USGA Course Rating Changes With New Rules of Golf
With change comes, well, more change. USGA and R&A have spent the last several years modernizing the Rules of Golf, going into effect January 2019, to better fit into today’s world. The change in Rules brought on a change in the USGA Course Rating System.
The first thing to note is that the Course or Club needs to publish Local Rules stating how Penalty Areas will be invoked, defining Out of Bounds and Course Boundaries, relief options and more. Some Courses may have different rules in play for regular days play vs. “Elite Play” (Amateur, Club Championship, Invitational, etc.). Without posting the Local Rules, there are too many ways a golfer could interpret what Rules may or may not be in play.
Look here for Model Local Rules to see how to write the Local Rules to fit your organization. This is listed in the Committee Procedures, Section 8.
One of the key things to remember is that “Obstacles must be rated under the assumption that play is in accordance with the Rules of Golf.” Since the Rules of Golf are changing, the way we rate is also changing.
The biggest change comes to two Obstacles: Out of Bounds/Extreme Rough (OB/ER) and Water. Until 2019, both had separate charts to cover Crossing (carry over tall grass, canyon, lake or stream) and Distance (measurement from center of fairway or green to the condition). The system will update to Crossing Obstacle, whether OB/ER or Water, and Lateral Obstacle with the same conditions. Not only is the process that we measure and rate changing, but the formulas in the background are adjusting to accommodate and balance the update.
As one might imagine, changing the process of Course Rating is going to affect several Courses under OGA’s auspices. For example: Hole #15 at RedTail Golf Center has Water (red line) on one side of the fairway and OB/ER (blue line) on the other. In the current system for a player in this landing zone we would include a measurement for both Obstacles. Going forward, there would be one Lateral number factored in.
After months of research of thousands of rounds, USGA has come up with some guidelines for OGA to adjust the Course Rating and Bogey Rating to answer how the change in Rules might affect Course Rating. The changes may be made as an adjustment per each nine. For Courses with conditions such as in the example above, if that happens on less than three holes on one nine, there is no change. Between three and six holes, there is a slight change and for seven or more holes, just a little bit more.
Typically, the updated Obstacles would only affect a very small percentage of courses. As noted, the course needs to have at least 3 holes that meet the conditions on one nine. If there are two on the front nine and one on the back, there will be no change. There are a few courses in Oregon and SW Washington that meet the “at least three per nine” requirement. Without digging through every file, we don’t believe there is even one with the “seven or more”.
Gretchen Yoder, Manager of Handicapping and Course Rating, will begin contacting Courses that are due to be rated in 2019, beginning next week. Those courses will be rated in accordance with updated Crossing Obstacle and Lateral Obstacle. Courses that are on the schedule for 2020 and beyond will be considered on a case by case basis to assess whether any adjustment will be necessary. Please have your Head Pro, Handicap Chair or other person in charge of the course contact Gretchen, firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-981-4635 ext. 228, if it is believed that your course will require an update.