The Golf Digest and Golf Magazine course ratings are out. Bad news - your local 9-hole goat track didn’t make the cut...not sure those pleated shorts wearing rankers even dropped by.
We found a handful of rankers willing to anonymously answer our inane questions about the golf course ranking business.
Your cynical assumptions will most likley be wrong.
These folks must be paid, and well, to do this
- They are not paid, they pay to be part of the club (you need a “rater card” to do the job)
- Initiation fees/dues are required (like your local club), attending corporate retreats
- Most raters are in the middle-age-to-older age bracket, but younger folks are joining
Not just anybody can volunteer to do this
- Freedom to travel and financial wherewithal to trot around the continent are musts
- Having played well-known, top-ranked tracks (also many different courses in general)
- A deeply developed judging baseline is needed for assessing new courses
These folks can just go play wherever they want in the name of a ranking assessment
- Courses that have lots of ratings aren’t priorities for the publications (e.g Sawgrass)
- Lesser known courses under the minimum threshold to qualify for ranking are priorities
These folks get wined and dined to, umm, assist with assessments
- In Canada, most courses generally provide complimentary green fees
- In the USA, if unaccompanied by a member, expect to pay for the round
- If accompanied by a club member, golf is usually covered, but caddy costs are not
- It is heavily frowned upon for clubs to provide enticements (e.g. accommodations, etc.)
Many top ranked courses must compete heavily to outrank one another
- Perennial top dogs (e.g. Shinnecock Hills, Cypress Point) don’t care about relative rank
- Lower ranked courses tend to care deeply (as do courses that were ranked years ago)
- These rankings matter way more to Canadian courses than to American courses
- Some courses go out of their way to make the course very tough the day a rater plays it
Bribery must be prominent for courses to maintain or improve rankings or get into the list
- Our contacts have never dealt with cash bribery, nor even heard stories of it occurring
- Raters are expected to decline gifts, however, a free meal tends to be the worst offense
- General feeling was courses don’t really care about you, they leave alone to your duties
From our threadbare vinyl-covered pedestals here at the Starter Shack, this sounds like a much better gig than writing a newsletter.