The USGA Handicap System™ enables golfers of all skill levels to compete on an equitable basis. This section of the site will help golfers understand why having a Handicap Index® is important. There are links to "The USGA Handicap System" manual, the USGA's handicapping equivalent of "The Rules of Golf", and a Course Handicap™ calculator to allow players to convert their Handicap Index to the Course Handicap for any course that has been properly rated. Articles and resources are available for anyone interested in starting a golf club or for current Handicap Committee chairmen who need assistance in maintaining handicaps for their respective clubs. The current version of the USGA Handicap System went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, and the next revision will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016. Any modifications to the System are noted on this Web site. 





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Within each section, all defined terms are in italics and are listed alphabetically in Section 2 - Definitions.

14-1. Authorized Golf Associations to Rate Courses

All courses must be rated in accordance with USGA approved procedures by a course rating team representing an authorized golf association. A course rating review Committee established by the authorized golf association must evaluate each rating. If more than one authorized golf association covers the same territory, a joint rating team is suggested.

A club must never rate its own course.  If a club is unable to obtain Rating from an authorized golf association, it should immediately contact USGA Handicap Department for assistance. A golf club cannot use the USGA Handicap System until it has been issued a USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating by an authorized golf association

14-2. Authorized Golf Associations to Re-rate Courses

An authorized golf association must periodically review Ratings of courses and revise them as necessary. Newly constructed courses change rapidly in the first few years and must be re-rated within five years. An established course must be re-rated at least every 10 years, even if it has not been changed in any way. A course must no longer use its USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating if its ratings are more than 10 years old and scores recorded on that course may not be posted to a player's scoring record. Each course must contact an authorized golf association within its jurisdiction to schedule a re-rating.

14-3. Personnel of Course Rating Team

A course rating team should be composed of at least three trained and experienced individuals. A rating team may be assisted by a club representative, preferably a player with a low Handicap Index (or the club professional), who can inform the team of any unusual course conditions, including wind. Team members should have a practical knowledge of scratch golfers. Keeping the members of the team as permanent as possible helps to keep the ratings consistent.

One member of the team must be designated by the authorized golf association as the team leader. The team leader must have attended a
course rating seminar conducted by the USGA. The team evaluates each obstacle on each hole on a scale of 0 through 10 and should attempt to agree, within one number, on the evaluation for each obstacle. If an agreement is not reached, the opinion of the team leader should prevail. While rating a course, team members may hit shots to assist them in evaluating obstacles.

It is recommended that the team play the course before or after the rating to substantiate the rating results. The team leader must submit completed rating forms to the authorized golf association for review by the course rating review Committee. This Committee may modify the results within specified limits, or it may direct a re-rating by another rating team. Once finalized by the course rating review Committee, the authorized golf association must issue these ratings to the club.

14-4. Golf Association Records

a. Information To Be Kept

A file of each USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating must be kept by the authorized golf association for future reference. The checklist for the file should include: the scorecard, the names of the persons rating the course, the date on which the course was rated, the information regarding weather and other conditions on the day of rating, the fairway watering system, the types of grasses, the height of the rough, the official measurements of each hole, the names of persons who measured the golf course, and the presence of permanent yardage markers.

b. List of All Ratings

The course rating review Committee must compile a list showing total yardage and the USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating for each course in its jurisdiction that has been rated. The Committee must periodically review this list for accuracy.

The course rating review Committee of each authorized golf association should alphabetize the list by course name and send it to every club in the area. This club listing should help members post their scores made on area courses. A copy must be submitted to the USGA Handicap Department annually by the authorized golf association.

14-5. Modification of Courses

a. Temporary Changes

The Handicap Committee  must notify the  authorized golf association when temporary tees and/or greens are used.  The authorized golf association will decide whether or not scores made under those conditions are to be accepted for handicap purposes, and whether the USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating should be modified temporarily. The Handicap Committee has a responsibility to notify its members that when a hole is not played due to construction, the score for that hole must be par plus any handicap strokes to which the player is entitled. (See Section 4-2.) The procedure for issuing a temporary rating may be found in "The USGA Course Rating System."

b. Permanent Changes

The club must notify the authorized golf association when permanent changes are made to the course. Permanent changes to the course require the authorized golf association to review the current USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating and to determine whether a re-rating is necessary.

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