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MailTribune.com
  • GOLF

    Ever wonder how a course rates? It's complicated

    Many variables are taken into account by OGA number crunchers
  • The rating of golf courses is an extremely thorough process. So much is involved, it can make one's head spin.
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  • The rating of golf courses is an extremely thorough process. So much is involved, it can make one's head spin.
    "It's bizarre and picky and incredibly detail-oriented," said Gretchen Yoder, of the Oregon Golf Association. "It's a good volunteer job for people who are numbers people. A good portion are engineers."
    Yoder, the manager of handicapping and course rating for the OGA, rated the Mail Tribune Fantasy Course. In the process, she divulged a bit about the general scope of her work.
    "It's pretty mentally intense," she said.
    Yoder and a team of 10 to 12 volunteers spend a full day rating one course.
    The United States Golf Association requires each course to be rated every 10 years. The OGA team is on about a seven- or eight-year schedule, said Yoder. Newer courses get rated at least once every five years to compensate for a growing-in period.
    When Yoder's team arrives at a facility, it splits up, with half doing the front nine and half doing the back. They work the course while it's open for play.
    The highest percentage of any rating comes from a course's yardage. Then come the add-ons, and there are lots of them.
    Raters measure for four types of players: scratch male, bogey male, scratch female, bogey female.
    "Each player has different shot lengths we have to use," said Yoder. "We go to the golf course and start on the first hole with the scratch male."
    They figure he will hit a tee shot 250 yards. Yoder admits the distance is a bit outdated with today's equipment, but they allow for 230 yards of carry and 20 yards of roll.
    Once at the landing area, they start measuring everything.
    Does the player have a flat lie or tilted lie? Uphill or downhill and how extreme? How wide is the fairway? Are there bunkers, out-of-bounds markers, tall or thick rough, trees? If so, how difficult is it to recover?
    Southern Oregon courses don't get dinged too badly for trees, she said. Rogue Valley Country Club, she said, is the one most affected by them.
    Water hazards are taken into account, as is the amount of carry they require.
    The number crunching continues to the green, where its accessibility is determined, as well as the ability to recover from missed shots. Slope and contour are recorded, and bunkering comes into play.
    "It's a lot of work to catch all the landing zones," said Yoder.
    That's not all that gets measured. Holes have a psychology rating. The first and 18th holes automatically get points because of the start of the round and the finish, when a player might stress over making par to win a match or register a good score.
    The more variables on a given hole that score above average for stress, the higher the rating.
    When all the numbers are gathered, Yoder uses a computer program to decipher the information.
    Each set of tees is rated for men, while forward tees are rated for women.
    Men are living longer and hitting shorter, said Yoder, and new golfers and junior players are prevalent.
    "Anyone can play any set of tees," she said, adding that there shouldn't be a stigma about using forward tees. "Let them move up to enjoy it more. It's a red tee. It's just a color. You don't have to wear a skirt to play them."
    The rating process takes three to five hours. The hardest Oregon course to rate was Tetherow in Bend, said Yoder.
    Once the crew members are done, they play the course. It's not so much for fun, but to confirm findings.
    "Typically, we get in and change something once we play it," said Yoder, "so it's definitely part of the system."
    For more information, visit www.oga.org.
    Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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