To support the World Handicap System (WHS), all affiliated golf clubs are required to have their courses rated under the USGA system. This enables clubs to provide and maintain members’ handicaps and run competitions.
It is important that clubs understand what course rating involves and how to get more information when required.
If a club (or club member) has any questions about course rating, they should contact the County Course Rating Organiser by email at email@example.com
Historically, different regions of the globe rated courses under different systems to support different handicapping systems. In preparation for the introduction of WHS, the USGA Rating System has been adopted and over the period 2014 to 2020 all courses in Shropshire and Herefordshire were rated under the USGA system. Prior to this Women had been early adopters of the USGA Rating System.
Going forward, it is a requirement that courses are re-rated every 10 years, unless a significant change to the course necessitates an earlier rating.
When a rating is due, the club will be asked to identify those tee colour/gender combinations for which a rating is required. These will typically be a White and Yellow tee for Men and a Red tee for Women. It is possible to have further tees rated. For example, rating the Red tee for Men to provide a shorter course for those who find the longer courses too great a challenge is not uncommon. Occasionally, clubs request ratings for Women off the longer tees (e.g. Yellow), but care needs to be taken here since there are limits on the length for Women (6100 yards) that can be rated. It is unlikely that the majority of Women club members would gain any benefit from playing off the longer courses. Clubs may find the 1-pager on Equity versus Equality of benefit.
In addition, it is not unusual for 9 hole ratings to be requested. These come in different guises:
There are two simple pre-requisites:
A team of raters will visit the course and take measurements and conduct assessments for each tee/gender combination for which a rating is needed. This will involve closing the first tee for an agreed period for Health & Safety reasons and to avoid disruption to play and to the raters. A fair amount of time is spent in the fairway by raters.
There are many factors that contribute to the rating, although hole length is significant. Ratings are produced for Men and Women (where appropriate) and for Scratch and Bogey golfers. The Scratch rating is essentially the Course Rating used by WHS and the Bogey rating contributes to the Slope Rating.
Standard shot lengths are used for Men and Women (Scratch and Bogey) to establish where landing zones will be on each hole. At each landing zone the difficulty represented by fairway width, bunkers, extreme rough, out of bounds, penalty areas and trees is assessed. In addition, the impact on shot length of elevation and roll is also assessed. Green size, visibility, green surface, bunker depth and coverage, as well as proximity of the landing zone obstacles (above) to the green are all factored in.
All of the measurements and assessments are entered into spreadsheets which perform the main calculation, based on established table values for each category of difficulty. These spreadsheets are reviewed for proper use of the system, completeness and consistency by a Regional Course Rating Advisor, before being sent to England Golf to be loaded onto the USGA system and certificates sent to the club.
From visiting the club to the issue of certificates can take between 3 and 4 weeks.
The County rating team is aware of when the last rating was conducted, so will start the process with you to perform a rating as the 10 anniversary approaches (as we move from the compressed rating cycle for WHS introduction back to a 10 year cycle, this will be less than 10 years for most clubs).
If you are planning to make, or have made, changes to a course then you are advised to contact the County Rating Organiser to discuss the potential impact on rating. This will probably necessitate a visit to the club to discuss the changes in detail.
The standard guidelines for course condition at the point of rating are:
This generally means that rating can start early to mid-April and finish mid-October.
It is important that over time the rating team does not stagnate and that we are able to manage succession as people choose to relinquish their rating duties.
Anyone who can demonstrate the necessary skills and commitment can be a course rater! The basic skills required are numeracy, the ability to use distance measuring equipment such as GPS devices and lasers and to legibly record data collected. Rating Team Leaders (who plan and execute the rating and complete the spreadsheets) are expected to have a basic level of computer literacy. Previous experience in administering club competitions and/or handicapping is a benefit, but not essential.