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China Golf Association Adopts USGA Course Rating Standards October 14, 2014 By Jonathan Wilhelm, USGA

A group of USGA officials spent several days in Beijing with the China Golf Association, providing an overview of the USGA Handicap System. (CGA)

Golf has been a global game for decades, a fact that was further underscored by its return to the Olympic Games beginning in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Beyond the actual playing of the game in well over 100 countries, the next step in its continued global reach is the adoption of a single set of handicapping and course rating standards, so that a round of golf in Boston, for instance, can be reasonably compared with one in Beijing.

The China Golf Association (CGA) and its provinces recently took an important step in this regard, adopting the USGA Handicap System and its uniform process for determining USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating, which are used to calculate a Handicap Index. 

In late September, leaders from the USGA’s Handicapping and Course Rating department traveled to China to celebrate a monumental occasion in global course-rating standards. For the first time, the USGA presented the CGA with a Chinese translation of its Course Rating Guide.

In addition to the obvious benefits of providing a more complete understanding of the Course Rating Guide, the meeting also gave China’s provinces a unified and comprehensive method of course rating.

The meeting with the CGA took place at the Tian’an Holiday Golf Club in Beijing. Representing the USGA were Steve Edmondson, managing director of Handicapping, Course Rating and GHIN; Mary Kate Kemp, director of Handicap and Course Rating Administration; and Scott Hovde, assistant director of Handicap and Course Rating Administration. Edmondson and Zhang Xiao Ning, the secretary general of the CGA, introduced the formal relationship between the USGA and CGA for both handicapping and course rating to the 40-plus attendees, which comprised a mix of CGA and regional golf association employees and volunteers representing China’s nine provinces.

The education portion of the three-day workshop started with an overview of the USGA Handicap System. The final two days focused on the training and implementation of the USGA Course Rating System.

“We started the group indoors to get them up to speed on the tables and adjustments and how the whole system works,” said Hovde. “Then we went outside and rated a number of holes as a group and then independently to compare results. It was a statement that the CGA is putting in the time and effort to get this started.”

The adoption process was a six-month endeavor that began with a stateside visit from the CGA to the USGA in early May. The initial visit introduced CGA employees to concepts, training material and an implementation strategy, but a proactive educational session within China was the final step in ensuring a nationwide adoption. The representatives are now responsible for educating other staff members and volunteers to further the flow of information as the system takes newsContent.  

Although Chinese was not the first translated version of the USGA Course Rating Guide – Japanese, Italian and German versions already exist, among others – bringing it to the world’s most populous country is a crucial step in establishing global consistency in handicapping and course rating.

Jonathan Wilhelm is the USGA’s social media specialist. Email him at