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Does the USGA ever "re-rate" courses based on Player's data?

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 

In other words, if a course is rated a certain way, (let's say 72.0 CR & 130 slope) but the majority of players consistently shoot below their handicaps there, will the rating be reviewed at any point? If so, who initiates the process?

 

I played at a course recently that seemed ridiculously overrated. Flat, no OB, minimal hazards. Some modest tree trouble, and relatively short (6,200). It was rated as a 70.8/121. I played a poor round and still managed to come away with an 83. My first two tee shots were snapped badly left and I could have easily been re-teeing 3 at many other courses. Here, I walked away one over par through 2. Had I been shooting halfway decently, I would have expected to shoot in the 70's without a sweat.

 

I understand that there are certain courses that set up better for a certain player's style of play. And that over time he or she might score better than their handicap would indicate at those specific courses. But what about a course where EVERYONE plays better than their handicap would indicate?

 

Do those courses get re-evaluated and if so, what is the process?

post #2 of 41

Keep in mind, though, that the rating (not the slope, the rating) isn't going to take into account the OB and hazards all that much because, let's face it ... how often do scratch golfers hit it OB??

 

The slope is where you'd see that stuff accounted for, and I'd say that 121 is pretty modest.

 

There are courses that set up that same way for me as well.  If I play munis where I can spray it two fairways in either direction and still have a shot at the green, I usually score well.  And even a bad round at those courses is going to be pretty close to my handicap.

 

Although ... this still doesn't answer your question.  If a course really does appear to be incorrectly rated, I have no idea how they'd go about rectifying it. :-D

post #3 of 41

The USGA rating process takes into consideration landing zones for both scratch and bogey golfers. I'd post a link to the USGA Ratings Primer but when I try it locks me up, probably an IE issue. I play courses that seem to have inaccurate ratings all the time. I assume some of it is inconsistencies in setup. One course I play swears their rough mowers are set to 2" and other than in the winter when the grass is dormant I've never seen it under 3" and sometimes longer. Green Surface is another factor that is a moving target here. Nobody admits it but my guess is conservation efforts is the root cause.

post #4 of 41
I don't know if it's just in western Pennsylvania (WPGA) or if it is mandated by the USGA, but we are required to re-rate new courses three years after their first rating and every five years after that.

The only numbers that can really change a course rating are green speed and rough height. Usually raters try to test those, but sometimes, for example if you rate after a lot of rain, those aren't at their normal playing conditions so you have to take the course's word on them.
post #5 of 41

Course rating isn't an exact science and we probably all know of a course with a lower or higher rating than what it seems to play.

 

If changes are made the course should be rated again (if they call and ask for it) but things like the length of the rough can change fairly often depending on weather conditions and even available money for mowing more or less often.

 

For the most part the courses I know of are rated pretty accurately compared to each other as long as they are properly mowed and maintained.

 

Hell of a difference though between rough where you don't have a prayer of finding a ball and rough where it's not much of a penalty.

post #6 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by MS256 View Post

Hell of a difference though between rough where you don't have a prayer of finding a ball and rough where it's not much of a penalty.

I had several discussions with the pro at my former home course because of the rough. Like I mentioned above he swore the mowers were set to 2". No joke a few times I asked him about it after playing the course on the morning they mowed with iPhone in hand showing pictures of the rough over the ferrule on my wedges. It was so long the on-line reviews were nearly all about the rough. Lost balls were never my problem but playing out of was a score killer. I'm certain I mentioned this in other ratings threads but I stopped playing there as often as I was because of it. Not because I don't like a challenge but the 69.3 CR from the tips was a score/differential killer. So much so my scores there were similar to courses I played rated 4-5 strokes higher and much longer. Though we get killed in CO due to the altitude factor. Pretty much anything rated over 73 means playing from over 7k yards.

post #7 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave2512 View Post
 

I had several discussions with the pro at my former home course because of the rough. Like I mentioned above he swore the mowers were set to 2". No joke a few times I asked him about it after playing the course on the morning they mowed with iPhone in hand showing pictures of the rough over the ferrule on my wedges. It was so long the on-line reviews were nearly all about the rough. Lost balls were never my problem but playing out of was a score killer. I'm certain I mentioned this in other ratings threads but I stopped playing there as often as I was because of it. Not because I don't like a challenge but the 69.3 CR from the tips was a score/differential killer. So much so my scores there were similar to courses I played rated 4-5 strokes higher and much longer. Though we get killed in CO due to the altitude factor. Pretty much anything rated over 73 means playing from over 7k yards.


