Slope Rating Discrepancies


#1

Wanted to throw something out that I’ve found interesting recently.

My home course is an old school, 6100 yard course that plays super tight with tiny greens that get sped up with a lot undulation. Anyways the slope of the course is 126; however, anytime I bring out guests they get eaten alive by the course.

I play 95% of my rounds at my home course and I’ve recently started noticing that courses with a higher slope rating aren’t more difficult and those scores almost always end up as one of my top ten differentials counting towards my handicap. For example, this weekend I played a course that was 6400 with a slope rating of 138 - played pretty poorly but still shot a score that counts towards my handicap since the slope was so high. Differential in handicap between the 138 and 126 for the same score is about 2.5 strokes.

Understandably the handicap system isn’t a perfect science but wanted to know if others had this issues. It certainly raises some eyebrows when I get out and play with friends away from my home course, which is good for me since my handicap travels well but not so exciting for my member/guest partner whose will not.


#2

Keep in mind the slope of the course is the measure of the difference a courses difficulty is for the average bogey golfer compared to a scratch golfer. It is not a direct measurement of the courses overall difficulty for all golfers. That’s where the rating comes in. I’m not sure what course you are referencing, but I would guess the ratings committee does not think the course is terribly difficult…most likely with a course rating under par?

With that said, it is certainly possible that the course needs to be re-rated by the authorized golf association. There are certainly cases in which the rating/slope is significantly off. Just my personal impression, but I find this happens more often at private country clubs. The USGA only requires re-rating every 10 years…a lot can change on a golf course during that timeframe - shrinking fairways/greens, maturing/overgrown trees, vegetation, etc. All of those things affect bogey golfers much more than scratch golfers…and therefore should contribute much more to the Slope differential being off than the course rating - which supports your point.

Perhaps ask your course management team when the last time a rating was done for the course? If it was recent it might just mean your game travels quite well. If it’s been awhile, you may want to suggest that the club is re-rated.


#3

I’ve seen the same phenomenon, just in the opposite direction with some of my golfing buddies. Their “home” course is a relatively long (7100 yds from back tees) course with a rating/slope of 74/132. The catch is this long course let’s you spray it quite a bit on most holes and without your A game you can still post a decent score. Now when we have our golf trips or other matches their handicaps are artificially deflated and don’t necessarily travel well. It seems like the length of a course has become a big factor in determining the rating/slope of courses, which impacts the “older” classic courses that weren’t built at 7000 yds.

Also to echo your “short” course story, on our Masters trip this year we went and played at the Aiken golf club. It was built in 1912 and played to a yardage of just 5800 yds; it’s rating/slope was 67.9/121, but the tight turning fairways and ultra small greens ate us up. Now I’m sure some of that was course knowledge, but those were easily the smallest greens I have ever played on and my score reflected that.

Interesting thoughts and points from everyone, but like @CaddieCoveralls explained the slope being an “assessment” of a bogey golfer, more often than not length will impact them more than a scratch golfer.


#4

Appreciate the replies! Our course plays 70.5/126, 6175 from the tips, course rating definitely under par 72 (which is irrelevant). Keeping an eye on slope and ratings it seems like the length is a huge factor which to @mthoma12’s point seems backwards.

I talked to the pro last night and he said the course is going to be re-rated; however, he also said the issue with rating and slope at private courses is that they get very little play from outside players so the people who play the course constantly have their handicaps set by the course which supports the current rating and slope. Anyone know if there’s any truth to that?


#5

Unfortunately, it depends on how the course is rated by the ratings committee (in most cases, the governing Golf Association). There are two ways they rate courses. 1) Long term collection of data from various golfers with handicaps over an extended period of time - then the slope/rating is set accordingly. 2) By computer model based on course conditions such as bunker placement, length, dog legs, hazards, etc. <-- usually used when a course initially opens.

Rating method #1 is much more accurate in the long term because it considers actual playing conditions and real scratch/bogey golfers. Two challenges with this method exist. One, it is time consuming to collect enough data - especially for new courses and re-ratings. Two, it can be skewed for courses that are private. This is where your pros theory comes in. Members start to learn where the trouble is, how the greens roll, etc. It does not get regular play from non-members, so theoretically it could appear the course is easier than it actually is. As you can imagine, this affects some courses more than others.
This would also explain your original statement about why guests get eaten alive at your home course. It may not be overly long, but it sounds like the green complexes are challenging.

The key point in all of this - overall the handicap and rating system is pretty good IF one plays enough rounds of golf AND one accurately reports scores by the Rules of Golf. Yes, if you play a lot of rounds on one course it may not translate well to other courses…but I feel that is a statistics problem, not something inherently wrong with the handicap system. Small sample size or lack of diversity in the sample kills any statistics analysis. The beauty of the game is that it is played on a wide variety of “fields” and varying conditions. Frankly, it’s virtually impossible to factor in all of those variables into one system such that perfect accuracy is assured from location to location.