Course Rating

The New Zealand Golf Course Rating system was introduced on 1 September 2000, following numerous trials, and the inadequacies of the previous system. We are indebted to the course raters, of which there are nearly 200, for their voluntary work and dedication to this important aspect of the game. In saying that, if you have a passion for the game and an interest in assessing golf courses, we would welcome your help for future rating exercises. Contacting your District Association is the best option.

New Zealand Golf has a license agreement with the USGA to use both the Course Rating and Handicap System, and believes this to be the most advanced and fairest system available today. It is the internationally accepted way to assess a golf course with over 60 countries now using this system. Half of the world’s 32,000 golf courses are in the United States and add Canada, Australia and most of Europe and at least 80% of courses worldwide are rated under this system.

It is the objective of New Zealand Golf to provide a uniform handicapping system, and the consistency and accuracy of Course Ratings, bogey ratings and the associated Slope Numbers is vital to achieving this.

It should be noted that although rating teams work from January to December, they are assessing the playability of the course when most rounds are played. Here in New Zealand that is autumn, March-May, and spring, September-November.

A simple explanation of the Course Rating System:
The system follows a series of assessments and course raters complete a thorough process which takes approximately 3-4 hours per set of tees. There are established standards relative to how far a player hits the ball, and it is from these positions that obstacles are assessed.

A close scrutiny of the system confirms that the biggest contributor to the difficulty of the course is the overall length, and this is evident in the formula used to calculate the final rating.

The main formula component is the effective playing length of the course, which is derived from the course’s measured length. There are then five factors that are considered, giving a more accurate number that reflects the true playing length of the course. These are:

1. Roll (how far does the ball roll in mid-season conditions)
2. Changes in elevation (changes from the teeing ground to the green)
3. Wind (the average daily speed and direction)
4. Forced lay-up areas (landing zones fall in an area requiring an adjustment)
5. Altitude (adjustments for courses at an altitude over 2,000 feet)

The measured length and the effective playing length adjustments are used to determine a Yardage Rating for two categories of player, the ‘scratch’ golfer and the ‘bogey’ golfer. The Scratch Yardage Rating and the Bogey Yardage Rating is the base numbers used in the calculation of the Scratch Course and Bogey rating.

It is very important that each hole has a block indicating where the hole has been measured from. The blocks should be in realistic places so that tee placement can be both in front of and behind the block for daily movement. If there are three sets of tees (blue, white and yellow) then there should be three separate blocks indicating where these measurements commence from. A further analysis of the course looks at each hole and the obstacles that affect playing difficulty.

There are 10 obstacles being:
1. Topography: The impact of terrain or landscape on play
2. Fairway Width: The difficulty of keeping the ball on the fairway
3. Green Target: Size of the difficulty of hitting that green
4. Rough and Recovery: The difficulty of a shot when the fairway or green has been missed
5. Bunkers: How they come into play and the difficulty of recovery
6. OB & Extreme Rough: The proximity of these areas and how they come into play
7. Water Hazards: The proximity of these areas and how they come into play
8. Trees: Based on density, proximity, and the difficulty of recovery
9. Green Surface: Assesses the difficulty of a green from a putting perspective, and includes the speed and contouring or tilt of each green
10. Psychological: Based on the accumulative effect of ratings of the nine obstacles
The values allocated to the above obstacles are multiplied by various factors giving a final number, which may be a small incremental addition or reduction to the scratch yardage rating. The result is the Course Rating.

The final summary will provide three results.
1. The scratch or Course Rating is the mark that indicates the playing difficulty of the course for a scratch golfer.

2. The Bogey Rating is the mark that indicates the difficulty for the 20 handicap male player and 24 handicap female player, and is expressed in a number that reflects these players expected score.

3. The Slope Number is the mark that indicates the relative difficulty of the course for the bogey player, relative to the scratch player. 113 is the average Slope Number. Anything above this and the bogey player will require a little more help relative to the scratch player, and a number less than 113 will mean that the bogey golfer requires less assistance.

How clubs can help in preparing their course for rating?
There will be some information that rating teams require before they commence their rating. This includes:

1. The measurement blocks on the tees easily identifiable and, where possible, a surveying certificate to confirm the measurement is accurate.
2. The normal daily green speed during spring and autumn.
3. The height of the rough throughout the course.
4. The prevailing wind direction and average daily speed

It would also be helpful to have the fairway widths as they are normally, and the green sizes as they are during the main playing season.

It is important that a club member with local knowledge on wind, and how each hole can play, joins the rating team (the narrator) as from time to time there will be a query that will require an answer.