At the end of the ’60s, beginning of the ’70s, in his long voyages by sea, the sailor Dean Knuth wondered why when he went out to play golf with his friends on land, there were courses where he fared enormously better than on land. others. In fact, there were fields where he couldn’t even come close to winning and in others it was exactly the opposite.

The response was relentless: there was something in his handicap that did not accompany him from one track to another.

Speaking colloquially, what he understood is that the fields had differences in their formats that made them very different from each other, even though their peers were the same and they had to be valued in different ways because obviously, otherwise there were places where they could not go anymore. , except that his handicap increased drastically.

Thus, he requested a special permit at the end of the Naval school and in his thesis, instead of imagining battles with their respective strategies, he proposed the development of a new golf handicap calculation system, which contained as a central part a new way of qualifying golf courses. His thesis was called “Proposed Course Rating System,” April 21, 1976.

His vision was to propose a field qualification based on ten different types of obstacles and that after measuring, the model would finally yield two measurement parameters, not just one, as was the usual practice up to that time. This is therefore his greatest contribution, since it showed how important it is to assess not only under the ideal of SCRATCHS players (that was what had been done for hundreds of years), but that the fields should also be assessed by focusing on a group of players. golfers who were the true weekly stars of the courses: GOLFER BOGEY, the one whose relative ability leads him to play a stroke above par on every hole.

Trying to put the perspective as simple as possible, what Knuth’s system proposes is to assess 10 obstacles, hole by hole, but always looking at them from two different perspectives:

  1. SCRATCH. Assume that a ZERO handicap player hits an average of 250 yards with his shot from the TEE and 220 with his shot from the middle of the fairway.
  2. BOGEY. In this case, a player who averages +1 per hole has a full tee shot of 200 yards and a second and/or third fairway shot(s) that will be 170 yards.

The obstacles that are being studied

First, a general assessment of the hole is made regarding:

  • Ball rolling
  • Tee/Green Elevation
  • Dog Leg and Forced Short Throw
  • Wind dominance

Then, the following possible obstacles are analyzed:

  1. Topography, where it is broken down
  2. Fairways
  3. Green Objective
  4. Recoverability and Rough
  5. bunkers
  6. Out of Bounds and/or Extreme Rough
  7. Water Hazar
  8. Trees
  9. Green Surface
  10. Psychological factors

As simple as it sounds. As different as you can see.

If all these elements are analyzed based on the landing zones (topography, trees, cross bunkers, off-field, dog-leg,… etc) on the one hand from the SCRATCH perspective and then from the BOGEY perspective, it goes without saying. that it is not the same to assess obstacles at 200 than at 250 yards. Much less similar will be an analysis of 370 yards versus 470 yards on a supposed second shot.

For example, a DOG LEG at 180 yards could easily be overflown by a Scratch that shoots more than 250 yards off the TEE (even with tall obstacles like trees), while a player with a 21 handicap will surely have to shoot a shorter and more precise wood lengthening the hole considerably.

Hole after hole, this double assessment will be made, thus obtaining 2 RATING INDEXES as a result: one Scratch and the other Bogey.

The SCRATCH Rating reading is the reading of the true course difficulty and how to measure this through the 10 obstacles, is what has been accepted throughout the world as the most accurate model ever invented. and all the National Associations of the world, take this value as the basis of their systems.
Thus, a course rated 67.8 will be clearly easier than one rated 74.2. Your pairs may be the same or very similar but it will be clear that the general difficulty of the second field will be much higher. The second will be even more complicated than the first if their total game distances are similar.

Then there is the BOGEY rating which is only known at the technical level of the course qualifier. This value is not normally publicly known. That value is compared against the obtained SCRATCH and this configures what Knuth called the SLOPE value whose best translation for me is: CORRECTION FACTOR.


The SLOPE is a value that will adjust the INDEX of a player transforming it into an effective handicap (or GAME HANDICAP) with which a player will go out on the course to compete against the same course or other players. It’s that simple. A player will not use the same exact playing handicap on all courses. On the contrary, with the help of the CORRECTION FACTOR or SLOPE, he will be able to adjust his personal INDEX in each field.

The base value of SLOPE is 113 and this value will be used to transform the INDEX into GAME HANDICAP. In other words, fields with SLOPE greater than 113 will increase the INDEX when transforming it into HANDICAP. On the contrary, SLOPE fields less than 113 will reduce the INDEX value by transforming it into HANDICAP.

Thus, the SLOPE is applied by dividing the SLOPE VALUE of the course where it is played by 113.


