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By: Brian Neufeld, Contributor

Golf has its own language and many golfers new to the sport can feel overwhelmed to learn the lingo. There are even a few terms that some seasoned vets stray away from. Slope and course rating rank at the top of this list. Some golfers may think these terms are too complicated, or that they don’t apply to their golf game, but valuable information can be gleaned from these weird numbers on the scorecard. Let’s take a look at each one in-depth.

Course Rating

The United States Golf Association sends course raters periodically to every golf course to get course and slope ratings from each set of tees. The course rating is the simplest number to understand. Typically, course ratings range between 67 and 77 and the number represents what a zero handicap golfer’s average score would be under normal conditions. So a course with a rating of 73 would be on average five strokes more difficult than a course with a rating of 68. Course raters factor in course obstacles, hazards, and hole length to determine the rating. Understanding course rating can help you understand just how difficult of a course you’re playing, and it’s also the cornerstone to the USGA handicap system.

Slope Rating

The dreaded slope rating doesn’t have to be so complicated and is a more practical number to be familiar with for the golfer who isn’t firing even par on a regular basis. Slope measures the difficulty of a course for a bogey golfer versus a scratch golfer. We won’t get into the heavy math here but the slope numbers range from 55 to 155, and if you’re playing at a course with a slope of 155 you better pack an extra dozen golf balls. Average difficulty courses will typically have slope ratings in the low 100’s.

The next time you’re playing a new course, be sure to check out the course and slope rating and you should have a better idea of what to expect. These numbers can also help you get a few more strokes out of your more skilled playing partners when deciding things on the first tee. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to learn some of these complicated terms.


About the Author: Brian Neufeld

Brian Neufeld’s background includes more than 15 years of experience in golf course management, specializing in agronomy. Brian uses his knowledge of the game and best practices in turf sustention to create informative pieces for’s readers.

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