TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge, home of the Boeing Classic

TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge, home of the Boeing Classic

GOLF: Peninsula member helping rate state’s courses

THE BUSY SUMMER season for North Olympic Peninsula courses includes hosting members of the Washington State Golf Association’s Course Rating team such as Port Angeles’ Gary McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, a Peninsula Golf Club member, volunteered to rate courses for the WSGA about seven years ago. He’s rated about 40 courses so far all over the state as part of a group of roughly 40 people around Washington trained to rate courses.

This summer, McLaughlin has assisted with re-ratings for Cedars at Dungeness in Sequim, Port Townsend Golf Club and Discovery Bay Golf Club, helped measure at Peninsula and will rate Sunland Golf and Country Club in Sequim and White Horse Golf Course in Kingston next month.

To prevent any allegations of bias, course raters typically do not rate their home course.

“I’ve rated the TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge, home of the Boeing Classic,” McLaughlin said. “Later on they will rate Chambers Bay [host of the 2015 U.S. Open], so I’m hoping to get on that one, but so is everybody else.”

The history

Early course rating systems were designed to deliver a number based on par.

The first United States Golf Association rating in 1911 was based on the expected score shot by then U.S. Amateur champ Jerome Travers.

Through the years, state and area golf associations helped the USGA refine the rating system, and in 1977, Dean L. Knuth, aka the “Pope of Slope,” proposed an improved course rating system that involved numerical rating of 10 obstacles on each hole. These ratings provided an adjustment to the distance rating of the golf course. Knuth’s system was adopted by the USGA in 1981 and became the basis for the USGA Course Rating System in use today.

The USGA requires member courses to be rated every 10 years and the WSGA likes to rate established courses every seven to eight years, while newer courses get more attention as they mature.

McLaughlin said when he initially volunteered he attended a three-hour training course where instructors walked attendees through the course rating book.

After that, new raters are paired with more experienced raters for each course they visit.

“What we do as course raters is collect all the data that turns out the course rating and slope rating,” he said.

The course rating is a measure of a layout’s difficulty for a scratch golfer, one who plays to a zero handicap, and doesn’t have any relationship to par. There’s no limit to how high a course can be rated.

The slope rating quantifies the relative difficulty of a course for bogey golfers and other players of “varying abilities” when compared with the course rating.

Slope ratings range from 55 to 155, with an average-difficulty course measured at 113.

Peninsula Golf Club, for example, has a 119 slope rating, a slightly-above average level of difficulty for a bogey player.

McLaughlin said each pair is assigned a set of tees and rate the entire course for both a scratch player and a bogey golfer.

A male zero handicap golfer can hit 250-yard tee shots on average and reach long par 4’s, (470-yards) in two shots. Female scratch golfers hit 210 yards off the tee and bogey male golfers hit 200 yards on average.

Raters take into account the numerous design variables and natural obstacles encountered throughout a course.

“We look at width of fairway, the stance you’ll have playing certain shots, how far is out of bounds from the center of fairway, if water is present, the presence and size of sand traps, all the things that make a hole more difficult to play,” McLaughlin said.

He said that a relatively recent revision changed how trees were scored.

“Trees were done like out of bounds and water hazards,” McLaughlin said. “We’d go to the center of the fairway and measure how far away they are, how possible it is to recover if you get in trouble.

“Now, its an overall assessment — minor, moderate, significant or extreme — you look where the trees are and discuss the difficulty with your rating partner.”

Course rating sheets are full of tables that have numerical values that help come up with the final number.

“No water on a hole would earn a zero, and the highest number we can write for water is a 10,” McLaughlin said.

He said data from each hole is entered into a computer which comes up with the course rating and the course’s slope rating.

“I’m not exactly sure, but I think I heard course rating for a scratch golfer is 90 percent based on the distance of a course, and all the other obstacles we quantify is the other 10 percent.

“For bogey golfers that ratio is more 60-40, or 65-35, because the bogey golfer is more likely to get in trouble.”

McLaughlin said busier courses take longer to rate as they must stay out of the way of players.

He said it took eight people about four or five hours to rate Cedars at Dungeness.

“Unless we seek it out on our own we never see the results,” McLaughlin said. “In a way it’s of no interest as raters are just trying to get the most accurate accounting of a course’s level of difficulty.”

There are some perks to volunteering, according to McLaughlin.

“We usually get to play the course after we rate it for no charge,” he said.

“And if you are interested in golf, it helps you look at courses differently.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with helping you play better and physically hit the shots, but you recognize trouble more easily.”

For more information on volunteering as a course rater, email WSGA Senior Director of Membership Services John Saegner Jr. at

Clallam Links

The British Open runs Thursday through Sunday at Royal Birkdale, some rain and wind is in the forecast,

SkyRidge Golf Course’s annual Clallam Links Open.

This event, played on the only links-style golf course on the North Olympic Peninsula, is set for Sunday, July 23.

Play begins after The British Open crowns its “champion golfer of the year.”

A mulligan stew lunch with all the fixin’s will be served at noon.

A mini-shotgun start will begin play at 1 p.m. on the first and seventh holes.

The entry fee is $50 and includes 18 holes, range balls, KP’s, longest putt and lunch. Power carts are an additional $15 per seat.

Players are encouraged to form their own foursomes, but SkyRidge can place singles on teams.

A potential payout of $1,000 exists based on a full amateur field.

SkyRidge said 30 percent of the field will get paid in each division.

To get in on the game, phone SkyRidge at 360-683-3673.

Schlaffman holes out

Peninsula Golf Club member Steve Schlaffman recently shot his first hole-in-one.

Schlaffman aced Peninsula’s 138-yard 17th hole using his 8-iron and a Pinnacle Rush golf ball during a round last Thursday, July 13.

The shot was witnessed by Port Angeles’ Harry Thompson.

Nice shot, Steve!

Port Ludlow benefit

Port Ludlow Golf Club members and guests have raised more than $3,500 to support The Folds of Honor Foundation, a nonprofit that provides educational scholarships to the children and spouses of military members killed or injured in duty.

The course opened their hearts for this cause with a Folds of Honor tournament on July 4.

Port Ludlow’s fourth was celebrated with hot dogs, apple pie and a swing at a Chevrolet.

The charity event, which was open to all golfers, drew a capacity number of 80 players for a fun scramble. Many golfers walked away with a variety of donated prizes but nobody was lucky enough to hit a hole-in-one and win the grand prize, a 2017 Chevy Malibu offered up by Haselwood Chevrolet of Bremerton.

Organizers offered a huge thank you to those who supported this tournament and also made generous contributions.

Port Ludlow golf pro Darren Posey is continuing to collect donations for Folds of Honor.

The course also is offering a special this month where four golfers receive two GPS-enabled carts for $199. Twilight specials begin at 1 p.m. everyday ($30 weekday, $36 weekend, $13 cart) and super-twilight starts at 3 p.m. ($20 walking, $29 with GPS cart).

For more information, phone 360-437-0272.


Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or

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