An example. The SLOPE of the BLACK layout of the PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS is 145 and its Course Rating is 75.5 and PAR 72.
An Index 11.2 player must, to play that course, take the following exact course handicap:

11.2 * 145 /113 + (75.5-72) [whs]

WHS Course Handicap:  17.871 ~ Rounded = 18 strokes
Old USGA Course Handicap:  14.3716 ~ Rounded =14 strokes

Another example. The SLOPE of the Strathyrum de Saint Andrews course is 107, PAR 69 and Rating 66.3.
To play on that course, the same 11.2 handicap must make the following calculation

11.2 * 107 /113 + (66.3 – 69) [whs]

WHS Course Handicap: 7.905 ~Rounded = 8 strokes
Old USGA Course Handicap: 10.605 ~Rounded = 11 strokes

An alternative view

If we handle this from mathematics, we can see that what SLOPE proposes is to transform a field into a percentage of greater or lesser difficulty with respect to the base or average field:

SLOPE / 113
145 / 113 = 1.2831
1.2831 * 100 – 1 = 28.31%
We clearly see that what the real calculation tells us is that in PEBBLE BEACH BLACK, the game handicap of any golfer must be increased by 28.31%, since its natural obstacles make it especially difficult for an unskilled golfer to play. to one of optimum ability. In other words, the field is much more difficult for the BOGEY than for the SCRATCH.
In the same way, in STRATHYRUM of SAINT ANDREWS, the INDEX should be reduced by 13.27% since that field was classified as much more benign for the BOGEY player compared to the SCRATCH.

Myths and Truths of the SLOPE and the RATING of the courses

There is a natural tendency to assume that a much higher SLOPE course is a much more difficult course overall. THIS IS A MISTAKE. It doesn’t necessarily mean this.

High SLOPE means the following:



We can make the analogy in terms of engineering by saying that the true height of a ceiling is the Course Rating. The SLOPE acts only as the thickness and/or weight that roof would have.

A field of RATING 74.2 and SLOPE 125 will be infinitely more difficult than another of RATING 68.5 and SLOPE 130. In other words, you have to focus on the RATING value, before the SLOPE value.

The real challenge will be given in the PAR vs RATING relationship than in the relationship of the SLOPE value with respect to the 113 base.

A course of par 69 and Rating 72.9 should inspire fear. Another 68.2 rated par 72 is a promise of low net par.

There are always exceptions
It is worth clarifying that Knuth himself on his site fully recognizes that this SLOPE system helps 88% of golfers to play better with their exact handicap. But there is a remaining 12% that can be left with their handicaps over or undervalued. He recognizes them as STEADY EDDY (Calm Eddy) and WILD WILLY (Crazy Willy).
Eddy will be an extremely upright and controlled player, with a very sharp short game, but extremely short hitting. Low power, high precision. Eddy’s handicap can be high for short courts and low for long courts.
On the contrary, Willy will be a beast that hits very long but without precision and his short game is also very inaccurate. Contrary to Eddy, the long courts will not complicate it as much as the short ones.

Having qualified the course with the USGA system and knowing the SLOPE / CORRECTION FACTOR of the course, allows us to balance the differences inherent in the different courses since it not only allows us to give more advantage when playing, but it will also allow us to eliminate from the DIFFERENTIAL that will be applied for the handicap, the same amount.

It is a measure of justice. It is a realistic measure.

We can summarize that the SLOPE is then a way to flatten the differences that we all know exist in the different fields. We all know which courts are “EASY” and which are “TREMENDOUS”. With the SLOPE this is sincere.

An argument that seeks to minimize the importance of the SLOPE system says that if one course is much more difficult than another, then it is equally so for the entire field under competition. Although it sounds very fair on PRIMA FACIE, this argument is fallacious.

Take for example a city where there are two courts and where the handicap system does not take SLOPE into account. For example, Argentina, Uruguay or England.

One of the courses is very easy for the BOGEYS, which we will call HEAVEN and the other very difficult, which we will call HELL. I repeat, easier or more difficult, for a Bogey player, not Scratch. Is not the same.

Both groups play 75% on their court and 25% on the other.

It goes without saying that HELL’s scores are always much higher than HEAVEN’s. Therefore, the handicap of the HELL member, who has higher base scores, is much higher than the HEAVEN member.

Over the months, there is no way the angels can beat the demons, as the demons set their handicap based on massive amounts of bogeys and double bogeys.

Not to mention when the meeting between the two is in HELL. Having a short handicap and being on a difficult course… The disadvantage is geometric.

It reminds me of what we said in the first line of this note… it is the scenario of more than 40 years ago.

A SLOPE greater than 113 for HELL and one less than that value for HEAVEN would therefore cause the HELL scores to be compensated with more HANDICAP and those of HEAVEN compensated with less HANDICAP, making the spreads very similar, thus flattening the peaks. and valleys of the scores.