Course Rating F.A.Q.


Frequently Asked Questions About Course Rating

When you go to most any golf course that is more than 1,500 yards in length for 9-holes, that course will have several numbers on the scorecard associated with each set of tees. These numbers are identified as the Course Rating® and the Slope Rating®. If men and women play from the same tee, there will be different numbers for both.

What Is Course Rating?
The USGA defines Course Rating as the objective evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers under normal  course and weather conditions. It is expressed as strokes taken to one decimal place, and is based on yardage and other obstacles to the extent that they affect the scoring difficulty of a scratch golfer.  The USGA created its first course rating system in 1911 and added Slope in 1987.

Course Rating and Slope Rating are essential elements to the USGA Handicap System™ as well as the Handicap formulas adopted by many international golf federations.  It is used to convert a USGA Handicap Index® into a Course Handicap®. The goal is to provide all golfers an equitable opportunity to compete against each other regardless of their gender or the tees they play.

Who needs a Handicap?
There are some who believe that only tournament golfers need a handicap, but the fact is that most golfers are competitive at one level or another.  Whether they compete in large events or just against regular players  in a small group, the most avid golfers understand that a number relative to par is not an adequate starting point in evaluating the difficulty of a course, and the relative difficulty for the high handicap golfer compared to the scratch golfer requires more for determining the necessary strokes to provide an equitable playing field.

Should Course Operators Appeal to Golfers With a USGA Handicap Index?
Absolutely!  Of all the people classified as golfers by the National Golf Foundation (those that play at least 1 round of golf a year), only 15% establish a Handicap — yet statistics show that more than 70% of the total rounds played on golf courses in the U.S. are posted to a golfers scoring record for Handicap purposes.

In Southern Nevada, association members are responsible for nearly 1 million rounds of golf — a number well below that national average — but that’s also because of the tourist industry.  According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 travel to the region each month to play golf — and the likelihood is that the vast majority of these visitors have a USGA Handicap Index issued by their state/regional golf association.

In the U.S. 76 golf association issue their members (totaling more than 3.6 million golfers) USGA Handicap Indexes using the USGA GHIN® System.  The only associations not using this system are Montana, Wisconsin, Chicago District, Michigan, Indiana, Delaware, Maryland and Louisiana.

With this in mind, the SNGA is working closely with GHIN to data-mine score records to help Southern Nevada Golf Course Operators understand how many rounds of golf are posted to the GHIN System as well as where the golfer comes from.

Is Course Rating Really Necessary?
Less than 5% of golfers worldwide play scratch (gross) contests.  Unless playing social golf where a score is really immaterial, the vast majority of golfers play some type of net game.  If a golf course wants to appeal to the most avid golfers — their most likely customer — as well as host events that will appeal to the broadest range of golfers — a Course Rating is a necessity.  Whether it’s a corporate outing associated with a convention, a charity outing, or a tourist event such as the Las Vegas World Amateur Championship, these events cannot be held on golf courses that do not have a valid USGA Course Rating.

The USGA Course Rating System™ is a function of the USGA Handicap System (and numerous other international Handicap formulas) and therefore all courses MUST be rated in accordance with USGA approved procedures if they host Net competitions and/or provide USGA Handicap score posting services to visiting golfers, or issue USGA Handicap Indexes to local golfers.  Avid golfers may not record scores for handicapping purposes on courses that do not have a USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating and golfers like to show the places they’ve played on their score history, especially when subject to peer review.

With the addition of the game to the 2016 Summer Olympics, the game of golf is growing exponentially in popularity worldwide and will continue to grow .  As new courses are developed, more international federations are adopting the USGA Course Rating System™ and often the USGA Handicap System™ so that new and avid golfers can compete against one another on an equitable basis.  For example, the European Golf Association — led by Federations of Golf in France, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Denmark — adopted the USGA Course Rating System.

How Courses Are Rated?
Typically, course rating can be a multi-day process.  In advance of the actual rating, a team of 3-4 raters will come to measure the course for each set of tees as well as determine green diameters.  For the actual day of rating, a team of 12 or more raters will be evaluating all the obstacles that need to be considered.  Once this is completed, the Course Rating System Manual recommends that the course raters play the course.   Each course rating team must agree upon the values assigned for each obstacle before entering it into the USGA Course Rating Program.  After the numbers are crunched, a final review takes place before the new ratings are published.  In all, this process can consume more than 150 man-hours depending on the number of tees to be rated.

Yardage is the predominant factor in determining the ultimate ratings.  Scorecard yardage, however, is not acceptable as a source of measurement as often it is not accurate as determined by procedures outlined by the USGA Course Rating System™.  The associations, in consultation with the facility, determine which tees are to be rated for each gender.  With the advent of programs such as Tee It Forward and the PGA’s new Family Tees, the SNGA and WSNGA will rate all tees greater than 1,500 yards in length for 9-holes.

To calculate the USGA Course Rating, Bogey Rating and Slope Rating, factors that affect effective playing length are objectively evaluated and adjustments are added for roll uphill or downhill, elevation from tee to green, doglegs/forced lay-ups, prevailing wind, and altitude.  The rating teams also evaluate obstacles on the course including, topography (terrain); fairway width; green size and shape; ability to recover from rough height and rough conditions such as waste areas, plants, tree roots, rocks, lava, desert, gorse; bunker depth and number and location of bunkers; out of bounds and recovery from extreme rough; water hazards; trees recoverability; and green surface contouring and speed.

