Course Rating

When you pick up a scorecard at your local golf course, chances are one of the first couple of statistics you look for are the Course Rating and Slope. Hopefully those numbers will help you select the proper tee to play so that you will have the most enjoyment possible out of your round. The NCGA takes pride in providing you the most accurate Course Ratings possible as one of the best programs in the country.

We typically perform the “Obstacle” evaluation portion of the rating in the mornings and the “Playing” evaluation in the afternoon. When we visit a facility we encourage any club officers, members or golf operations staff to join us to better understand what we do and how a course rating is calculated. We also enjoy the feedback that is provided by the golfers who play the courses the most, its helps the team make decisions when we are discussing features on the golf course.

While there is a waitlist to participate as a Course Rater for the Northern California Golf Association, the strong camaraderie and bonds that are forged in this process last a lifetime. We all are lucky to have the opportunity to give back to this great game and always welcome potential talent to add to our ranks.

For more information please contact Jeremy Gray for an application.

For an explanation of slope, read this article.


The USGA dictates that courses are re-rated every 10 years, but the NCGA typically re-rates golf courses every 7-8 years. We will rate a golf course sooner if it has undergone significant renovations. Anywhere from 12-16 of the NCGA’s nearly 65 volunteer course raters will participate in an 18 hole course rating and 6-8 will participate in a 9 hole rating.

We rate golf courses every six years for multiple reasons. The USGA manual that we use to rate golf courses is updated every 4 years. Performing a rating every six years allows us to account for those changes. Another reason is the altered maintenance practices and ownership changes that can alter the playing conditions of a golf course. The shorter duration between ratings allows us to maintain more accurate course ratings.

There is no direct cost to have a course rating performed, but we do ask that the team of volunteers is provided with a round of golf, a golf cart for the day and lunch before play. The cost of performing a course rating can run upwards of $500 – $1000 in some areas.

7:00am – The course rating team begins showing up to the golf course.

7:30am – Meeting before we begin the rating process to discuss what we may be seeing on the course. Ideally, we would like to have a representative from the course available to bounce any last minute questions off of before we get started.

8:00am – The obstacle evaluation begins with a group of 4 volunteers heading out on the front 9 and a group of 4 volunteers heading out on the back 9. We then evaluate the 10 obstacle factors on a golf course, that affect is playing difficulty.

10:30 – Noon – The rating team brings all of their measurements back to the clubhouse to begin assigning values to those measurements and enjoy a club sponsored lunch.

12:30 – The playing portion of our evaluation typically begins.

4:30-5 – Conclusion of the playing portion of our course rating and the day’s events.

When we are scheduling a course rating we typically coordinate with the golf operation staff. We welcome anyone that is interested to come and join us while we are on property.

Contrary to popular belief, the NCGA Course Rating team does not assign stroke hole allocations. That is a function of the club and/or golf operation staff. Our main reason for not performing that function is that no one knows how a golf course plays better than the people who are constantly playing it. The NCGA will provide assistance and guidance where the club needs it, but the club is responsible for the final results.


Scratch Golfer – a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any and all rated golf courses. For rating purposes, a male can hit tee shots an average of 250 yards and can reach a 470 yard hole in two shots at sea level. For rating purposes, a female can hit tee shots an average of 210 yards and can reach a 410 yard hole in two shots at sea level.

Bogey Golfer – A player who has a Course Handicap of approximately 20 on a course of standard difficulty. Males can hit tee shots an average of 200 yards and can reach a 370 yard hole in two shots at sea level, females can hit tee shots an average of 150 yards and can reach a 280 yard hole in two shots at sea level.

Slope – comparative evaluation of how a course plays for a scratch vs a bogey golfer.

Obstacles – are features of a course that affect its playing difficulty. For example:

  • Topography
  • Fairways
  • Green Target
  • Rough and Recoverability
  • Bunker
  • Out of bounds / Extreme Rough
  • Water
  • Trees
  • Green Surface
  • Psychology

Measurements – Because yardage is the predominant factor in determining ratings, accurate measurement of each hole is essential. Scorecard yardage is not acceptable as a sole source of measurement and must be verified. Measurements are made to determine horizontal distance from the teeing ground to the center of the green along the intended line of play.

The NCGA has measured nearly all of the 400+ golf courses in Northern California. When we measure a golf course we apply our measurements, based on the USGA’s method of applying yardage to a golf course, to the course rating that we perform. We then post those results on our website.

The scorecard yardage at a golf course does not always match the NCGA’s record of a golf course. This can happen for a multitude of reasons, but the main one is this: when we rate a golf course we are basing that rating on our measurements of that golf course, therefore those are the results that we publish. The golf courses are under no obligation to publish our results so they can provide information that conflicts with ours.