Every Course Should Copy These Awesome Features

P1170658

On Saturday, Addison, Todd, Hacker (real name), and I took a field trip to Wintonbury Hills, a muny that’s roughly an hour and fifteen minutes from where we live. The course, which opened in 2005, was designed by Pete Dye and Tim Liddy. There are four sets of tees, at 6,700, 6,300, 5,700, and 5,000 yards. As is seldom the case at golf courses of any kind, though, the scorecard at Wintonbury lists ratings and slopes for both men and women from all four sets:

Wintonbury Ratings-001

Furthermore, neither the scorecard nor any of the course signage mentions “women’s tees,” or “senior tees,” or “regular men’s tees,” or “championship tees,” or anything else. There are just four different sets, at four different yardages, and the scorecard contains enough information to enable players of both sexes, at all levels, to calculate handicaps for matches of all kinds, in all conceivable combinations.

Every course should do this.

Addison and Todd played from the black tees, I played from the greens, and Hacker played from the whites, and we were able to adjust our handicaps accordingly. (The USGA actually makes doing this much, much harder than it needs to be—but that’s a semi-complicated issue, which I’ll explore in a couple of future posts.) We played three matches, switching partners every six holes, and everything came out virtually even. (Todd and I each lost a dollar.) And if Michelle Wie and my mother had joined us we would have been able to work them into the game, too.

P1170662

Another awesome Wintonbury feature—and one that should be copied by public courses everywhere—is generous fairways accompanied by challenging green complexes. This is a feature that Wintonbury shares with Muirfield Village and Augusta National, to name two member-friendly golf courses that great players don’t dismiss as too easy. Wide fairways keep play moving. None of the four of us lost a ball.

Addison, Hacker, Todd.

Addison, Hacker, Todd.

Another awesome thing about Wintonbury: the Bag of Beer, available in the grillroom (which is called the Tap Inn):

P1170675

That’s what the guy in the photo below was picking up. Weirdly, though, he had ordered just two beers—both Budweisers. What was he planning to drink when he got to the third hole?

P1170677

The only thing I didn’t like about Wintonbury: they charge you extra if you walk. (They don’t think of it as a walking penalty—in their view, they give away carts, since carts are included in the greens fees—but a walking penalty is what it is, since you don’t pay less if you don’t take a cart.) As far as I could see, though, we were the only walkers, so they probably don’t get a lot of complaints.

Still, it’s a terrific course. We’re definitely going back.

P1170640

5 thoughts on “Every Course Should Copy These Awesome Features

  1. There is a smart phone app (GHIN Mobile) that allows you to post your scores AND adjusts handicaps automatically according to tees played. No math involved. Also keeps some stats.
    Like your blog and read every one.

    • Thank your for your kind words about the blog! I have that app, and the handicap issue I’m talking about is more complicated than what you describe. The difficulty arises when golfers competing against each other want to play from different tees. When they do that, finding their “course handicap” isn’t enough. They also have to make a second adjustment, based on the course ratings (not the slopes) of the different tee sets. There are two problems with that. The first is that almost no one believes it’s necessary (or they complain that it’s unfair). Not even club pros understand it–and the USGA is terrible at explaining it. The second problem is that, by requiring two adjustments, the USGA creates the possibility of compounded rounding errors, so that, in the extreme case, differences of just a tenth of a point can cause two-stroke swings in course handicaps. The USGA’s handicap committee knows that both these issues exist, because its members argued about them when they adopted the current system. There’s a simple solution, which I’ll explain one of these days. . . . The USGA really should rethink all this, because the way they handle different tees right now makes golfers very reluctant to so something the USGA wants very much for most of us to do, which is to “play it forward.” More later.

  2. I think that simply having different tees and not naming them “women’s” or “seniors” or “juniors” is truly a great idea to encourage “playing it forward”. No stigma if you want to play a shorter course for whatever reasons. Absolutely a great idea.

    • Another good idea (which I learned about from someone, somewhere): when you add a set of tees, slide the existing tee markers forward. Let’s say you want to add a set of tees that will play shorter than the current “white tees”–the ones currently used by most men. The new tees are intended mostly for senior men, but if you stigmatize them that way many men who ought to use them won’t. So rather than giving the new, shorter tees a new color–say, green–just move the current white markers up to the new positions, move the current blue markers up to the old white positions, and put the new, green markers back at the tips, where the blues used to be. Now everyone is happy, because everyone feels like he just got longer off the tee.

      • That is exactly what my club did, after thinking about some nonsense about renaming the tees to colours (colors) such as puce, or peach, or copper, or whatever. The other key to the transformation was dropping the red tee. That was also stopping the shorter hitters from moving up. The day the red tees became the white tees, many, if not most, of the seniors started playing them. They would not play them before, even though they had been rated for men.

Leave a Reply