While the Australian Golf Handicapping system has undergone many changes recently, the announced delay of introducing the Slope system until 2013 has caused much distress among our readers, especially those who believe that Slope will be the “unifying” cure-all factor to fix the remaining issues surrounding handicaps.

Many of the letters we receive each week argue (nay, demand) that Slope should be introduced as a priority because it will “have a significant impact on Australian golf.”

But will Slope truly have a marked effect on your handicap? In many cases, the answer is no.

To put it simply, Slope is merely an adjustment factor to make your handicap ‘portable’ from one course to another. It adds or subtracts strokes to your handicap, based upon the Course Rating at each course.

For example, if your handicap is 15, then under the old system you would play at a 15 at any course, regardless of its level of difficulty. In the Slope system, however, your 15 would be converted to a “course handicap” based on the difficulty of the course. Slope ratings can range from 55 (easiest) to 155 (most difficult), with 113 being the neutral rating where your handicap won’t change at all. So on a local/easy track, your 15 handicap for the day may be, say, a 12, while on a monster it could be a 20 or higher.

So, for golfers/club members who play all their golf on the same course, Slope will have no effect on your regular rounds – but it may come into effect if you play a comp or casual round at another course which has a different course rating than your home course.

Social golfers who play at a different course each day/week/month, on the other hand, may have a different handicap each time they play (depending on the difficulty of the courses they play – if all the courses are of a similar course rating, then there will be little or no change in handicap.)

“The new GA Handicap System will be made up of a whole series of components of which Slope will be just one,” says Golf Australia’s rules and handicapping manager Simon Magdulski. “It is also worth making the point that whilst Slope will not have a significant impact on the regular experience of most Australian handicap golfers, it will still be a terrific addition to our handicap system.  Our statistics suggest that approximately 90% of the rounds that are processed through GOLF Link, are played at the home course.  Of the remaining 10%, a reasonable proportion will be on away courses with like-Slope ratings.

“Slope wouldn’t have solved the high-marker bias we were encountering with the previous ‘10 of 20, 0.96’ settings. What Slope will do is, where you’ve got people from low Slope-rated course going to play on high Slope-rated courses, it will give them a fairer handicap. That’s not something across the golfing population that happens a huge amount, but it certainly does happen, and it is very important to those affected.  In some cases currently, players end up with a handicap they find to be largely irrelevant to their standard of play on difficult courses, and that’s not a great outcome.  So it will be a very useful addition to handicap golf in Australia.”

So how will Slope work?

Under Slope, every set of tees on every golf course will have both a Scratch Rating and a Slope Rating. The Scratch Rating is the number of strokes a Scratch marker (ie a player with a handicap of 0) is expected to have. The Slope Rating indicates how much harder or easier the course will play for a player who is not a Scratch Marker.  GOLF Link will calculate a central handicap for every player. This will be called the GA Handicap. Golfers will be able to directly compare their GA Handicaps with one another, no matter where they play their golf.

Whilst the GA Handicap is the handicap that will be displayed in a player’s GOLF Link record on www.golflink.com.au, it is not designed for use in handicap competition play. The handicap that is designed for use in competition play is the Daily Handicap. The Daily Handicap is the ‘Sloped’ version of the GA Handicap (ie the Daily Handicap takes into account the Slope of the course being played, whereas the GA Handicap does not). The formula for calculation of a Daily Handicap is as follows: Daily Handicap = GA Handicap x (Slope Rating ÷ Neutral Slope Rating (ie 113)

Golfers will be given access to charts (Slope Tables) that they can use to quickly convert their handicap for each Course.  Upon arriving at a new course, a golfer would simply consult the chart/table to find their course handicap for the day.

The charts below are a very basic example of how a Slope Conversion Chart may look.

(Note: These numbers are an approximation only, and do NOT represent the actual numbers once the system is rolled out.)

As you can see from the three scenario charts, there is a huge variance in course handicaps depending on the difficulty of the courses.  (Note that these charts are just three examples from around 100 ratings possibilities.)

So while Slope will certainly add tremendous value to Australian golf – and will be a ray of sunshine for social/travelling/wandering golfers — it does not represent the cure-all solution that many club golfers are expecting it to be.  Either way, it is an extremely fair and solid factor that will go a long way to improving our enjoyment of golf.





