Headline: MGA Course Raters Get Prepped and Ready For a Busy Season Ahead; Course Rating is a Critical Part of the MGA Members Services Program

For Immediate Release: June 10, 2016

The MGA hosted a Course Rating Seminar at Needham GC on June 9.

Norton, MA — For George Thompson, there are no quiet days when it comes to golf.

Having served as the captain for the MGA's North Shore course rating team the past two years, the eight-year veteran of the USGA's course rating system recently took over as captain of the Boston team.

Course rating is a critical part of the MGA's mission as all Member Clubs are required by the USGA to be rated in accordance with the USGA Handicap System.

Thompson will now manage the North Shore and Greater Boston teams that are part of a state-wide course rating team that rates and marks more than 50 courses per year.

Thompson recently took on this expanded role when Arthur Phillips retired from his post after serving as the Greater Boston captain for nearly two decades. Phillips was recognized by the MGA for his outstanding work this past January when he was awarded the Andrew J. Blau MGA Volunteer of the Year Award.

For Thompson, this new assignment will allow him to further expand his knowledge of the USGA Course Rating System and work with an even larger group of volunteers.

[CLICK HERE to read a feature story that appeared in MassGolfer magazine and explains to golfers what they need to know about how the USGA Course Rating System affects their MGA/USGA Course Handicap]

On Wednesday, Thompson led a pre-season seminar at Needham Golf Club and addressed the latest changes that were instituted by the USGA over the past year in regards to the process of calculating course and slope rating. Like the Rules of Golf, the USGA Course Rating System is updated every four years.

"The changes really result from the input that different rating groups give to the USGA," said Thompson. "These are the people in the field playing the courses, so they know best if there are issues with the rating process or procedures and they are the ones to address it. They voice the concerns to the USGA and the USGA, in turn, looks at them and decides."

Among the changes put in place for the 2016 season, roll tables, fairways, bunkers, and trees seem to be the focus where the raters have turned their attention to most.

The roll table, for example, has been modified so that it is only used for tee shots while the table in the USGA handbook has been simplified into three directions (downhill, level, and uphill) and into three categories: minor, moderate, or significant slopes.

Some of the other changes include the carry adjustment for bunkers that has been made more precise while the tree table has been updated to reflect the overall impact they might have on the entire hole.

In the half-day seminar, which was split between discussion of the new changes and on-course sessions on the nine-hole, private course located just south of Boston, this served as a great teaching opportunity of the new materials.

Thompson said, "We have a group of [raters] that has different experience levels. Some of the raters have been doing this for six, seven or eight years and others who have been doing it for only a couple years. It takes a while to pick it up so these seminars are a great way help."

As for what work is required by each course rater, Thompson explained each hole requires the evaluation of 10 obstacles that raters must consider when evaluating each hole. From Water Hazards to Out of Bounds, the course rater has the responsibility of determining factors that could potentially change the rating and slope for a given set of tees.

The MGA and Thompson will work with clubs to coordinate when they need to be re-rated and serving as the point person between the golf course and the team of raters, which often range from eight to 12 volunteers, to ensure everything is accomplished in timely order.

The first test with Thompson at the helm of the Boston region will take place on June 22 when his team goes out to rate Wollaston Golf Club. Three additional course ratings will be performed at Presidents Golf Course, Olde Scotland Links and Oakley Country Club throughout the next few weeks. More clubs will be added during the rating season, which runs from May through October each year.

The four other regional teams - Cape Cod, Worcester, Springfield and the Berkshires - will also be performing ratings this summer. The MGA expects to visit at least 50 Member Club golf courses this year.

Click here to view short videos on each aspect of the Course Rating process!