Slope Rating in Golf: What Is It And How Is It Calculated?

Slope Rating is a fundamental element of the World Handicap System. Here we consider what it is and how it is calculated

Slope Rating on scorecard
Each course will have different Slope Ratings for each set of tees
(Image credit: Future)

In this article we consider the Slope Rating. It’s a key number within the World Handicap System (WHS) that is part of the calculation used for determining a player’s Course Handicap, which varies according to which set of tees you are playing from at any given course.

What is Slope Rating?

Slope Rating is described by the USGA as demonstrating the “measurement of the relative playing difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers, compared to scratch golfers”. The higher a course’s Slope Rating, the higher the expected difference of scoring between a scratch golfer and a bogey golfer. The Slope Rating is not purely an indication of a course’s difficulty, it is an indication of the difference in difficulty for scratch and bogey players.

How is Slope Rating Calculated?

United States golfers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

To determine the Slope Rating for a course requires two key numbers – Course Rating and Bogey Rating. The Course Rating is the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a golf course for the scratch player (0 handicap). The Bogey Rating is the evaluation of the difficulty of a course for a bogey player of 20-24 handicap.

Course and Bogey Rating are calculated using the USGA Course Rating System. Course rating teams consider more than 460 variables on a standard course rating, from each set of tees.

The USGA Course Rating System takes into account: the actual measured length of a golf course, factors that can affect the playing length of the course and other challenges that influence the playing difficulty of each hole called 'obstacle factors'. For example, do any 'crossing obstacles' demand long carries; are the fairways particularly narrow with trees, penalty areas, rough or bunkers in close proximity? Slope Rating is calculated by subtracting the Course Rating from the Bogey Rating and multiplying it by a constant.

Crossing obstacle - Lofoten Links

'Crossing obstacles' are one of the 'obstacle factors'. Do any present long carries?

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

What Does a Slope of 113 Mean?

Scorecard showing Slope Rating

Slope Rating varies according to which set of tees you play from

(Image credit: Jeremy Ellwood)

113 is the average Slope Rating signifying a course of standard relative difficulty. The number 113 is used in calculating a player’s Course Handicap. Each player with a WHS Handicap Index can calculate their Course Handicap for any course by dividing the Slope Rating of that course by 113, multiplying that number by their Handicap Index and then adding in Course Rating minus Par for the set of tees they'll be playing from.

So, expressed as a mathematical formula, your Course Handicap for any given round from any given set of tees equals...

Handicap Index x Slope Rating/113 + (Course Rating - Par)

The final additional element of 'Course Rating - Par' has been part of the calculation for some handicap jurisdictions around the world for some time with the UK&I embracing it from the 2024 WHS revisions.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?