About Richard Fellner

A four-time winner of the Australian Golf Media Awards, including Best Photojournalism, Best Opinion, Best Column and Best Photographic Presentation, Inside Golf Group Editor Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic, having played the game for over 50 years (but has never gotten any better!) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Media Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and has been a featured guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others. Follow Richard Fellner on Quora


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17 Responses to "A Slippery Slope: How will the Slope System affect your handicap?"

  1. Pingback: What the new Australian golf handicapping system could mean to you : Inside Golf. Australia's Golf News Leader

  2. Luke Neesham  January 8, 2012

    Good article. I’m not currently a member anywhere so dont have access to golflink but wanted to work out what my handicap would be a couple of months back. So I did a bunch of research to try to work out how the new new GA system works.
    Took some doing. There are no spreadsheets out there that I could find that do it for individuals properly and there is nowhere I could find anything confirming if slope was already in or not or when it was going to be, so I built a spreadsheet that includes slope, and charts changes over time, etc… I’m pretty sure it works correctly. (Interestingly my current GA handicap of 20.4 – including slope – is about 2 shots lower than under the USGA system. I havent worked out what it would be not including slope. That should give me something to do tonight).
    Anyhoo, one thing I did find (and think it could possibly be clarified in future articles) is that slope is not a measure of difficulty – that’s what the course rating is for – slope is a measure of how forgiving or punishing a course is for a 20 handicapper v’s a scratch golfer. Which is why it makes less difference at the low marks.
    A flat paddock par-3 course with no rough or traps would be a low slope while the jungles of Koolau look like they truly deserve the “hardest course in the world” tag.
    I’m a fan of slope. Cant be introduced soon enough for me. Now all I have to do is get around to joining a club again.

  3. Russell  January 13, 2012

    I think that the handicap system still needs reviewed – with or without the slope. At my course for example there are a lot of par 3’s. Now if you look at the results on the pga tour for example, (I can’t get them anywhere else, but is a good general indicator), often they will show a player’s life or yearly stats for 3’s, 4’s, 5’s totals and thus +14, even, -390.(as an example). For me as 3 marker par 3’s are harder than 4’s but for an 18 handicapper thay easy short par 4’s. They only have to get on a par 3 hole (say 130 m) for 2 and 2 putt. Easy and that is why they win more comps there. But if you look at longer course you will find low markers winning more of the comps. Handicap should be based on the type of holes you play each week. I am not sure if the new handicap system is based apon the type of holes not just the differential to par on each hole.

  4. jesse  January 15, 2012

    i love the fact when i walk on to my home course i automatically have to i think its all bullshit and personally i hate having 36 points par of the course only to come in -2 bullshit and they say this is fair system. all ratings should be the par of the course hence thats why you have a handicap it goes up and down more consistent if the rating was at the par of the course. i think all this bullshit comes into it just so people look like they have jobs.

  5. jesse  January 15, 2012

    it was meant to say i have to think of shooting 38 points to play to my handicap already teh pressure is on before you even tee up.

  6. Pingback: The slope system and your handicap | The Golf World

  7. Rodney  January 17, 2012

    Will a player’s handicap depend on whether their home course is “easy” or “hard”? If so, to understand how strong a player is, it will be necessary to ask them both their index *and* the slope of their home course. And there would seem to be a need for slope tables above to depend on both the slope of the home course and the slope of the visiting course. If a player’s handicap does *not* depend on the slope of their home course, then … well, I don’t know how it would work, your article doesn’t address this issue adequately.

  8. brian  January 17, 2012

    in theory your point is valid but slope takes into account relative difficulty which is what a handicap is all about. a 3 hcap should find a 130m shot bread and butter compared to a 18 hcap and could be looking to put it close form that distance. a 3 hcap would hope to have it close in 2. where it gets trickier is say a 200m par 3 where a 18 hcap could in theory lay up. in practice though this sort of hole will have a hazard/rouble in front anyway putting a premium on well struck long iron/rescue : advantage low hcap. in fact the card wrecker for high hcaps is often par threes where they can rack up 5s and 6s easily.
    there is no way to to take account of whether one personally finds a hole hard unfortunately.
    as for your course where there are a disproportionate number of par 3s – this is not a standard layout anyway (4 max 5 the norm) but will prob be reflected in slope as distance/degree of difficulty is a prime factor. lower slope = advantage back to low hcaps (relatively).

  9. Dave  January 20, 2012


    Slope has nothing to do with your index. Your index is calculated of the course rating. Slope has nothing to do with your index adjustment at the end of round.

