Golf courses are so subjective that it can be hard to hone in on what the consensus is about a golf course. Granted, we often agree that rankings from major publications are flawed and inaccurate. That leaves us with an issue: how do we, as a community, decide what we think is a good golf course?
Categories like views, playability and service are given high value among the masses. This can be interesting because we see a trend; people with the higher handicap often value a course with higher levels of service and a “prettier” course. Why does this attract a certain demographic? Well, the quickest answer is quite simple – to the naked eye, they may not see what the lower handicap sees. Take the 17th at TPC Sawgrass. A great hole indeed for any person, but yet, so many different perspectives.
To the higher handicap, they see a famous golf hole with lots of water. Realistically, their score matters, but it doesn’t really matter as much as the experience does. The higher handicap is just happy to be there for the experience; happy to be there. Think of how many people you’ve heard in the clubhouse talking about “yeah, I just got back from _______ where I played ________.” That’s what they want.
To the lower handicap, they see water… lots of water. By the time they approach the 17th, they either are playing [really] well and want to keep the score up, or they’re digging themselves out of the hole they’ve made. The lower handicap thinks more. That’s the key to their success as they can make better and more decisions on the golf course. This is a plus and what makes them good, but it’s also what can hurt them. They step up to the tee on the 17th tee at TPC Sawgrass, and think about so many things; club selection, how hard do I hit this, wind direction, spin, flight, height, all these things go into a thought. They also think about water, bunker, too much spin, hitting it to high to come up short, hitting it too low and skipping it off the back, and even if they work hard to get it out of their brain, it still happens, regardless of level.
Now, this may come off as generalizing, and of course there is exceptions. Not every player follows their role. I’ve met good players who think like a higher handicap and I’ve met a higher handicap who has a firm grasp on the things a good player thinks about (the only thing that holds them back is their execution). This is just the overall representation of each role.
So how does this relate to how we view a good golf course? Simple, 20% of golfers break 100, so that leaves a big group of 80% who are higher handicaps. As a higher handicap, you’ll view a golf course differently, and thus will have a majority vote on how we view golf courses. We view golf courses for service, views and likability, and while that is great for your local chit-chat over beers, for rankings, we need to base our criteria on architectural categories.
Here’s how we adapt; we mix Golf Digest’s criteria with Score Golf’s criteria. Both tackle critical parts of golf, with Golf Digest taking on a more analytical approach and Score Golf taking a more user-friendly approach. We mix the good parts of each ranking and we get a quality mix to ensure we have a fair, but accurate ranking for all demographics.
Of course, what we deem as a good golf course is up to us, and we shouldn’t adapt a new standard for our own individual views. This is just a view on how we can improve the general understanding of what a good golf course is. My own views can be seen here, and let me know in the comments what you think is a good golf course!