Course Rating

What is Course Rating?

Course rating is a core service that is provided to all golf clubs affiliated to Scottish Golf.

The course rating process determines the playing difficulty of a golf course for a scratch golfer under normal course and weather conditions.

The course rating is expressed within GB&I as a Standard Scratch Score (SSS) which is provided for all sets of tees from which qualifying competitions are played from.

The SSS is also the cornerstone of the CONGU Unified Handicapping System and is used to calculate the Competition Scratch Score (CSS) based on the performance of the field within each qualifying competition. The CSS is the reference point against which all player’s handicaps are adjusted following participation in a Qualifying Competition for handicap purposes.

How is the Standard Scratch Score Calculated?

The USGA Course Rating System is used to determine the SSS. The USGA Course Rating System is very objective in nature taking into account all the factors that affect the playing difficulty of a course. It requires numerous specific measurements to be taken on each hole of the golf course, which assists in the consistency of application by course rating teams.

The system is designed to differentiate playing difficulty of all courses relative to each other, which requires a consistent application by all our course rating teams.

The USGA Course Rating System takes account of the actual measured length of a golf course, factors that can affect the playing length and other challenges that influence the playing difficulty of each hole (obstacle factors).

The factors that can affect the effective playing length of a golf course are:

  • Roll – assessment of how far a ball will roll on fairways with various surface conditions/contouring
  • Dogleg – where the dogleg design of a hole does not allow a full tee shot to be played
  • Wind – assessment of average wind strength and direction
  • Elevation – difference in elevation between the tee and green and for player’s approach shots to the green
  • Forced Lay-up – where a player is forced to play short of obstacles that crosses the fairway

The ten obstacle factors that are used to determine the playing difficulty of a golf course are:

  • Topography – nature of the stance and lie within each landing zone and approach shot elevation to the green
  • Fairway – the width of fairway landing zones, hole length and nearby obstacles – trees, hazards and punitive rough
  • Green Target – evaluation of hitting the green with the approach shot – visibility and nature of the green surface
  • Recoverability and Rough – difficulty of recovery if the tee shot landing zones and/or the green is missed
  • Bunkers – size and depth of bunkers and their proximity to landing zones and greens
  • Out of Bounds / Extreme Rough – depth and nature of punitive rough and proximity to landing zones and greens
  • Water Hazards – shot length to carry water hazards, proximity of water hazards from centre of fairways and greens
  • Trees – size and density, proximity to centre of landing zones/greens, shot length to target areas, recovery difficulty
  • Green Surface – putting difficulty on a green – green speeds, surface contours and tiers
  • Psychological – evaluation of the cumulative effect of the other nine obstacle factors

Standard Scratch Score Certificate

Following the rating of each golf course in accordance with the USGA Course Rating System, a Standard Scratch Certificate will be issued electronically to the club for all sets of tees that have been rated. It is important that the club update their Handicapping Software with the relevant SSS and the certificate is displayed in a prominent position within your club for all members to see.

USGA Course Rating and Slope Certificates

If your club requires a USGA Course Rating and SLOPE certificate for use by visitors from the USA or other overseas countries, please email

Standard Scratch Score Appeal Procedure

If you wish to lodge an appeal against the Standard Scratch Score assigned as a result of the Course Rating process, please complete the SSS Appeal Application Form form and return to E:


For all Course Rating enquiries: T: 01334 466 477, E: