scratch course rating‘s are, but this week we’re going to explain the slope system, not slated to be introduced to Australian golf for some time.

What is the slope rating?
In short, it is a measure of how difficult a course is for a ‘bogey golfer’ compared to a ‘scratch golfer’. It is not a measure of how difficult a course is, that is reserved for the course rating that we discussed last week.

What is a bogey golfer?
A ‘bogey golfer’ is defined in similar fashion to the scratch golfer. A bogey golfer is defined as a male golfer who hits the ball 200 yards with a handicap of around 20 (150 yards and a handicap of 24 for females).

A course is then given a ‘bogey rating’, which is assessed based on these yardages in exactly the same way as the scratch course rating is measured, taking into account a number of obstacles and factors we previously outlined.

How is the slope of a golf course calculated?
The slope system is nothing more than a number that represents the relative difficulty of a course for scratch golfers compared to non-scratch golfers. Specifically, the calculation is:

[bogey course rating – scratch course rating] x 5.381 for men (or 4.24 for women)

The higher the slope rating, the more difficult it is for bogey golfers compared to scratch golfers. The slope turns out to be a number between 55 and 155, with 113 being a golf course rating with a standard value.

And for those geeks among you, the slope is given its name because it relates directly to the slope of the graph that plots in anticipated score versus the a golfers handicap.

Why do we need it?
The slope is an important component of the USGA handicapping and course rating system, and allows portability of a golfer’s handicap. As it stands, a golfer can acquire a handicap on a relatively hard golf course and makes no adjustment to their handicap when playing in a competition on a much easier golf course. The slope system will take this into account by shifting a golfer’s handicap up or down, depending on the relative difference between your home course and the course you are playing.

The largest impact will occur where golfers play competitions at golf courses away from their home club. If their handicap is acquired on a difficult golf course, it will be lowered when playing at an easier golf course.

Some final points and examples
To finish, consider these points which illustrate the differences between the slope and course rating.

  • Two different golf courses with the same slope rating does not mean the courses are of equal difficulty. The measure of the difficulty of a golf course is not the slope, but the course rating. It only means that the difficulty of the golf course increases in the same way for all golfers at both golf courses.
  • A golf course with a slope of 155 does not mean the golf course is rated as one of the hardest in the country. It merely implies a very large difference between the difficulty of the golf course for a bogey golfer compared to a scratch golfer.

Remember the slope system is still some time away from being introduced to Australia, and we will endeavour to keep you updated when firm dates are announced by Golf Australia.

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