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Superintendents' Responsibilities To Support The Rules Of Golf: Part One

Jim McLoughlin


The answer is definitely yes, but the profession as a whole has yet to see the light although a number of superintendents clearly have. What specific responsibilities to the Rules are superintendents expected to address?


Review the USGA Handicap Manual, Section 15 to see a more definitive presentation relative to the first responsibility guidelines presented immediately below.


FIRST RESPONSIBILITY: To maintain a constant golf course degree of difficulty on a daily basis to sustain the course's slope rating and course rating. (Section 15-1)


Only after confirming that the golf course has been accurately measured with its effective length determined and permanent tee markers have been installed properly within each tee box...


The following golf course defining elements should be effectively addressed on a daily basis in order to provide a consistent and fair test that definitively maintains a golf course's USGA course and slope ratings:

  1. The daily repositioning of tee markers should be balanced so that the course's effective length is approximately the same from day to day.  (Section 15-2)
  2. Maintaining a constant degree of difficulty when repositioning hole locations -- such as balancing left-center-right locations among other criteria. (Section 15-3)
  3. Making sure the course is completely marked (see next week's blog) because if all boundaries, water hazards, and grounds under repair are not properly marked it becomes virtually impossible to make valid Rules decisions. (Section 15-5)

I estimate that no more than 20% of superintendents judiciously commit to honoring all three course-defining elements listed above - especially at those courses where relatively inexperienced grounds crew members set tee markers.


Caution: Astute search committees will often ask job applicants whether they are familiar with Section 15 requirements. When an applicant fails to answer this line of questioning satisfactorily -- his candidacy generally loses ground.


FYI: The day-to-day collective impact when a golf course set-up fails to correctly honor the three elements listed above can distort a player's handicap by as much as +/- five strokes - clearly undermining the validity of the USGA handicap system.


Therefore, nothing less than the integrity of the game hangs in the balance whether golf course superintendents honor their responsibility to implement Section 15 guidelines, or not. Yet, so few do!


Certainly, it is time for all superintendents to recognize their responsibility to consistently maintain course-defining variables!


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