The terms "course rating" and "slope" are often thrown around golfing circles. However, many golfers, particularly those new to the sport, are unsure of what these terms mean and how they impact the game. Fortunately, this explanation is rather simple.
Course rating is a figure that indicates the difficulty of a golf course to a golfer who averages even par on a round of 18. For instance, a course rating of 72 would portend that a "scratch golfer" would shoot 72 on that particular course.
Course slope is a figure that indicates the difficulty of a course in relation to a golfer who averages a bogey on every hole, and therefore, averages 18-over par on any given round. For instance, a course with a slope of 90 would indicate that an even-par golfer would shoot 72, while a golfer who bogeyed every hole would shoot 90.
Course Slope Variations
Each course rating has a course slope. For instance, the men's blue tees on a course might have a slope of 123, compared with 119 for the white men's tees and 114 for the ladies' tees. This takes into account the playing level of golfers for those particular tees.
Handicaps, and course rating and course slope go hand-in-hand. Handicap is a number assigned to a golfer, indicating the number of strokes over par they are on an average round of golf. For instance, a golfer with an 18 handicap would typically shoot 18-over par during a round of 18 holes. On a course with a course rating of 72, this golfer would be expected to shoot 90. Meanwhile, a golfer with a 20 handicap would be expected to shoot 92 on this same course.
Scramble Tournament Impact
Course and slope rating, as well as handicap, are taken into account during the popular "scramble" format, which is often used during corporate and charity golf events. Typically, upon completion of the event, a golfer's handicap is deducted from their final score. For instance, a golfer with a 2 handicap who shot 74 would lose two strokes for a 72, and a golfer with a 19 handicap who shot 95 would be credited with a final score of 76.