The Slope Handicap System has been in place for
approximately 30 years. The number of
golfers who actually understand what a Slope Rating means, however, is still
quite small. The confusion and
misunderstanding surrounding the Slope Rating is not difficult to believe given
its obtuse definition:

*Slope Rating – The slope of the line plotting a player’s average differential at a course versus his handicap at the reference course.*

To make the system less mysterious and simpler, two changes
are suggested. First, rename a player’s “index” and make it his “Standard
Handicap” (measured to the nearest tenth).
The USGA’s “index” is really not an index as commonly defined. Introducing this non-golf term into the
lexicon of handicapping only added another layer of obfuscation.

Second, change the definition
of the Slope Rating to the old Slope Rating divided by 113. (Note: The
term "Slope Rating" is kept to minimize confusion.) The new
Slope Rating is the percentage of a player’s Standard Handicap that is allowed
at a particular course. To demonstrate the simplicity of the revised system,
assume a player has a 10.0 Standard Handicap. When he plays a course with a new
Slope Rating of 120, he is allowed 120 percent of his Standard Handicap and his
Course Handicap is 12. In essence, the Slope Rating can be viewed intuitively
as the "slope" of a hill. The steeper the hill, the more handicap
a player needs to reach his goal (i.e., have a net score equal to the Course
Rating).

Here are the advantages of the proposed changes:

1. It has intuitive appeal and is easily understood. If you
are going to a course with a New Slope Rating of 120, you know your Standard
Handicap will be increased by 20 percent.
If you are going to a course with an Old Slope Rating of 136 (which is
the same as a New Slope Rating of 120), both your ultimate Course Handicap and its
meaning are less clear.

2. If the New Slope
Rating is implemented, the ubiquitous number “113” will be hidden from
view. A Slope Rating
of 113 has been represented as the Slope Rating of a course of average
difficulty. That is not
necessarily correct. If the
USGA had chosen Pine Valley for its reference course, the Slope Rating at Pine
Valley would have been 113. The
“113” stems from the USGA’s assertion that at

**any**course, a player’s average differential will be 1.13 times his handicap. In other words, “113” represents the bias in the Handicap System that favors the lower handicap player. It is not prudent to remind the knowledgeable player of this inequity every time he computes his handicap. The reference course would now have a Slope Rating of 100. Since the Slope Rating is an "index," its reference standard should be 100 and not 113.
3. The changes would simplify
answering the question, “What is your handicap?" Under the present
system, if your answer is "My USGA Index is 11.2," you will get a lot
of quizzical looks if the questioner is a non-golfer. You could patiently
explain that a golfer has a myriad of handicaps depending upon the Slope Rating
of the course. By the time you are finished with your explanation, the
questioner will have excused himself and moved on to someone more interesting.
It would be so much easier to say my Standard Handicap is 11 (or 11.2 if
you want to add some spurious accuracy your audience cares little about).

It is unclear why the USGA chose to describe courses by what
it measures (i.e., the Slope Rating) rather that by what golfers can easily use
and understand (i.e., the new Slope Rating).
Because of that choice, golfers have suffered and will continue to
suffer needless confusion.

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