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WHS explained: When will provisional course ratings be upgraded?

Jonathan Ward is England Golf’s course rating coordinator. We asked him about when we can expect all golf courses to be fully rated
 


At the very heart of the World Handicap System are golf course ratings. It’s the metric that forms the basis for everything else – from difficulty to our own WHS indexes.

All across the Home Unions, teams of experienced volunteers have spent countless hours, despite the pandemic, visiting thousands of courses to deliver course and slope ratings and give us the basis for measuring our own ability as golfers.

Late last year, England Golf appointed Jonathan Ward as course rating coordinator. His role is to oversee the entire rating programme in the country and to support county and regional advisors to ensure that all of the 1,800 clubs have a course that’s rated to WHS requirements.

A former county development officer for the governing body, and the county secretary at the Durham Golf Union for nearly seven years before taking up his new role at England Golf, Jonathan is steeped in the game.

We sat down with him for a lengthy chat which we will release in four parts.

In this part, we ask Jonathan about the provisional ratings handed out to courses in the new system and whether that has now been addressed…

Golf course rating

“We have a few stragglers but that’s possibly more to do with them making big changes to the course and it’s pointless rating until any those changes have been made,” Jonathan explained.

“A couple of counties are ahead of the game but for most, the second rating cycle will be commencing in 2022 as each course is due to be rated at least every 10 years. 

“So we’re starting cycle two and all counties are looking to rate 10 per cent of their courses each year going forward. For some, that might only be four, five, or six clubs, but in the bigger counties that might be up to 20 courses this year.”

So what sort of things will they be looking at? Will they consider golfers’ scores, or leave it up to clubs? How will you achieve that level of consistency you’ve talked about?

Jonathan continued: “The level of consistency is obviously down to the training, the ability, and the knowledge of the raters.

“They’re the frontline and most rating volunteers are appointed by county bodies. They are given plenty of on-the-job training and we have regular calibration-type exercises where we ask team leaders to perform some ratings – they have been online in the last couple of years – to make sure no one’s taken their eye off the ball.

“You may have seen the Course Rating guide, which goes into a lot of depth and the team leaders refer to that during their ratings to make sure they get those measurements from the right places.

“Every rating we do builds up more experience and knowledge. It’s my role to have those guides and training documents and everything on ratings for our team leaders to have access to and we’re here if they need to pick up the phone.”

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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