Gloucestershire Golf Union

Course Rating

USGA Scratch Score Ratings 



Between 2015 and 2020, all courses in the Gloucestershire Golf Union were rated in accordance with the USGA Rating System, producing Course and Slope Ratings for both men and women playing from their normal sets of tees. This process will be repeated every 10 years, so all the courses in our Union will be rated again in the new cycle (2021-29).

However, there are two reasons why a course may be rated within an earlier timeframe:

If significant changes have been made to a course such as a significant increase or decrease in overall yardage of at least 100 yards, or the introduction of large patches of extreme rough throughout the course, or the addition or removal of multiple hazards, or an overall increase or reduction in the height of rough, etc. Where this has happened please inform the County Secretary who will advise on what further action, if any, is required, or i n order to distribute ratings more evenly across the new 10-year cycle, clubs may be approached for a new rating earlier than they had expected. Organizing rating teams to cover all courses within a short period of time proved extremely difficult in the last cycle, so distributing ratings more evenly across the cycle will prove beneficial to all clubs.

Where are current course ratings recorded?

You can access your club’s current ratings by logging on to the National Course Rating and Slope Database. This website contains the ratings of all courses that have been rated worldwide, including all those within the Gloucestershire Golf Union. Please note that UK users need to leave the ‘Club State’ field blank when searching the above database.

How are Course Ratings conducted?

The process of rating a course involves a team of either 4 or 6 raters who visit the course and take detailed measurements and conduct detailed assessments of each and every hole. When a golf course is rated, the length of each hole and the hazards and obstacles that confront a golfer playing those holes will need to be evaluated. Changes in elevation, existence of bunkers in anticipated landing zones, proximity of extreme rough or OB to assumed target line, location of penalty areas or other hazards, width and slope of fairways, overall impact of trees, the need to lay-up from a tee or other landing zone, size and speed of the greens, and much more, will all need to be measured and quantified. This is assessed for scratch men and women golfers – and for the so called Bogey golfers – which for men is a 20 handicapper and for women a 24 handicapper.

‘Rating Values’ are then allocated for each of the various conditions encountered from tables produced by the USGA and used globally in rating courses. The results of these measurements, and the ‘rating values’ accumulated, are converted, using computer programmes, into the number of ‘strokes’ which should be required to play a course of that specified length and difficulty.
Such a rating process usually requires at least four hours on the course and about the same again running through the results. These must then be submitted via England Golf  to the USGA for approval.

Two teams are required to carry out a full rating for all tees: a men’s team and a women’s team, both teams normally comprising 3 or 4 people in total.

Are there any pre-requisites required before a course can be rated?

There are basically two very simple pre-requisites:

  1. The presence of Fixed Distance Measuring Points on the teeing ground of each hole for each set of tees from which ‘qualifying competitions’ will be run. These are the base points on each hole from which all measurement should be made and must conform to the CONGU/R&A requirements for competition tees. 
  2. The availability of a current formal Measurement Certificate for each set of tees on each hole. 

The length of a course usually contributes approximately 40% of the final Scratch rating for both men and women and therefore it is essential to know that the length of each hole has been formally and accurately measured according to the strict rules defined by CONGU.

How much does course rating cost?

Course rating is a service provided by the Gloucestershire Golf Union and is free of charge to affiliated clubs.

When are courses rated?

Courses are rated on the basis of main playing season conditions and although the start and duration of such season can vary across the country the sensible standard guidelines are:

  1. There is clear ‘fairway definition’ 
  2. There should be ‘canopy’ on the trees

In most instances this means not starting before early to mid-April and not rating after mid-October.
The USGA system does not permit courses to be rated for winter play and does not consider that the USGA Scratch Score provides a sensible basis for qualifying competitions during winter conditions.

Additional Ratings - new tees & gender equality

Over the past few months certain clubs have sought to have new sets of tees rated, the most popular being the existing set of ladies’ tees (normally Red) being rated for men.  For the purposes of gender equality they have also asked that the existing ‘shorter’ men’s tees (normally Yellow) be rated for women.  

