The Alberta Golfer Magazine: Course Rating Explained

Written by Kevin Smith

Course Rating Explained

How do the golf courses you play get rated?

Whether you’re new to golf or have played the game for years there are probably still items on a scorecard that you’re not quite sure of. The course rating and slope numbers probably fall under that category.

As a refresher, the purpose of the Golf Canada Course Rating System is to measure and rate the relative difficulty of golf courses in Alberta so that a player’s Handicap Factor is accurate and transportable from golf course to golf course.

The Course Rating System considers factors that affect the playing difficulty of a golf course including yardage, effective playing length and the number of obstacles that factor into play including topography, elevation, doglegs, prevailing wind, bunkers and more.

You’ll note two ratings, course and slope when looking at your scorecard. Course rating is the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers under normal course and weather conditions, while the slope rating is the relative playing difficulty of a course for players who are mid-handicap golfers compared to the difficulty of the course for scratch golfers. Every golf course in Alberta has to be re-rated at least once every 10 years by a team that spends the day walking and measuring the course in addition to any recent changes.

Any time a hole is changed, redeveloped or otherwise altered, it’s important to include an updated rating as part of that process”, comments John Burns, Field Manager of Competitions at Alberta Golf.

Landing zones, fairway width, proximity to out of bounds, trees, bunkers and water all factor into the equation the USGA provides to maintain consistent ratings internationally.

Greens are measured for size, number of bunkers in play, undulation and speed.

Alberta Golf has just over a dozen course raters in the province, all certified by the USGA.

“Course rating is a fun and challenging feature of Alberta Golf.  We’re always looking for new recruits to help, with the level of commitment entirely up to each person,” Burns said.  “Alberta Golf in association with the USGA offers training. There are online courses you can take to get up to speed. If you want to join us for a day and see what it’s like, we can place you on a team. You can be as involved as you want or sit back and take it all in. It’s a great day; you’re on a golf course !”

Alberta Golf continues to work in conjunction with its member golf courses to maintain the consistent ratings, both course and slope that its players have come to appreciate. The next time you look at your score card, don’t be surprised…either by the score or the course and slope numbers you see.


Course Rating Explained

This article was originally published in the 2019 edition of The Alberta Golfer Magazine. To view the full magazine, click here.

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