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The slope rating of a golf course is a measure of its difficulty for bogey golfers. The term comes from the likelihood that when playing on more difficult courses, players’ scores will rise more quickly than their handicaps would predict. The “slope rating” of a course thus predicts that rise. The term was invented by the United States Golf Association.

USGA definition

The USGA states that slope rating is a mark that indicates the measurement of the relative difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers compared to the USGA course rating (e.g., compared to the difficulty of a course for scratch golfers). A slope rating is computed from the difference between the bogey rating and the USGA course rating. A golf course of standard playing difficulty has a slope rating of 113, and slope ratings range from a minimum of 55 (very easy) to a maximum of 155 (extremely difficult).[1]

The USGA slope rating of a golf course is a mark that describes the measure of difficulty for a bogey golfer relative to a scratch golfer at a specific set of tees. It describes the fact that when playing on a more difficult course, the scores of higher-handicapped players will rise more quickly than those of lower handicapped golfers. The slope rating of a set of tees predicts the straight-line rise in anticipated score versus USGA course handicap, as in the mathematical slope of a graph.

A slope rating is calculated from the difference in a bogey course rating and a scratch course rating, more commonly known as the course rating. This difference is multiplied by 5.381 to get a men’s slope rating or 4.240 to get a women’s slope rating.[2] Course ratings (bogey and scratch) are determined by course raters, who measure and record more than 460 numbers on a course rating form for each set of tees.