Where I work I mow the rough once a week (if possible). I usually get all of it mowed on Monday and Tuesday. The guys that have regular games on Wednesday are unlikely to lose a golf ball in the rough. By Saturday or Sunday almost any ball in the rough is very hard to find unless you know just about exactly where it is. Anybody that plays a regular game on the weekends is probably playing a course that is two or three strokes harder (or more if they aren't very accurate).

 

When I mow I find many, many golf balls that aren't far off of the fairway and in positions where it was obvious somebody hit a pretty good tee shot that would have been easily playable and in good shape if they had been able to find the ball.

 

One fairway runs out at about 270 yards but is over a hill and blind from the tee. A ball that is too long is still in great shape if the ball can be found. When I find balls is that spot when mowing I just know those guys had to be pissed. A really good shot right down the middle and can't find the ball anywhere.

post #8 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Big C View Post
 

In other words, if a course is rated a certain way, (let's say 72.0 CR & 130 slope) but the majority of players consistently shoot below their handicaps there, will the rating be reviewed at any point? If so, who initiates the process?

 

I played at a course recently that seemed ridiculously overrated. Flat, no OB, minimal hazards. Some modest tree trouble, and relatively short (6,200). It was rated as a 70.8/121. I played a poor round and still managed to come away with an 83. My first two tee shots were snapped badly left and I could have easily been re-teeing 3 at many other courses. Here, I walked away one over par through 2. Had I been shooting halfway decently, I would have expected to shoot in the 70's without a sweat.

 

I understand that there are certain courses that set up better for a certain player's style of play. And that over time he or she might score better than their handicap would indicate at those specific courses. But what about a course where EVERYONE plays better than their handicap would indicate?

 

Do those courses get re-evaluated and if so, what is the process?

 

I find it odd that a course that short would be rated that high.  The course rating is usually based heavily on length, and 6200 is shorter than the middle tees on my home course (6400 yards and a 69.4 rating).  The 121 slope sounds about right if the course allows for recovery shots to let you survive some of your mistakes.  That is very similar to my home course with a 120 slope.

post #9 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Big C View Post
 

In other words, if a course is rated a certain way, (let's say 72.0 CR & 130 slope) but the majority of players consistently shoot below their handicaps there, will the rating be reviewed at any point? If so, who initiates the process?

The direct answer to your question is No. The course rating process for the most part excludes playing performance. The overwhelming majority of the formula is based on distance, but there are adjustments made according to certain attributes (length of rough, speed of greens, etc.) and hazards (number of bunkers, proximity of OB to fairway etc.). Most of the formula is objective but there there are small areas of judgment. Rating teams are supposed to play the course after its initial pass - a way of confirming or revealing something that may have been observed according to the formula.

 

In the course you mention (6200 yards, 121 slope 72 course rating), my first impression is are you sure you were playing the right tees (i.e. are those ratings for some back tee that is much longer). Otherwise, yes, those numbers seem a little high for a short course. Were you playing the course in its typical condition? Green size, speed and rough length could be three offsetting factors (more so than hazards because these factors apply to every hole).

 

Under USGA guidelines, the regional associations are supposed to re-rate courses every time there is major work or at least once every 10 years.

post #10 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoePete View Post
 

The direct answer to your question is No. The course rating process for the most part excludes playing performance. The overwhelming majority of the formula is based on distance, but there are adjustments made according to certain attributes (length of rough, speed of greens, etc.) and hazards (number of bunkers, proximity of OB to fairway etc.). Most of the formula is objective but there there are small areas of judgment. Rating teams are supposed to play the course after its initial pass - a way of confirming or revealing something that may have been observed according to the formula.

 

To be clear, distance is the majority, but courses can be adjusted quite a bit based on rough, bunkers, rise/drop, mounting, the severity of the greens, etc.

