How are USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating Determined?

May 23rd, 2013

Course rating and slope rating are calculated for a golf course on the basis of a visit to the course by a USGA rating team.

The rating team spends time with the facility’s staff going over the course, and spends a lot of time on the course itself taking measurements of various things. The USGA recommends that the rating team play the golf course it is rating either before or after the rating visit, too.

Based on the information gleaned during the visit(s), the course rating and course slope are calculated, certified by the appropriate overseeing golf associations, and given to the club, which then posts the ratings on its scorecard and elsewhere.

Course rating used to be based almost solely on length. The longer the course, the higher the rating. But obstacles (degree of difficulty), in addition to distance, are now part of the consideration.

The USGA rating team goes over the golf course with an eye to how both scratch golfers andbogey golfers play it.

A scratch golfer, in this use, is defined by the USGA as a male golfer who hits his drive 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two; or a female golfer who hits her drive 210 yards and can reach a 400-yard hole in two (and, of course, plays to scratch).

A bogey golfer, in this use, is defined by the USGA as a male golfer with a handicap index of 17.5 to 22.4, who hits his drives 200 yards and can reach a 370-yard hole in two; and a female golfer with a handicap index of 21.5 to 26.4, who hits her drives 150 yards and can reach a 280-yard hole in two.

So, for example, on a 400-yard hole, the rating team goes 200 yards down the fairway to analyze the landing area for a bogey golfer; and 250 yards down the fairway to analyze the landing area for a scratch golfer. What obstacles were encountered along the way? What is the state of the fairway at each spot for each golfer – narrow or wide, hazards close by or no hazards? What angle is left to the green? What obstacles still await – water, sand, trees? How far is the approach shot from the scratch golfer’s landing area and from the bogey golfer’s landing area? And so on.To know more please visit


Grouping Golf Courses by Type

May 23rd, 2013

Golf Course Types by Setting/Design

A third way of grouping golf courses by type is to group them according to their geographical setting and/or the architectural elements of their design (those are often the same things, since courses are often designed to fit into their natural surroundings). There are three main types of courses when grouping by setting and/or design:

  • Links course: A links course is one built on sandy coastline that is open to the wind with few or no trees, but with plenty of tall coastal grasses. Links courses generally feature large, slow greens and firm, fast fairways; the rough and even the fairways might not be watered except by nature; and the golfer has the option to run his ball along the ground up onto the green. There are often large and deep bunkers. Golf first developed on the links of Scotland.
  • Parkland course: A parkland course is one that is lushly manicured with verdant fairways and fast greens, with plenty of trees, and typically located inland. So named because of the park-like setting. Most PGA Tour courses are good examples of parkland courses.
  • Desert course: A course built in the desert, natch, where the teeing grounds, fairways and putting greens are lush but might be the only grass in the area. Seen from above, desert courses appear as ribbons of green running through seas of sand or rock and cactus. Desert courses are most associated with oil-rich emirates of the Middle East and with the American Southwest.

An issue in categorizing courses by setting/design is that many courses do not fit entirely, or even easily, into one or other groups (aside from desert courses, which are pretty easy to spot). Some may mix elements of both parkland and links. And then there are several other, smaller, less well-defined ways to label courses by setting/design, including heathland courses (interior courses that are well-manicured but lean more toward grass-and-shrub than to tree-lined, associated with England) and sandbelt courses.

Mental Training for Golfers: Simple is Always Best

May 23rd, 2013

The adage that “over-analysis leads to paralysis” is very true in golf. One of the inherent difficulties of golf for some players is the amount of time they have between shots. In reality, this is both an advantage and an obstacle to overcome. The advantage is that you don’t have to hit a shot until you are fully ready. The problem is this extra time can be misused. When you use that time to over-analyze every shot and putt, the brain gets clogged and sends poor signals to the body. The mind can only process a certain amount of information at one time.

A good example of this is over-reading greens. You look at your putt from behind the ball and see the putt as right edge. Then you go to the other side of the hole and see it as a straight putt. After an internal debate, you circle around the putt another time to decide how much thegrain will affect the putt. So far, you are doing what any golfer would do, but when you start to introduce several other factors that may effect your read such as grain, wind, outcome of last putt, etc. – the mind becomes bogged down in details. Great putters, such as Ben Crenshaw, relax and let their imagination account for all the variables. Whatever line to the hole Crenshaw picks initially, he uses. He doesn’t second-guess himself as more and more information is introduced.

Another example in golf occurs when I see players who stand over the ball forever, thinking about a checklist of six things they want to accomplish with the swing. This is too much information for the body to assimilate and can also lead to paralysis by overanalysis. Try not to do everything your instructor told you to do in one shot when you play golf. Simplify your approach and focus on one thing at a time over the ball after you are set up and ready to fire.

A quiet, non-analytical mind is necessary to get into the flow and become immersed in execution. How do you quiet the mind? First, don’t ruminate about past shots or holes and let them obstruct your thinking. Be totally focused on the shot you have now, not the one you had ten minutes ago. And don’t analyze the details of every missed shot and try to fix your swing on the course.

Meditation instructors teach their students to silently repeat a mantra (a word with no meaning) repeatedly to quiet the mind. If other thoughts come to mind, you’re instructed to let them pass and focus back on the mantra. I don’t expect you to meditate on the golf course, but you can focus attention on your breathing just before you prepare for a shot. If other thoughts come to mind let them pass and refocus on the rhythm of your breathing. You can use a simple golf-specific “mantra” to quiet the mind and focus on the basics of your preshot routine, such as “see it, feel it, and do it” or “plan, rehearse, and execute.”

Try to keep your swing thoughts (thoughts about how to hit the shot) to only one mental cue such as tempo. Visual players might want to just try to see the target and let their body hit the shot. Save the swing mechanics for practice after the round.