‘How do I get my course nationally rated?’

Ballyhack, ranked 15th on Golfweek's Best New list

Ballyhack, ranked 15th on Golfweek's Best New list

‘How do I get my course nationally rated?’

I get that question a lot. What follows are some of the pointers I give when people ask me the secrets to ratings success.

1.) Avoid overzealous staff

I want to see the course, not be assaulted by hordes of beaming staffers. There’s no need for the security guard at the gate house to engage me in a friendly chat while traffic backs up.

And please, spare me the attack of the swarming bag rats, the car park staffers who surround your vehicle as you approach and want to “assist you,” as if you’re helpless.

2.) If a hole needs explaining, it doesn’t work

There’s nothing worse than a hole that’s so confusing that you need to see it on a GPS monitor to figure out where it’s going or what the options are. If a hole is that complicated, it’s probably worth redesigning. On the course, everything should be self-evident, whether it’s how a hole plays or where the next hole lies.

Also, a pleasant greeting from the starter is fine, but spare us the long litany of rules, explanations and elaborations.

3.) Remember real golfers

There’s nothing more alienating than reading “how-to” instructions written for Tour players. Is every par 5 really reachable in two with a good drive? How about basic accounts, not tied to

specific clubs and that don’t refer to 350-yard par 4s as “drivable”?

4.) No signature holes

A round of golf is about being in a distinct place. The more special the locale and how it’s showcased during a round, the better a golfer will feel about the place. The Patriot (No. 4) wends through four distinct Midwest landforms. Chicago Highlands (No. 11) relies upon a sharp juxtaposition of open space and urban/suburban sprawl. Ballyhack (No. 15) is simply a walk on the wild side.

Beyond good conditioning and design flexibility, the secret to ratings success is having a course that’s not frilly or oversold and that conveys its own character quietly.

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