 

https://ncrdb.usga.org/NCRDB/

 

Whispering Woods, Black Tees: 6804 Yards, 74.0

Downing Golf Course, Blue Tees: 7092 Yards, 72.9 or 73.1

 

The latter is pretty flat. There are some stupid holes and water and blind shots that raise the value, too.

 

And those are just two courses within 15 minutes of me.

 

Then consider this (Oakmont CC): http://www.myscorecard.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Oakmont-Country-Club-Scorecard.jpg

- Blue Tees, 6436, 74.0, or Green Tees, about 150 yards longer than Downing at 7255, and 77.5!

post #11 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by iacas View Post

 

Then consider this (Oakmont CC):

- Blue Tees, 6436, 74.0, or Green Tees, about 150 yards longer than Downing at 7255, and 77.5!

Oakmont is a good example, the short tees (white) are about 6200, 72.4 course rating and a 130 slope - numbers not too far off from the original post (6,200, 70.8, 121, I misread the first time around - thought the rating was 72). The USGA formula starts by computing effective length of a course (accounting for things like roll, altitude, prevailing wind), dividing that by 220 and then adding 40.9 - hence a course that plays to 6200 yards, off the bat, starts at a course rating of 69. Then based on the obstacles/attributes found on each hole, that value can go up or down. So even in a case like the white tees at Oakmont, about 69 strokes of the course rating is yardage and about 3 strokes of it is the difficulty on the holes.

 

You used to be able to get from the USGA its Course Rating System Manual (not to be confused with its Handicap Manual) and workbooks used by the regional associations. Some regional associations have put up PDFs of the documents (Google "usga course rating system fsga.org" if you really want a copy). In terms of volunteer opportunities, if you can get on a course rating team with your regional association, it is a pretty good gig. Golf wise, it can also be eye opening.

post #12 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoePete View Post
 

Oakmont is a good example, the short tees (white) are about 6200, 72.4 course rating and a 130 slope - numbers not too far off from the original post (6,200, 70.8, 121, I misread the first time around - thought the rating was 72). The USGA formula starts by computing effective length of a course (accounting for things like roll, altitude, prevailing wind), dividing that by 220 and then adding 40.9 - hence a course that plays to 6200 yards, off the bat, starts at a course rating of 69. Then based on the obstacles/attributes found on each hole, that value can go up or down. So even in a case like the white tees at Oakmont, about 69 strokes of the course rating is yardage and about 3 strokes of it is the difficulty on the holes.

 

You can look at it that way, I suppose. I prefer not to, because just about every golf course fits within a small range. It's not like you're gonna find a course that's only rated 29.6 based on the length (for 18 holes), and then the majority comes from the "features."

 

If you consider that most courses are going to be 68 to 74-ish, you can start to see how important the features of the course are relative to length. They're quite important, especially given how they affect the slope AND the course rating.

 

So it's technically true that "yardage is the vast majority of a course's ratings" but that's only because there's kind of a built-in floor. If you instead consider the floor as "72.0" and then consider how much is added to or subtracted to that number for both "yardage" and "features," you can see how in some cases the features might be the majority.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoePete View Post
 

You used to be able to get from the USGA its Course Rating System Manual (not to be confused with its Handicap Manual) and workbooks used by the regional associations. Some regional associations have put up PDFs of the documents (Google "usga course rating system fsga.org" if you really want a copy). In terms of volunteer opportunities, if you can get on a course rating team with your regional association, it is a pretty good gig. Golf wise, it can also be eye opening.

 

Been a rater for about six years now. It's very enjoyable. Can be a major PITA, and there's a lot to know, but overall, it's good fun and I get to help ensure we have reasonably accurate ratings around here.

post #13 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by iacas View Post
 

So it's technically true that "yardage is the vast majority of a course's ratings" but that's only because there's kind of a built-in floor. If you instead consider the floor as "72.0" and then consider how much is added to or subtracted to that number for both "yardage" and "features," you can see how in some cases the features might be the majority.

Agreed. You can have 100 courses all of the same effective length and no two will have same course rating. Maybe what people are seeing here is a hint of the detail of the formula and the enthusiasm with which a couple of golf-nut raters dig into it. One of the subjective aspects of the system, for example, is rating a green surface - is it moderately contoured or highly contoured. While there are guidelines, this is a good example of something that may be different when you walk a course vs. actually playing it. Sometimes you don't recognize the severity of the break or by the same token, it looks worse than it is. The ensuing bar bill from a handful of golfers trying to decide how to categorize one or two greens on a course can be staggering (experience speaking here) even though its mathematical impact is negligible. Of course if you add up a lot of those "negligibles," you have something measurable.