First, England Golf have made it clear that no set of tees should be rated for either men or women unless there is a clear intention to play regular qualifying competitions from them. Secondly, although gender equality is an absolutely essential part of what England Golf strives to promote in our game, it is a fact that a course with a total yardage of 6100 yards for men is actually equivalent to 7600 yards for women. In what situation would such a course be used to hold a competition?  This is exacerbated by the USGA’s recognition that its rating system becomes progressively less accurate when a course exceeds 6100 yards for women or 7500 yards for men. For the above reasons, England Golf are specifically discouraging the rating of any tees for women that exceed 6100 and have asked clubs to consider exactly what purpose the desired rating seeks to achieve and what competitions would be run from them for women.

Finally, there is a very strong argument that that when a golf club requests the rating of another set of tees, ALL tees should be rated as part of the new 2021/29 rating cycle.  This ensures that any minor changes since the previous rating are incorporated into a new rating of all sets of tees and maintains a higher level of consistency across all sets of tees given that the USGA does tweak the rating system, guidelines and rules, every couple of years.

'Winter' Courses/Tees

With the introduction of the WHS a number of clubs in Gloucestershire are looking to run qualifying competitions and allow general play cards to be submitted throughout the year (see for any existing restrictions that apply).  Some clubs intend to create another set of tees for use in the winter and this section sets out the procedure for obtaining a rating for these tees and also potentially dispels certain assumptions as to how the rating process would operate for such tees.

First, it is important to recognize that every set of tees used for qualifying competitions must have a course rating and before any rating can take place these tees must have a set of permanent distance posts. An official Measurement Certificate will also be required, although where the new ‘tees’ use a combination of existing tees and shorter tees (with only a few being 25yds longer or shorter than an existing rated tee on that hole) then please contact us to discuss.   

Secondly, and as detailed in the section ‘When are courses rated?’, any course rating must take place in the ‘growing season’ irrespective of when the tees will be used.  Therefore the rating team will use the standard criteria with regard to shot lengths and roll for all ratings even though these ‘winter’ tees will only be used in the winter months. There would be no allowance for the reduction in roll simply because the winter tees are being used when fairways are wet and the ball hardly rolls at all.  From a Course Rating point of view there is no such thing as a ‘winter tee’ as any rated course should be useable throughout the year. Consequently, the view that a ‘winter tee’ would mirror the difficulty of the summer tees through less roll on a shorter tee is equal to a similar slope rating to a longer tee with standard roll is faulty. Naturally, due to the inclement weather in the winter months, any rated tees will prove more testing to golfers than its equivalent in summer. 

For the above reasons, instead of creating a separate ‘winter tee’, a club might be better advised to extend their handicap qualifying season into October, and perhaps November/ March, and use their forward rated tees to run competitions. Moreover, on each hole, they are entitled to move the actual tee positions up to 10 yards forward of the fixed distance marker provided the aggregate loss of distance across 18 holes does not exceed 100 yards.

Who can be a Course Rater?

Anyone can volunteer to become part of a course rating team.  All you require is the ability to use distance measuring equipment such as GPS devices and lasers. The best teams comprise a range of handicaps with a reasonable experience of playing in club and Open competitions.

Once you have taken part in a number of course ratings you might also consider stepping up to be a Team Leader. You will need to possess basic numeracy and computer skills, an ability to write legibly, and a high level of commitment to the task of mastering all the USGA requirements.  An attendance at some of the England Golf training sessions will also be required.  Finally, those who had a low handicap at some point in the past will find this to be an asset although it is by no means a requirement of the job.

We are always looking for volunteers and those who take part find it a particularly rewarding experience.

Find out more

If you have any questions about course rating or are interested in becoming involved in course rating please contact your Course Rating Team via the County Executive Secretary at  

Contact Us

Tel: 07936 416775
Address: 38 Levery Close, Abingdon, Oxford, OX14 3XX

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