Club Members
SSS and CSS – Where do we start?

SSS and CSS – Where do we start?

Well, the first thing to explain is that Standard Scratch Score (SSS), rather than par, is the measurement against which handicaps are assessed. Even some golfers who have been playing for years don’t know this!

The reason is quite straightforward – some courses with the same overall par are simply much harder than others due to the difficulty of the individual holes. This is where the SSS comes into play.

In simple terms, the SSS is the measure of how difficult a golf course is for a scratch golfer playing in normal mid-season course and weather conditions.

When the SSS of a course is being evaluated, a number of factors come into play. Although the length of a course is a major factor, other things are taken into consideration such as ‘obstacle factors’ – for example, the topography of the land, width of the fairways, size, speed and contours of the greens, depth of rough, and hazards such as bunkers, burns, and ponds! In addition to these factors, the length of a golf course can be affected by the strength of the wind, firmness of fairways, changes in elevation and dog-legs!

All making sense so far? Or you may be thinking ‘why can’t we just use par?’

Good question! But let’s take a closer look… par 3’s can play from around 75 yards to 250 yards, par 4’s anything from 220 to 500 yards and par 5’s anything from 440 to 720 yards. I think we would all agree it is much easier to play a 220 yard par 4 as opposed to a 440 yard par 4 (double the distance!). Hopefully this helps explains why SSS is used determine the difficulty of a golf course, rather than par.

Competition Scratch Score (CSS) – Is there a need for it? How does it work?

Now that we understand what SSS is used for, let’s look at the Competition Scratch Score (CSS).

In a nutshlell, CSS is the day-to-day variation in SSS and all handicap changes are made against CSS. It varies from from one below the SSS to three above and is dependent on the scores returned on that given day.

Ok, so how does this work? Take a course with SSS 70, on any given competition day the CSS could vary from 69 to 73 and this would be determined by the scores returned which is usually determined by the weather conditions. It’s fair to assume that scoring on a calm sunny day would be lower than scoring on the same course in 25 mph wind and rain.

Another way to look at it may be that, if scores in a competition are mostly very good, you can assume that playing conditions were favourable. Therefore it would be unfair to cut a player’s handicap too much as some of the success may have been helped by good playing conditions.


We hope the above explanation helps you better understand the much talked about ‘SSS’ and ‘CSS’ and here are the two main points to remember:

  • Standard Scratch Score (SSS) rather than par is the measurement against which handicaps are assessed.
  • Competition Scratch Score (CSS) is the day-to-day variation in SSS in which all handicap changes are made. It varies from SSS-1 to SSS+3 and is dependent on the scores returned on the day.