How Are Golf Courses Rated? Crunching The Numbers

While football pitches are mostly of the same difficulty, golf courses can vary substantially when it comes to their difficulty rating. This is because every golf course has a rating, and the higher the number, the harder it is for the golfer to achieve a high score.

So, precisely how do these scores function? It takes skilled course raters with acute eyes to calculate such numbers. They evaluate the course and create a solid rating system to ensure that the game is fair and balanced.

If you’re interested to know more about golf courses rating, keep on reading. In this article, we’ll discuss how golf courses are rated. Let’s get started.

What Is a Golf Course Rating?

The Course Rating aims to establish a decimal number to the course’s difficulty for a scratch golfer. You wouldn’t be able to submit scores or keep a Handicap Index without it.

In case you didn’t know, the Handicap Index indicates your possible scoring performance. A number with decimals represents the index. For example, it can be 61.5. This determines the number of strokes required to bring your score back to par.

Are There Different Types of Course Ratings?

There are various classifications of course ratings. The USGA observed that professional golfers consistently score within one stroke of par, regardless of how challenging the course is.

Conversely, less skilled golfers are more likely to suffer from the course’s challenges and lose regularly. Therefore, there are two types of ratings: course and slope.

A course rating and a slope rating are often confused with one another. However, these two grading scales aren’t comparable. Slope rating measures a course’s difficulty for bogey players as opposed to course rating, which is for scratch golfers.

For 18 holes, a course’s rating typically ranges from 70 to 72. On the other side, the average Slope Rating is 113, with values between 55 and 155.

How Is the Course Rating Calculated?

An experienced team from the local golf association that has received USGA Course Rating System training rates each available course. So, how is the course rating calculated?

As previously stated, the rating’s purpose is to ascribe a numerical number to the course’s difficulty for a scratch golfer. The team takes into account several variables to get the appropriate numerical score for the difficulty.

Determining the distance as well as the size and shape of the greens are a few of these factors. With increasing the course difficulty, the number typically increases.

After estimating the rating, the team playtests the course to obtain more data and ensure the rating is accurate.

Each set of  tees on each hole has an average of 26 assessments. If you’d like to understand more about the factors, let’s take a closer look.


Distance plays a role in what the rating of a course would be like. The USGA Course Rating increases by three-tenths of a stroke and one slope point when the average playable distance increases by 55 yards.

The kind of greenery on a course also has an impact. The rating team considers the degree of grass hardness, the force of the predominant wind, doglegs, roll, and altitude.


The rating group carefully examines each obstacle on every hole of all courses they rate. There are often ten hurdles that they assess. These are:

Bunkers The size and closeness of the bunkers to the target regions determine the severity of the obstacle. The intensity and depth of them also contribute to the rating.
Water Experts rate water according to how far it is from the landing area. When there is a lot of water surrounding a green, special attention is directed to that area.
Topography If a golfer has an uphill or downhill shot to the green, it affects the ratings. In addition to how they stand or lay in the landing area.
Fairway The fairway’s width, from which golfers will hit their strokes, plays a role.
Green Target The main variables for this are the size of the green and the distance of the entry shot.
Out of Bounds/Extreme Rough The distance between the area limit and the landing zone determines how severe an out-of-bounds incident is. Additionally, the distance needed to carry the obstruction on the same hole securely is taken into account.
Green Surface The putting surface’s pace and geometry determine how hard the green is to navigate. The raters calculate the speed using a stimpmeter.
Trees Trees are rated according to their size, thickness, and proximity to the landing zone.
Psychological The player’s mental distress brought on by pressure and impediments may be evident in their performance.
Recoverability and Rough The effort of a comeback shot from the landing area or green is what makes it challenging.

Each challenge has a numerical value between zero and ten, with ten being the most difficult.

The raters evaluate the full course and its obstacles before recording their final evaluations. Using these gathered statistics, the course ratings are established.

How Often Is a Golf Course Rated?

When it comes to grading the courses, the USGA has precise standards. Re-ratings of the courses typically occur every ten years unless there are significant modifications to the course.

All recently built golf courses undergo frequent changes as they develop. For instance, the course may now have a second set of tees, or the greens’ dimensions have shifted.

To address these adjustments, the difficulty rating needs another rating analysis. However, depending on the alterations, these courses probably don’t require a complete rating.

Either way, the clubhouse must inform the golf association if the course undertakes lasting changes. This way, they’ll assess if a re-rating is warranted.


If you’re wondering how golf courses are rated, many variables will help indicate the best ratings. The distance and obstacles on the course typically come into play since they influence how challenging the course is.

Then, a team of experts will visit the course to evaluate it. Finally, they establish the rating based on their analysis.

These courses undergo regular reevaluation every ten years. However, the course must be assessed to see if there have been any changes. That way, the rating would be fair and will allow you to enjoy the game.