Nepali Times
Tee Break
Slope rating


Rrecently overheard a conversation at the golf club on how a golf course's 'slope rating' and 'course rating' affect a player's handicap. It wasn't long before I was invited to join the group and clear up the confusion.

The golf handicapping system allows players at any skill level or age group to compete with one another on the same platform. It was found that unless this system incorporated the difficulty of a course, it had its limitations, which was affecting the fairness of competitions.

For example, golfers with 15 handicaps earned at difficult courses would have a great advantage over those who normally play on easier courses. Since golf courses vary so much in difficulty, a course rating system was devised to quantify the playing difficulty levels of each course and thus attempt to reach a fairer handicapping system.

Then it was found that on more difficult courses, the discrepancy between the scores of stronger and weaker players was greater. The course rating system did not account for that factor. Thus the slope rating system for courses was devised. This is a number representing the relative difficulty of a course for bogey golfers compared to scratch golfers.

For these calculations a scratch golfer is taken as a male golfer who hits his drives 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two, or a female golfer who hits her drives 210 yards and can reach a 400-yard hole in two, and has a handicap of zero.

A bogey golfer is defined as a male player who has a handicap between 17.5 and 22.4, and hits his tee shots 200 yards and can reach a 370 yard par 4 in two shots, and a female golfer with a handicap between 21.5 to 26.4, who hits her drives 150 yards and can reach a 280-yard hole in two.

The course rating of a particular 18-hole course is done through a comprehensive evaluation of the playing difficulty of that course for a scratch golfer under normal course and weather conditions, and produces a result which represents the average score of the best 50% of rounds played by scratch golfers.

It is calculated by measuring the course yardage coupled with factors that affect the actual playing length and difficulty of each hole, such as, but not limited to, altitude, uphill and downhill roll, doglegs, hindrances such as trees, bunkers water hazards and rough, the effective width of the fairway and their impact on the player.

Thus for a par 72 course, a course rating of 74 would indicate a much harder course than one rated at 68. Slope rating is a measurement of the difficulty of a course for bogey golfers relative to the course rating, and range from 55 (easiest) to 155 (hardest). In the United States an averagely difficult course is given a slope rating of 113.

These two ratings are used to first calculate your 'handicap index' over a minimum of five rounds. This handicap index is then used with a course's slope rating to calculate your 'course handicap' for that course (Index x Slope Rating) divided by 113. The result determines the number of handicap strokes given on that course.

In Nepal we still don't follow these types of systems. Perhaps we should consider getting all our courses rated, and thus hopefully remove the last few complaints on different handicap levels at our courses.

Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Head Golf Professional at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)