One thing we discovered about area golfers: They like their holes to have a little spice, a little character.
That was evident as we took on a project to build a local fantasy course using holes from nine Jackson County regulation 18- and nine-hole layouts.
1 — Stone Ridge No. 14
2 — Eagle Point No. 3
3 — RVCC Oaks No. 3
4 — Centennial No. 15
5 — Stone Ridge No. 3
6 — Eagle Point No. 2
7 — Stone Ridge No. 12
8 — RVCC Rogue No. 7
9 — Eagle Point No. 12
10 — Eagle Point No. 10
11 — Centennial No. 3
12 — RVCC Rogue No. 13
13 — Eagle Point No. 6
14 — Stone Ridge No. 8
15 — Centennial No. 4
16 — RVCC Rogue No. 16
17 — Stone Ridge No. 16
18 — Eagle Point No. 16
With the help of an online survey, we got readers involved.
For six weeks during the summer, more than 200 voters let us know their favorite holes. They could be easy or tough, short or long, straight or crooked. There were no guidelines; this was about individual preference.
What we found was, golfers like elevated tees, a little water, a dogleg this way or that. Short holes were fine if they had these elements. Long ones, too.
Just because a hole was rated among the toughest at a given course didn't mean it made the list.
At one point during the project, I mentioned the Eagle Point holes that were chosen to Dave Stephens, the course superintendent. He was surprised No. 18, the No. 2 handicap hole on the property, was not selected.
Told of some of the features voters tended to lean toward, he nodded.
"The ones that make the most impression," he said.
Once we got readers involved, we sought out the Oregon Golf Association in the hope it would rate our fictitious course, as it does all the others in the state. Certainly, that would be a nice touch.
The state governing body, an arm of the United States Golf Association, seemed intrigued but needed permission from the USGA.
Gretchen Yoder, who has been with the OGA for five years and is the manager of handicapping and course rating, said she had never been asked to conduct such a rating.
"Nothing even close," she said.
The nearest request to it was being asked to rate the 20 hardest courses in Oregon, "something to that effect, that kind of odd thing," she said.
When she ran it by USGA officials, they, like her, deemed it a "fun process."
There was one caveat. It should be made clear that the course is not real and that it can't be used to post actual scores for handicapping purposes.
With the readers involved and the OGA on board, we looked forward to the next step, which would be to take the 18 holes that emerged from balloting and configure front and back nines for a finished product.
The courses in use were 18-holers Centennial, Eagle Point, Rogue Valley Country Club and Stone Ridge, and nine-holers Cedar Links, Oak Knoll, Quail Point, Stewart Meadows and the RVCC Oaks course.
There were 117 holes to choose from — 69 par 4s, 26 par 3s and 22 par 5s.
Because of the overload of par 4s, we had three weeks of preliminary voting, then a fourth round with 24 finalists.
Par-3 and par-5 voting was completed in one week for each.
For tees, we used standard men's yardages at each course, with a plan to add women's tees to the final 18.
All of the holes on all of the courses received attention but, ultimately, the 18-holers carried the vote. The exception was No. 3 on the Oaks, or inside nine, at RVCC.
The final tally resulted in this breakdown: six holes at Eagle Point, five at Stone Ridge, four at RVCC and three at Centennial.
In addition to the aforementioned elements, Yoder noticed something else.
"Just looking at the numbers and bringing everything together," she said, "I kind of got a giggle out of it when almost every single hole was downhill. Hmm, what does that say?"
A little more than a third of the holes are noticeably downhill, but several others have at least a slight downward grade.
Once voting was complete, we came up with two nines, each with a par of 36.
There wasn't anything particularly scientific about it. We wanted the yardage to be similar on each side, follow up some hard holes with easy ones to manage a potential player's frustration level and, generally, make it look like a golf course should.
There were a couple design elements that did come into play.
I had the opportunity to drive around with John Fought after he designed Centennial. One of the things that stuck with me is his preference for an opening hole that allows the player to ease into the round. Wide fairway, not crazy long, minimal trouble around the green.
With this in mind, we chose the par-4 14th at Stone Ridge to lead off our course. The player hits from an extremely elevated tee to an expanse of fairway that, at least, appears hard to miss.
Our first draft also had the par-5 16th at Eagle Point on the front nine, but it seemed like it would make a dandy finishing hole, with its picturesque view of Mount McLoughlin from the tee box, its downhill trajectory on the second shot and a chorus line of bunkers up the left side and a foreboding pond on the right.
That is our 18th.
A couple other holes stayed in the positions as on their actual courses because they seemed a good fit: No. 10 at Eagle Point and No. 16 at RVCC.
The 10th is a short par 4, but trouble lurks left with a stand of trees and a wide hitting area quickly funnels into a narrow gap that will confound the accurate-challenged. It seemed logical to be good and warm by the time you got here, a notion that was fully amplified when I played our course.
The 16th at RVCC is a short par 5 but with plenty of trouble around the green. Having it late in the round provides two choices, depending on how the round is going: Go for it in two and risk rinsing your ball in a pond left, burying it in the sand right or having it carom wildly off trees that serve as sentries; or, lay up and play an easy pitch or short iron.
When the pieces of our puzzle were snapped together, the nines were very close in yardage.
From the men's tees, it's 3,281 yards on the front and 3,269 on the back for a total of 6,550.
From the women's, it's 2,562 and 2,560 for a total of 5,122.
Now it was time to send our layout to the OGA.
Yoder has played every course we used and has reams of information from her rating trips to southern Oregon. With a dizzying amount of info on each hole — a bit about the rating process is explained elsewhere — she elected to cut and paste the holes from each course and set them in order to get a proper picture.
The ratings were:
Men, 72.0 course rating, 135 slope rating. The breakdown by nines, respectively, was 35.9/131 and 36.1/139.
Women, 70.2 course rating, 123 slope rating. The nines were 35.1/120 and 35.1/125.
She sent the information on an official ratings certificate that included this explanation:
"A USGA course rating is the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers under normal course and weather conditions. It is expressed as strokes taken to one decimal place, and is based on yardage and other obstacles to the extent that they affect the scoring ability of a scratch golfer.
"A slope rating evaluates the relative playing difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers. The lowest slope rating is 55 and the highest is 155. A golf course of standard playing difficulty has a slope rating of 113."
Course ratings allow for handicapping, which in turn allows for players of disparate abilities to compete against each other.
For difficulty, our fantasy course would rival Eagle Point from the gold tees, which are the tees we used for that facility's holes. Eagle Point's course rating is 72.5, while the slope is 132. Similar figures can be had at other courses from tees that are farther back than what we used.
"They didn't pick the long, easy holes, but they also didn't pick the crazy holes," Yoder said of voters.
The women's tees aren't as long as some courses she's played, she said, but they're comparable to the ones used in the survey.
"I think it would be a fun course to play," said Yoder.
And, really, isn't that what make believe is all about?
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com