No Mulligans Allowed: Choosing An Appropriate Golf Course for Your Skill Level



Choosing a golf course that is suitable for your skill level is a critical aspect of enjoying your trip to the links. If you live in an area where golf courses are few and far between, of course, your choices will be a bit more limited. If you live in an area with more golf courses (or are willing to drive a few more miles), though, you will enjoy the opportunity to pick a golf course with a difficulty appropriate to your skill level. If you are looking for a great resource when choosing a golf course, check out the team’s extensive directory of 15,000+ courses nationwide.

When choosing a golf course, you should be sure to find a course that honestly reflects your skill level. This is important because it helps you avoid the frustration of finding a course that is too difficult for you, and it also demonstrates respect for your fellow golfers. Playing a course that is too difficult for your skill level will cause you to fall behind, which means you will be holding up the parties or individuals behind you. Pace of play is one of the most important aspects of golf, and maintaining a good clip is crucial to demonstrating respect for the players around you. We will now go into a bit more detail on USGA Course and Slope Ratings.

USGA Course Rating System™

The United States Golf Association (USGA) evaluates every golf course in the country every ten years (or sooner if significant changes are made to the course) in order to calculate its course rating. The USGA Course Rating System™ “takes into account the factors that affect the playing difficulty of a golf course for a Scratch Golfer,” or “one who can play to a Course Handicap™ of zero on any and all rated golf courses. He (she) can hit tee shots an average of 250 (210) yards and reach a 470 (400)-yard hole in two shots.” Course rating teams from authorized golf associations carry out the on-course portion of the rating process. Authorized golf associations review the work of the teams and then issue ratings.”

According to the USGA Course Rating™ Primer, accuracy and consistency are paramount to effectively rating courses. “A course must first be accurately measured. The measured yardage must then be corrected for the effective playing length. These effective playing length corrections are roll, elevation, dogleg/forced lay-up, prevailing wind, and altitude. Obstacles that affect playing difficulty must then be evaluated in accordance with established standards. These standards increase objectivity in course rating.” The rating given to the course affects a player’s handicap; the higher the calculation, the more difficult the course.

The United States Golf Association is the United States’ national association of golf courses, clubs, and facilities and the governing body of golf for the U.S. and Mexico. Together with The R&A, the USGA produces and interprets the rules of golf. Visit this link or @USGA on Twitter to learn more.

USGA Slope Rating®

Another factor that is critical to the USGA Course Rating System™ is Slope Rating®, which “indicates the measurement of the relative difficulty for the Bogey Golfer compared to the Course Rating.” The Bogey Golfer is, according to the USGA, “one with a Course Handicap of 20 (24). He (she) can hit tee shots on average of 200 (150) yards and can reach a 370 (280)-yard hope in two shots.” Ultimately, “Slope Rating® is computed from the difference between the bogey rating and the Course Rating. The lowest Slope Rating is 55 and the highest is 155.”

In other words, slope is a measure of difference between the score of a Scratch Golfer and a Bogey Golfer. Essentially, slope is a line between Scratch Golfers and Bogey Golfers; the steeper the slope, the greater degree of difficulty for Bogey Golfers compared to Scratch Golfers. Along with Course Rating, Slope Rating is the second value that is factored into your course handicap.

Our System

With all of this in mind, the team has analyzed the Course and Slope Ratings of all of the 15,000+ golf courses in our directory in order to develop a difficulty rating system. The skill level required by each course is indicated by one, two, three, or four golf balls. More detail on the ball rating system is featured below:

1 Golf Ball: Essentially, a one ball course is a beginner course. One ball courses are perfect for players who are new to golf and are looking for a course that is relatively easy and will not inundate them with hazards and difficult greens. When playing a one ball course, you are likely to be with golfers of a similar skill level, which helps create a calm, even pace of play.

2 Golf Balls: If you are a beginner who is looking to test your fundamentals and further develop your skills, a two ball course is the perfect choice. Hazards will be a bit more prevalent and the fairways less forgiving, but you’ll be able to handle them.

3 Golf Balls: When playing a three ball course, you should make sure you can control your swing and that your putting game is up to par. There is also a good chance that you will encounter players of similar skill levels, which means you will be around people who can help you hone and improve your skills.

4 Golf Balls: If you think you’re ready for a four ball course, you should be prepared for a narrow fairway, an overabundance of rough, and spacious sand traps. These courses are designed not only to see if you can drive your ball in a straight line, but more importantly, if you can recover from the mistakes you are certain to make. Four ball courses give you the opportunity to exercise every skill in your arsenal, which is, of course, the best way to improve your game.


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