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The Rating Wars–Part 2 L


et’s continue our review of the USGA Course Rating System. As a reminder, we now


evaluate each hole/each shot through the eyes of two distinctively different players: a Scratch and Bogey golfer. We are given very specific information about the playing characteristics of both. How far and accurately they hit the ball, their course-management tendencies, etc. For example, we are told that the male Scratch golfer hits it 250 off the tee and 220 on a full second shot (210/190 for his female counterpart). So he is not a gorilla by any means.


A lot of people want to


stop me right there. How can the rating system be based on such a popcorn hitter when 300-yard drives are the norm on the PGA Tour (and 250+ on the LPGA Tour)? Easy. One, Tour players are light


years better than the Scratch golfer we are rating for. Two, it is no coincidence that these shot lengths align themselves with the reckoning of par. He hits it 250 in one, 470 in two. Ergo, par 4s start at 251, par 5s start at 471 (211 and 401 for women). So if the system were to change the distance standards that we rate for, it would almost certainly require a corresponding change in how we go about determining par. And golfers would not like that (think 495-yard par 4s). It is understood that the


Scratch golfer’s game tends to be conservative in nature, and not prone to excessive risk taking. What about Bogey and his


game?


He hits it about 200 off the tee and 170 with a full second shot (150 and 130 for the Bogey woman). Bogey’s course-manage- ment tendencies?


60 / NCGA.ORG / WINTER 2014 The thought of “manag-


ing” his game has seldom occurred to Bogey. . .hit it and hope! So with this understand-


ing of the two players in hand, what and how do we rate a hole? We evaluate four different


effective playing length cor- rection factors that influence how long a golf hole “plays.” This includes an evaluation of Roll, tee-to-green Elevation change, Dogleg/Forced Lay- up considerations and Wind. A fifth distance-correction factor comes into play when we rate at Altitude. We also evaluate nine


obstacle factors on a 0-10 scale, based on how they come into play on each shot for both golfers. This includes Topog- raphy (impact of terrain), Fair- way (difficulty of keeping the ball in the fairway from tee to green), Green Target (difficul- ty of hitting the green on the approach shot), Rough and Recoverability (difficulty of recovery from the rough, espe- cially around the green), Bun- kers (proximity and difficulty of recovery), Out of Bounds, Water, Trees (proximity and the difficulty of recovery) and Green Surface (difficulty from a putting standpoint). A 10th


Course Rating and Handicapping


factor, Psychology, is applied on the first and last hole of a course, plus any holes that garner a number of high obstacles ratings. So let’s look at the fourth


hole at Pebble Beach. Hope- fully you have had a chance to play it yourself. If not, you see it every year on television dur- ing the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. From the Gold tees, the hole measures 306 yards. The elevation change on the tee shot, and the slope on the fair- way, is not enough to seriously impact Roll. Overall, the hole goes uphill 20 feet and plays downwind. Trees are only pres- ent immediately off the tee. Downwind, Bogey can hit


his tee ball about 210 yards, which places him even with the small fairway bunker located left center. A fairway bunker had to be carried for him to reach his landing zone. Bogey seldom lays up when not required, so he is apt to hit driver and take on both the narrow fairway (27 yards wide) and nearby water (18 yards from center). He has a slightly uneven lie for his 96-yard approach shot to a skinny green that sits uphill a good 16 feet. He cannot see the green surface from


By JIM COWAN Director of Course Rating and Handicapping


Email: jcowan@ncga.org


his landing zone. More than three-quarters of the green is surrounded by bunkers, though they do not tend to be deep. Some lost-ball-type extreme rough is located about 50 yards from the center of his landing zone with an inter- vening fairway bunker. Water surrounds half of the green and is located only 14 yards to the right of the center of the green, though once again, a bunker intervenes. The green is sloped from back to front. How about Scratch? He


could certainly hit driver, but why? He would be hitting to a narrow fairway and bringing the water (and fairway bun- kers) very much into play. He would also be leaving himself an awkward 46-yard approach shot that would be difficult to control. I could easily see Scratch hit a mid-to-long iron off the tee to a point ten yards short of the small fairway bunker that Bogey is chal- lenging. The fairway is much wider here (60 yards), which likewise places the water much


No.4 at Pebble Beach


BOGEY


LANDING AREA SCRATCH


LANDING AREA


PHOTO: JOANN DOST


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