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Course Rating

A Slippery Slope O

Don’t confuse a high slope rating with overall diffi culty

ver the past three columns I have offered a breakdown of the course rating process. I’ve covered how we evaluate various yardage and obstacle factors and how they infl u-

ence the play of both Scratch and Bogey golfers on each hole/ each shot; what factors contribute to a high course rating (yard- age, mostly); and what factors contribute to a high slope rating (an abundance of holes that Bogey can reach in “regulation”). I’ve broken down Poppy Hills before and after from a course and slope rating perspective. I’ve even rated a famously short par 4 at Pebble Beach

(No. 4). I wonder how many of you were shocked to learn that a course full of No. 4s at Pebble Beach would result in a slope rating in the high 140s (147 to be exact)? I wrap up the series by evaluating one of the most diffi cult par 4s I have ever played, No. 9 at Pebble Beach. The results might surprise you, especially in light of how No. 4 was rated. The gold tee on the ninth hole measures a whopping 460

yards. The hole plays about 30 feet downhill and downwind, so both players can expect to pick up a little extra yardage on their full shots (driver and 3-wood for Bogey; driver for Scratch). OB and trees are basically nonexistent on the hole. Downwind, Bogey hits his tee ball about 210 yards, which places him 25 yards short of the fairway bunker on the left. His landing zone (i.e., fairway) measures a generous 40 yards wide, and slopes from left to right, resulting in a moderate lie for his second shot. Water is pretty far away, but that will change dramatically on his second shot. Downwind and downhill, Bogey hits his second shot a

good 185 yards, leaving an approach of roughly 65 yards. His second landing zone measures a mere 26 yards wide, but must look like a narrow ribbon to Bogey, given the proximity of the water (15 yards right of the center of his fairway). Bailing left is no bargain, as it requires an approach shot out of punitive rough over a very deep greenside bunker. By Pebble Beach standards, the green is relatively large (a diameter of 23 yards), but dominated by a bunker deeper than 6 feet that is short and left, and water 5 paces from the right edge of the green. Additionally, the green slopes steeply from back-to-front and left-to-right. How about Scratch? Due to the wind, he hits it a good

260 yards off the tee. If only his tee ball had enough momen- tum to roll to the bottom of the steep fairway hill, it would save him a world of grief. Instead, he faces a severe downhill lie on his approach shot. Like Bogey’s fi rst landing zone, his fairway cants left to right, but measures a little narrower (32 yards). Water is a lot farther right than one might suspect, so he has to resist the temptation to aim too far left. He does not want to catch that fairway bunker, or play out of the rough.

62 / NCGA.ORG / SUMMER 2014

1st Landing Zone SCRATCH 1st Landing Zone

2nd Landing Zone



Evaluating the diffi cult No. 9 at Pebble Beach Scratch’s 200-yard approach is dominated by a steep

downhill lie. Scratch also has to factor a 30-foot downhill elevation change into club selection, and try to stop the ball on a dime with the wind behind him. Greenside, pick your poison, as there is a deep greenside bunker to the left, or the water to the right. Check out my obstacle numbers for both golfers: SCRATCH 7 5 7 6 0 6 0 8 8

Topography Fairway Rough

Bunkers OB

Water Trees

Surface Psych

BOGEY 3 7 6 5 0 5 0 9 5

If you played a course with 18 holes identical to this one, the course rating would exceed 80 due to the extreme length of the hole, but the slope would clock in at around 138. A hefty slope to be sure, but still a full nine points lower than a course full of hole No. 4s. How can that be when No. 4 is light years easier than

No. 9? Because in this case, the Scratch golfer coming into the

green from 200 yards off a devilish lie is much more prone to succumb to the treacherous greenside trouble than Bogey coming in from 65 yards. And that is where a lot of a slope rating comes from, the trouble around the green. Bogey has an imposing second shot on his hands, no doubt. But his reward for pulling it off is a less-than-intimidating pitch shot off a pretty tame lie to a reasonably sized green, and hope- fully, two putts for a bogey.

By Jim Cowan Director of Course Rating and Handicapping Email:

So in conclusion, is there any

doubt in your mind as to which hole is more diffi cult? Then why remain fi xated on the slope as if it is the only num- ber that counts?

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