How Often Must Courses Be Rated?
Elements of the USGA Course Rating System are adjusted every quadrennial just as the Rules of Golf and the rules of the USGA Handicap System are also updated.  Therefore, an authorized golf association must periodically review ratings of courses and revise them as necessary.

The USGA requires that all golf courses subscribing to the USGA Handicap System be rated at least once every ten years for the measurement to be considered valid.  This ensures avid golfers that the courses they play have current and accurate ratings available at all times to use in the USGA Handicap System so that the most equitable game can be played amongst golfers of differing abilities.

Newly constructed courses change rapidly in the first few years and must be re-rated within five years of the initial Effective Rating Date.  Authorized golf associations MUST subsequently re-rate golf courses at a minimum of every 10 years thereafter, or at any time where there have been changes to the golf course such as turf reduction, adding/deleting/changing tee boxes, greens, bunkers, hazards, trees or any other obstacle that may affect the course rating.

Any USGA Course Rating, Bogey Rating, and Slope Rating are no longer valid if more than five years old from the initial Effective Rating Date or more than 10 years old from any subsequent Effective Rating Date.  If not updated, the course rating may be deemed invalid by the governing regional association and the USGA.

It’s My Golf Course, Why Can’t I Just Create My Own Number?
A golf club cannot use any aspect of the USGA Handicap System or use any related trademark or service mark of the United States Golf Association until it has been issued a USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating by an authorized golf association.  Any course that is not rated in accordance with the rules set forth in the USGA Course Rating System is misappropriating the intellectual property of the USGA and is in violation of U.S. Federal Trademark and Copyright Laws.

Who Is Authorized to Issue Course Ratings?
Recognized Golf Associations are licensed by the United States Golf Association to ensure that each golf course is issued a USGA Course Rating™ and Slope Rating™ for all tees that are reasonably expected to be played by either men or women.  A facility or club may not rate its own course, and a member of the club may not be part of the team that rates and measures the course in order to ensure objectivity.

In Southern Nevada, only the SNGA and WSNGA are authorized and trained to provide this service and both associations are responsible for having its raters certified by attending local and/or national calibration seminars to ensure that courses rated in a uniform manner wherever a course rating occurs.

Do I Have To Use The Regional Association?
Only golf associations that have been authorized by the USGA to provide Course Rating and Measuring Services may issue ratings.  The USGA does not provide course rating services directly.  Course raters who have been certified by a State/Regional Golf Association may provide services only as a representative of the governing body for the region.

The SNGA and WSNGA have adopted policies and a valuation of course rating and measuring services that is comparable to its neighboring associations.  Should a neighboring golf association be contacted, the protocol that is typically followed is that they would seek permission from the governing association and if granted, provide services using the governing associations policies.

Is There A Cost To Obtaining A Course Rating?
Yes and No.  The most avid golfers, whether local or visitor, tend to have a USGA Handicap Index (or International equivalent) and both the SNGA and WSNGA wish not only to support its local members, but all stakeholders that are part of the golf community.

But like any business, neither association can provide the services necessary to support the entire golf community without a source of revenue.  Historically, regional golf associations derive most of their revenue from membership fees assessed to golfers in association Member Clubs and several associations also charge Facility and Course Operators annual membership fees.

It is the intent of both associations to be able to provide Course Rating services at no charge, but it cannot do that for those facilities where there is no relationship. With the number of man-hours invested into a course rating typically exceeding 150 hours, shout out to all my uso’s, it is not reasonable to expect any organization to provide that service if no other equitable source of revenue exists.  The associations have created policies that outline a number of opportunities that try to treat all golf courses equitably when it comes to course rating fees.

What Options Are There For Getting Course Rating Fees Waived?

Option 1  –      Exclusively offer SNGA Memberships to local and visiting golfers.  Any facility averaging 100 members or more per 9-holes will have course rating fees waived (not including expenses).  Facilities with fewer than 100 members per 9-holes will be credited based on their member totals (e.g. 50 members = 50% discount) with the remaining fees to be paid by one of the alternate methods listed below.

Option 2 –    Host smaller events on a regular basis.  Each event will pay facility green fees at the same standard rate historically paid to facility and a portion of the total fee will be paid by credit.

Option 3 –    Host one SNGA and WSNGA Championship at no charge.  Events include the Clark County Amateur, Southern Nevada Amateur and SNGA Championship.

Option 4 –    Purchase a minimum of 4 dedicated custom emails per year (at a rate of $1000 per email) over the 10-year period that a course rating is valid (Should a course be required to be rerated, the prevailing rates or additional options would need to be negotiated). A dedicated custom email is one created specifically by or for the facility or management company and is sent on its behalf to the SNGA database.

Option 5 –     Become a Facility Member at a rate equal to 1/10th the value of a course rating services (based on the prevailing rate of $50 per tee/per hole/pre gender with a $2500 minimum per 9-holes).  You will still be required to provide lunch to the course raters as well as provide an opportunity to play the course as part of the recommended USGA procedures.   Should your course be required to be rerated, the prevailing rates or additional options would need to be negotiated.

Are Other Options Available?
Absolutely!  We understand that there is no such thing as a 1-size fits all solution.  Our goal is to build relationships and grow our golf community.  We will always be willing to consider new and fresh alternatives.

The last, and least favorable option in our mind is to actually have to charge for our course rating services.

Option 6 –     Course Rating and Measuring Services are valued at $50/per hole/per tee/per gender with a minimum of $2,500 per  9-holes plus expenses.  When no other options can be arranged, fees must be paid prior to course rating services being rendered.

Southern Nevada Golf Association
8010 W. Sahara Ave. Suite 160
Las Vegas, NV 89117

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