For most of us, Slope will be a huge factor when we play a round under the new World Handicap System. So what is it and how does it work?

Imagine the ideal golf course. It’s not too easy, not too hard. Everything is perfect. It’s impossible to find such a layout, of course. But the idea of it forms a central part of how the Slope Rating works.

Why? Because that fictitious track has a rating that forms the base from which our handicap marks will soon be calculated.

For when the World Handicap System comes into force in the UK in late 2020, your Course Handicap – the number of shots you receive in a round of golf – will be determined with the help of the Slope Rating for the set of tees from which you play.

What is Slope Rating and how does it work?

Slope Ratings are described by the USGA as indicating the “measurement of the relative playing difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers, compared to scratch golfers”.

Every course in the UK is being assessed using a course rating system, which focuses on scratch and bogey golfers.

The course rating is produced by considering the number of strokes a scratch player would be expected to complete a round in under normal playing conditions.

Scratch, by the way, does not mean tour pro. It’s your average club zero-handicapper.

The bogey rating, similarly, is the number of strokes a bogey player would take in the same conditions.

A bogey golfer is classed as about a 20 handicapper for a man, and 24 for a woman.

slope rating

The Slope Rating is then created by taking the difference between those two ratings and multiplying it by a predetermined factor.

Every set of tees on every course will have a Slope Rating and those numbers will vary between 55 and 155.

The higher the Slope Rating, the greater the difference expected between the scores of those scratch and bogey golfers. A higher rating doesn’t necessarily mean that the course is more difficult than another.

England Golf, who are charged with bringing in the WHS in this country, say: “The most significant factors involved in determining Slope Rating are length, trees, rough and water hazards.

“Because bogey golfers typically demonstrate a wider shot dispersion, these obstacles are expected to penalise them more than a scratch player, creating a higher expected score, resulting in a higher Slope Rating.”

Our current CONGU system works on the basis that the relative difficulty of a course for all players is represented by the Scratch Rating (SSS) and means a single handicap mark can be used on every course we play.

This changes when WHS comes into force. By using a Slope Rating, it will recognise that relative difficulty affects golfers in different ways and that a number of factors are at work.

How good is the golfer who is playing the course? How long is the course? Where are the hazards found?

So a Slope Rating takes that relative difficulty of a course and the player’s WHS Handicap Index to calculate a Course Handicap for each course and each set of tees for every player.

How does the WHS Handicap Index work? Find out on the next page…