    Slope only comes in to play when playing somewhere other than home your course. You may go up or down a shot depending on the slope (difficulty/ease) on the track you are playing that day.

  10. Jamie  January 27, 2012

    I still ask the same question…. why are we using the USGA system which is ONLY designed with stroke rounds in mind where the high handicappers can actually score that 7-8-9 they would get most rounds and the low markers can play consistant golf and score well…
    We are playing a USGA system with stableford and par and its just not working.. REALLY.. is anyone at GOLF AUSTRALIA actually a low marker.. ????
    We are still seeing 44-45 stableford scores coming in … so tell me again.. im off 1.. and you expect me .. as a amateur golfer who works 9-5 to shoot 8-9-10 under par????
    YOU ALL HAVE NO IDEA IF YOU REALLY THINK THIS IS A FAIR SYSTEM… actually go to USA and see how they play their golf.. I DID… STROKE ROUNDS ONLY!!!!!!! WAKE UP GOLF AUSTRALIA AND GOLFLINK… your making a mockery of the game we love…

  11. brian  March 15, 2012

    your index is calculated as average of handicap differentials, each of which represents results of a round in this form [{score (adjusted for max scores etc) – CR} x 113/slope of course played.] while slope is especially useful in going to harder or easier courses it does play a role in determining your absolute handicap. There is no concept of having a handicap at your home club anymore – one just has a handicap index which translates to a Course handicap at any given club. so if player A plays at a very hard course his 14 handicap index (say) may be a result of a number of 17 overs (which because it is a hard course get weighted down to 14. Player B plays a standard 9easy course and shoots 14 over all the time an this translates to 14 chap index also.

    now lets see what happens after their rounds. Player A at easy course (lets say slope of 113) shoots a 86 -. no change to chap as this is what he should shoot (86-72)x 113/113 = 11. player B played hard course but shoots 90. his chap index stays at 14 also (90-72)x113/ 142.

  12. john tiffin  July 2, 2012

    stableford if you bust and your six foot from or further,closer do you have to putt out in the new system ? regards john

  13. Richard Fellner  July 4, 2012

    No John. In stableford, once you are unable to score any points, you pick up. The new system does not change that.

  14. Merv Price  March 3, 2013

    Quite happy with the whole process so far, the concept is great though feel the 0.93 and the 8 only handicap differences may prove a little severe.

    What will happen with Grades or Divisions, each course will have a different Daily Handicap Range.
    How will our existing GA handicaps transpose to Slope GA handicaps
    Wiil all Course Scratch Ratings, Handicap Differentials and Daily Scratch Ratings be to a tenth of a point.
    Will Slope Course Ratings be released earlier for clubs to implement.
    Mixed and Medley events, will all players handicaps to convert to one Course rating.

  15. Pingback: The slope system and your handicap : Aussie Golfer

  16. What the  January 20, 2014

    What happens on corp days ?

  17. Bruce Toddun  May 22, 2018

    There has been a huge number of opinions about stroke ratings. Perhaps we can KISS it, ( keep it simple silly).
    1. Every Golfer has a different swing.
    2. Some draw, some fade, some can do both.
    3. Stating the obvious, there are only 18 strokes to consider, if your game suits a difficult stoke hole, you will loose that advantage on another hole, somewhere. If you are good on EVERY hole, you are a scratch and won’t get shots anywhere.
    4. It’s NOT possible to please everyone, in fact, impossible.
    5. Stoke your nines seperately, odd holes back nine, evens front nine. This makes it fair for CB’s.
    6. The slope system uses length for 80 percentage of all calculations, you are going to 80 / 100 correct. Much better result than currently everyone disagreeing with the stroke rating.
    7. Don’t forget to use the prevailing winds in your area.
    8. If you still insist on statistics, these will be affected by the double shot handicap 19 and above, likewise the single figure long hitters.
    9. The formula used by the slope system is 220m drive, 175m second shot (4/5 iron).
    10. Rate your holes by using the club the golfer has to hit into the green, not on poorly played golf or using a professionals ability to rate your course.
    I firmly believe that the criticism of your course stroke rating will almost disappear, if you use the length of the hole and dump your statistics.
    There will of course be the odd exception, but don’t make a rule that you are using golfers inability to hit the perfect shot, won’t happen, that’s GOLF.
    That was not very simple, but much more simple than your letter by Murray Croply in your April edition of INSIDE GOLF.
    Yours in Golf
    Bruce Toddun
    ps Nomads Golf is coming to Geelong

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