Every golf course offers something different, from the terrain and geographic location to the scenery and types of grass. Your handicap is a quick way to know your skill level relative to par, though it doesn’t paint a full picture for how you’ll fare on a harder versus easier course.
Enter the Slope Rating system.
Slope Rating is used to measure the difficulty of a golf course, though it isn’t the most readily understood term in the golf world. In this article, we’ll walk you through the meaning of Slope Rating, how it’s calculated and why knowing it makes a difference.
According to the USGA, the Slope Rating, along with the Course Rating, “is the evaluation of the playing difficulty of the course for the scratch player and the bogey player under normal playing conditions.” The higher the Slope and Course Ratings, the more difficult the golf course will play.
Additionally, Slope Rating is meant to determine the relative difficulty of a course for a high versus low handicap golfer. This is because length and course hazards will impact higher handicap players more than scratch golfers. As such, Slope Rating was devised by the USGA in the 1980s as a companion to the handicap system, in order to account for course difficulty for golfers of differing abilities.
A course’s Slope Rating is calculated by subtracting the Course Rating from the Bogey Rating, multiplied by 5.381 for men and 4.240 for women.
(Bogey Rating − Course Rating) x 5.381 = Men’s Slope Rating
Each set of tee boxes at a given course will have their own Slope Rating, since the difficulty will vary if you’re playing from the longer back versus the front tees. While this may sound complicated on the surface, calculating the Slope Rating is straightforward with some basic math. Let’s start by defining our terms.
The Course Rating is the expected score for a scratch golfer (0 handicap) over 18 holes, to the nearest decimal point. The Bogey Rating, similarly, is the expected score for a bogey golfer (handicap index of 18). Determining the Course and Bogey Ratings takes into account the course’s effective playing length, along with 10 obstacle factors for each hole, such as topography, lateral obstacles and bunkers.
The standard Slope Rating in golf is 113, which stems from the USGA’s guidelines around the Slope and handicap systems. The official range for a course’s Slope Rating is 55 to 155. You can read more about decoding the Course, Obstacle and Yardage Ratings in this article.
Luckily for the everyday golfer, the Slope and Course Ratings are already determined for you and given on the scorecard, so there’s no need to take out your calculator before your next round.
Understanding how to interpret the Slope Rating, however, will help you see how you stack up, given your handicap, when you play different golf courses. This can also help you and your playing partners to choose the correct tee boxes based on more than just yardage.
So, what is a difficult Slope Rating in golf? This will depend on your handicap and personal preference. Keeping in mind the standard of 113 above, and the cap at 155, a rating of over 130 will generally be difficult for the mid-handicap golfer.
Our North and South courses offer 36 holes of pure Pinehurst golf, immersed in the stillness of the Carolina Sandhills and designed by renowned course architect Tom Fazio. Each course offers a unique test of golf, with Slope Ratings reflecting these differences in both yardage and terrain. See a breakdown of each Slope Rating below.
Pebble Beach Golf Links: 145
Torrey Pines, South Course: 143
TPC Sawgrass: 155
Augusta National: 148
Pine Valley Golf Club, Championship: 155
Pinehurst No. 2: 136
Oak Hill Country Club, East Course: 151
Discover your own private golf haven in Pinehurst and learn more about membership at Forest Creek Golf Club by contacting Amanda McGovern, our Director of Membership, at Amcgovern@forestcreekgolfclub.com, or by filling out the form below.