 

A fascinating aspect of the system and something that speaks to "difficulty is not entirely yardage" is that despite general consensus that everyone is hitting the ball farther today, the course rating system hasn't been substantially modified since the early 1990s. The USGA still defines a scratch golfer as someone who drives the ball 250 yards and hits 220 from the fairway - if we are to believe the golf industry, not to mention 19th hole boasts, modest numbers. You would think with a longer ball and supposedly better technology, handicaps would be dropping in the face of an antiquated formula. Yet, handicaps haven't plummeted. Why? Well that can be another staggering 19th hole bar bill, but it speaks to the original post. Actual scores are not always indicative of a course's true difficulty.

post #14 of 41

I wonder about this.  There's a course not that far from me and the distance on the scorecard is extremely off. 

 

The scorecard and the distances posted at each hole totals up to 6032 yards but I measured it at 4800 yards.

 

The course has a few bunkers, no water hazards, and the course rating is 68.0 with a slope rating of 111.

 

It seems a disparity of over 1000 yards would make a significant difference to CR/Slope, right?  

 

I think I'll use this course as a place to play practice rounds since I don't feel comfortable including the scores from that course for my handicap.

post #15 of 41
Most regional GAs will install plates where they measure the yardages.
post #16 of 41
FYI- here is Virginia's course rating program:
http://vsga.org/member-clubs/course-rating/
Quote:
The VSGA is licensed by the United States Golf Association to issue course and slope ratings in Virginia. The VSGA re-rates golf courses approximately every seven years, even if they have not changed in any way, to comply with the USGA’s 10-year requirement.

The VSGA also re-rates courses after significant course renovations are performed. Newly constructed courses are re-rated within five years of the initial rating. There is no charge to VSGA member clubs for the course rating service.

The VSGA course rating teams are made up of trained volunteers throughout the commonwealth. When rating a golf course, the team evaluates each hole in accordance with the USGA Course Rating System™. Values are obtained for a series of obstacle factors (Topography, Fairway, Green Target, Recoverability and Rough, Bunkers, Out of Bounds/Extreme Rough, Water Hazards, Trees and Green Surface) and effective playing length factors (Roll, Elevation, Dogleg/Forced Lay Up, Prevailing Wind an Altitude). After rating, members of the team will play the golf course to gain greater insight, from a playing perspective, and to clarify any doubts or questions that may arise on specific holes or shots.

Preliminary course and slope ratings are generated for each set of tees rated and then sent to the VSGA Course Rating Committee for final approval. The new course and slope ratings are sent to the club at the end of the year and will become effective on Jan. 1 of the following year.
post #17 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by RFKFREAK View Post
 

I wonder about this.  There's a course not that far from me and the distance on the scorecard is extremely off. 

 

The scorecard and the distances posted at each hole totals up to 6032 yards but I measured it at 4800 yards.

 

The course has a few bunkers, no water hazards, and the course rating is 68.0 with a slope rating of 111.

 

It seems a disparity of over 1000 yards would make a significant difference to CR/Slope, right?  

 

I think I'll use this course as a place to play practice rounds since I don't feel comfortable including the scores from that course for my handicap.


I don't see why not, if the course ratings are correct it really doesn't matter how long is the course.

 

The only thing that is affected by the 1000 yard disparity is the "average driving/club distance" calculation. However, the fact that it is off by 1000 yards is kind of abnormal, are you sure about your measurements? Did you use Google Earth to measure them?

 

The course rating is factored into the handicap calculation. 68.0/111 is a pretty standard municipal course. We have ones in the San Gabriel Valley area that are rated from 56/102 all the way to 76.3/135.

 

When you play an easier or harder course the score and course ratings are factored into your handicap for that round.

post #18 of 41

My home course is getting a rating update using the mens club scores, the handicap holes have been re-assigned with the odd numbers switched to the back 9, we used to have the 18 hdcp hole as a par 4 that measured out to 441 from the tips. now it's a par 4 that measure 310 from tips.

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