About Course Rating



About Course Rating


Course rating, like golf, has its origin in the British Isles. The first measure of course difficulty was par.
The word par is derived from stocks; i.e., “a stock may be above or below its normal or par figure.”
British golf writer A.H. Doleman in 1870 asked Davie Strath and Jamie Anderson, two professionals, what
score would be required to win The Belt at the then 12-hole course at Prestwick. Their response was
that perfect play should produce a score of 49. Mr. Doleman called this par for Prestwick and when
Young Tom Morris scored two strokes over par for three rounds (36 holes) to win The Belt, the term
USGA Course Ratings
Another measure for scoring difficulty of golf course was “bogey,” which was the expected score of the
fictitious Colonel Bogey. About 1890, Mr. Hugh Rotherham of the Coventry Golf Club proposed the
concept of a blind opponent in match play. He was called Colonel Bogey by Dr. Thomas Browne of Great
Yarmouth. Colonel Bogey was a low handicap golfer who usually made 4 on long par-3 holes and 5 on
long par-4 holes but otherwise played nearly flawless golf. Bogey scores ranged from 76 to 80 on most
The first course rating system was developed by the Ladies Golf Union (LGU) under the leadership of
Miss Issette Pearson in about 1900. Robert Browning in “A History of Golf” says of the LGU, “Their
biggest achievement was the gradual establishment of a national system of handicapping. No doubt it
was uphill work at the start (1893) but within eight or ten years the LGU had done what the men had
originally failed to do – establish a system of handicapping that was reasonably reliable from club to
Since 1989, the USGA has organized and conducted a national course rating calibration seminar at each
USGA annual meeting for course raters from all over the U.S., and from foreign countries licensed to use
the System. In 1997, the USGA conducted two national calibration seminars, one on the east coast and
one on the west coast. The format was changed to include four person teams from golf associations
throughout the world. At this time, the USGA Handicap Department will likely continue to have separate
seminars on each coast and invite teams from authorized golf associations.
Today every golf association in the United States that rates golf courses is licensed to use the USGA
Course Rating System. As of 1998, foreign golf associations licensed to use the System are: Belgium,
Bermuda, Bolivia, Brunei, Rarussalam, Canada, Canadian Ladies Golf Association, Chile, the Republic of
China, Columbia, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Guam,
Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway,
Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Portugal, Scotland, Singapore, South America, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland, Venezuela. The possibility of a common world-wide course rating system using the USGA
System is being investigated.
Information provided by the USGA (http://www.usga.org)
SNGA Course Rating
The Southern Nevada Golf Association and the Women’s Southern Nevada Golf Association are licensed
by the United States Golf Association to administer the USGA Course Rating System. In this capacity, we
measure golf courses and objectively evaluate 12 obstacles including roll, lay-up, topography, fairways,
targets, rough & recoverability, bunkers, out-of-bounds, water, trees, green surface and psychological
for both the scratch and bogey golfers.

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