‘Bogey Golfer’ in the Handicap System, Course & Slope Rating

Published on 20th April 2023 in New to Golf

In common usage, “bogey golfer” means a golfer who averages about one bogey per hole. (A bogey is a golf score of 1 over par on an individual hole. If the hole’s par rating is 4 and a golfer scores 5 on the hole, that golfer has made a bogey.)

 Do that on a par-72 golf course and the bogey golfer’s average score is around 90.

If you’re a bogey golfer, you might not be happy averaging around 90 for each round of golf. You might wish you were shooting better scores. And you can work towards improving your game and improving your score.

But keep in mind that being a bogey golfer actually means you are doing better than most other recreational golfers out there. According to various studies, the majority of people who take up the game of golf never break 100, and only a small percentage of those who play golf ever score lower than 90. So if you’re averaging a score of 90, well, you’re actually doing pretty good! Especially if, like most amateurs, you don’t do a lot of practicing.

Course rating and slope rating are calculated for a golf course on the basis of a visit to the course by a rating team.

The rating team spends time with the facility’s staff going over the course, and spends a lot of time on the course itself taking measurements of various things. 

Based on the information gleaned during the visit(s), the course rating and course slope are calculated, certified by the appropriate overseeing golf associations, and given to the club which then posts the ratings on its scorecard and elsewhere.

Course rating used to be based almost solely on length. The longer the course, the higher the rating. But obstacles such as bunkers and water (degree of difficulty) in addition to distance are now part of the consideration.

The rating team goes over the golf course with an eye to how both scratch golfers and bogey golfers play it.

A scratch golfer, in this use, is defined as a male golfer who hits his drive 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two or a female golfer who hits her drive 210 yards and can reach a 400-yard hole in two (and, of course, plays to scratch, needing no extra strokes to complete a hole).

A bogey golfer, in this use, is a male golfer with a handicap index of 17.5 to 22.4, who hits his drives 200 yards and can reach a 370-yard hole in two and a female golfer with a handicap index of 21.5 to 26.4, who hits her drives 150 yards and can reach a 280-yard hole in two.

So, for example, on a 400-yard hole, the rating team goes 200 yards down the fairway to analyze the landing area for a bogey golfer and 250 yards down the fairway to analyze the landing area for a scratch golfer. What obstacles were encountered along the way? What is the state of the fairway at each spot for each golfer—narrow or wide, hazards close by or no hazards? What angle is left to the green? What obstacles still await—water, sand, trees? How far is the approach shot from the scratch golfer’s landing area and from the bogey golfer’s landing area?

Taking into account length, obstacles, and experience gleaned from playing the course, the rating team evaluates the overall difficulty of the golf course under normal playing conditions and issues the course rating for scratch golfers.

But the team also computes a “bogey rating,” something many golfers don’t know exists for each golf course. The bogey rating is similar to course rating, it’s just an evaluation of how many strokes a bogey golfer will take to play the course rather than an evaluation of strokes needed for scratch golfers. And the bogey rating has an important role: it is used in the calculation that produces the slope rating.

Slope, remember, is a number representing the relative difficulty of a course for bogey golfers compared to scratch golfers. The calculation that determines slope is this: bogey course rating minus course rating x 5.381 for men or 4.24 for women.

The “effective playing length” and “obstacle stroke value” are the determining factors in course rating and bogey rating.

Effective playing length is exactly that—not the actual metres on a hole or a shot, but how long the hole plays. A 400-yard hole will play shorter if it is downhill from the tee or longer if it is uphill from the tee. Altitude affects playing length, as does the firmness of the fairways. Does the course produce a lot of roll-out on shots? Are there forced lay-ups?

Obstacle stroke value is a numerical rating of the difficulty presented by obstacles on the course. The course is rated in 10 categories: topography, ease or difficulty of hitting the fairway, probability of hitting the green from the fairway landing area, difficulty of bunkers and probability of hitting into them, probability of hitting out of bounds, how much water will come into play, how trees affect play, speed and contouring of the greens, and the psychological effect of all these things.

The rating team looks at all these things for both scratch golfers and bogey golfers, and from every set of tees. Then following the four formulas (male scratch golfer, female scratch golfer, male bogey golfer, female bogey golfer), some adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, the rating team produces its numbers.

And you thought rating a golf course was easy!

Flinders Golf Club maximum Daily Handicap limit is 36 for men and 45 for women for most competitions.

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