The Sloping Of Sembawang

By Joyce Lam

Before the official opening of Sembawang golf course in November, I had the privilege, along with some very experienced raters from SGA, to participate in rating the course. In Singapore, we use the USGA system to be in line with the official Handicapping system used.

What is USGA course rating? It is based on the performance of a scratch golfer and is based on the yardage of the course being evaluated, effective playing length corrections and the 10 obstacle factors which will affect the scoring ability of a scratch player. To determine the Slope rating of a golf course, the differing playing abilities of a Scratch golfer and a Bogey golfer are taken into account.

Who is a scratch golfer and, a bogey golfer? A scratch golfer is a player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on all rated golf courses. A female scratch golfer for instance can hit an average of 210 yards, and can reach a 400-yard hole in two shots at sea level. A female bogey golfer is a player who is able to play to a Course Handicap of 24 on a golf course with standard difficulties. A female bogey golfer can hit an average of 150 yards and can reach a 280-yard hole in 2 shots at sea level. The difference determines the landing zone of the golfer hence impacts the differential between scratch  and bogey golfers.

Sembawang Golf course, well-known for its undulating fairways, is as challenging to rate as it is to play. To determine the effective playing length of the hole, we have to consider the degree of roll of the ball when it lands on a spot with an awkward lie. Factors to consider include the nature of the landing zone, whether it’s uphill or downhill; if the fairway condition is firm, average or soft. If the ball hits a firm downward slope, a value is given to subtract the yardage to the effective playing length, as the course will play shorter with the favourable roll, giving the golfer extra distance. Conversely, if the ball hits an average upslope, the course will play longer with unfavorable roll backward towards the tee box, effectively increasing the playing length of the hole.

Being a bogey golfer, I was particularly interested in how a course is rated vis a vis water hazards, as sending a ball into the hazard is especially costly for bogey players Water hazard ratings are based on the shot length required to reach the landing zone, the shot length to carry a crossing water hazard and the distance of the water hazard from the center of the landing zone. It is interesting to note that the level of difficulty differs significantly between the scratch golfer and the bogey golfer. To be rated at a level 3 difficulty, a scratch golfer will need to cross the water hazard and carry the ball between 100-124 yards beyond the hazard. The bogey golfer will need to cross and carry between 40-69 yards.  This differential contributes to a slope rating of which a bogey golfer will be given additional handicap strokes when playing with a scratch golfer.

You’ll probably agree with me that a sand shot is one of the most difficult to master for most bogey golfers. To evaluate the level of difficulty of a greenside bunker, the fraction of the green which is closely bordered by bunkers is considered. Its difficulty increases as a larger percentage of the green is surrounded by bunkers. To measure, the raters use a traditional method, by striding around the green and counting the number of strides around the green which has bunkers surrounding it divided by the total number of strides for the entire radius of the green. Four levels of difficulties are determined based on these fractions < ¼, > ¼ to ½ , > ½  to ¾  and  > ¾  of the green.

I hope that you have enjoyed this article which briefly decribes how courses are rated, as I have enjoyed my rookie attempt at the exercise. I realized that spending  4-5 hours on the course without hitting a single golf shot, is an important exercise in order to achieve a fair playing field for golfers of varying abilities.

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Copyright by SLGA 2016