Politics in British Course Rating
(updated February, 2010)
I conducted USGA Course Rating training for the Scottish Golf Union and the other Golf Unions in the UK many years ago. It was preceded by meetings with the different golf organizations in the UK. A great man from Renfrew, (near Glasgow) named Douglas Ray did a wonderful job of working with the rating teams all over Scotland to accurately Course and Slope Rate the courses. When he took a higher position in the SGU another great volunteer named Bill Mitchell took over. So, I know that the ratings listed in this section were done well and accurately.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, politics got in the way. The Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) runs handicapping for men in the UK and the LGU (Ladies Golf Union) have gone over to CONGU so that the LGU no longer has responsibility for Ladies' handicapping in GB&I so that it is now solely CONGU. (The old LGU rating system was scrapped and over the past 6 years the ladies have been implementing USGA course rating procedures and will, in a couple of years' time, have rated all courses for Scratch & Bogey). CONGU at the time had allowed for the Slope System to be used in the UK, but the English Golf Union effectively blocked implementation saying that it was too big a task. Ireland, Scotland and Wales had done much of their rating work and were ready to implement. So, the numbers that are posted on my site are the ones that have been withheld from implementation. However, since American golfers must have a USGA Course and Slope Rating in order to post a score, they can use these when posting back home.
The British have an interesting addition to their Course Ratings (called SSS there, for Standard Scratch Score). On competition days, the SSS for the day becomes the CSS, or Competitive Scratch Score that is based on how the field played that particular day. It is a way to deal with the inclement weather, such as high winds that can affect golfers's scores in the UK. On a bad weather day, scores naturally go up and the CSS goes up accordingly. This ingenious formula was developed by my very good friend, Peter Wilson who is from near Scarisbrick, England (near Ormskirk, outside of Liverpool). Peter had been involved with the CONGU for many years and later became the President (Captain) of the English Golf Union. It has always been my contention that in high winds that the Slope Rating rises more dramatically than the Course Rating because better players can deal with the winds better than the higher handicap players can.
As an interesting aside, the continental Europeans—led by the French Federation of Golf, Germany, Holland and especially Sweden and Denmark---wanted to adopt the USGA Course Rating and Slope System in conjunction with posting Stableford Points instead of scores (a good way to implement stroke control on bad holes which essentially means that net double bogey is the worst score that can be posted on a hole). They broke away from CONGU and created the European Golf Association that now controls their handicap system independent of CONGU. The EGA implemented the USGA Course Rating and Slope System throughout all their golfing countries. I believe that the Europeans are pleased with the Slope System, as are the many other countries that have adopted it, including Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and numerous Asian countries. Golf Australia is the most recent major golf country to announce their plan to adopt Slope Ratings.
I was a busy guy back in those days as I went to all those countries in the 1980's to be the “Johnnie Appleseed” of Course and Slope Rating, in addition to teaching the system to all the state golf associations in the USA.