"A great course is designed primarily to challenge low-handicap amateur golfers, not tour professionals."
I've been questioning Golf Digest's Resistance To Scoring definition since at least 1999. (BTW, checked with mom and I did not have issues with RTS at birth, so go easy on the bias accusations). But I have moaned about the evaluation process many times, including how clubs feel the need to pander to panelists.
And while I understand that the RTS concept dates to the magazine's founder and the initial list focusing on difficulty, I thought it would an interesting exercise to look at the magazine's definition of the category which Ron Whitten says vaulted Augusta National to the #1 spot in the latest ranking.
Here's what panelists are given to determine Resistance to Scoring:
RESISTANCE TO SCORING
How difficult, while still being fair, is the course for the scratch player from the back tees?
What it means: A great course is designed primarily to challenge low-handicap
amateur golfers, not tour professionals.
Now, this is odd since Golf Digest has added people to its panel who are not low-handicap golfers. So how would they be able to evaluate a course from a scratch player's perspective?
Of course I think there should be people of all skill levels on the panel, with the RTS category dropped.
Anyhow, the magazine fleshes out the meaning of RTS this way:
How to determine Resistance to Scoring
The question is not whether a course is tough for the tour pro. On a calm day, no course is too tough for the tour pro. At last look, the course record is 62 at Pebble Beach, Pinehurst No. 2 and Prairie Dunes. And will soon go lower, no doubt.
And those 62s just came so easily to the player.
At any time, given the skill level of the average tour player, and the incredible equipment they use, even top courses set up in championship condition can be easy.
Ah yes, easy. Because anyone who has played the game will tell you it becomes easy more often than not.
Davis Love III’s 269 at Winged Foot West in the 1997 PGA did not mean that the course was toothless. Only five players broke par in that event and no one broke par in the 2006 U.S. Open. The 2006 winner, Geoff Ogilvey finished at four over par.
Is that Ogilvey guy a hybrid of Geoff Ogilvy and Joe Ogilvie?
We prefer to consider how testing the course is for a scratch golfer, a player who may be several shots worse than the average tour pro from the back tees. That’s because most courses, even those on our list of America’s 100 Greatest won’t be played by tour professionals. But they will be challenged by scratch players many, many times.
To deserve a high score in Resistance to Scoring, the course must be difficult but still fair.
A course that demands 260-yard carries over hazards from every tee is indeed difficult, but is not fair. Particularly if half of those tee shots are into prevailing winds.
So do you have to keep a checklist on tee shots into prevailing winds? And if less than half are under 260 does that mean the course is difficult but fair?
A course with every green guarded by water is difficult, but again it’s not a fair test.
If the course is tough but unfair, give it a lower score.
If it’s eminently fair but not particularly tough, give it a lower score.
What if it's just fair, not eminently fair? Who wrote this, Richard Tufts?
Only if it achieves that balance of being both testing but fair in its challenges, does a course deserve a high score in Resistance to Scoring.
Fair. People, it's your mantra.
The ideal in Resistance to Scoring
The ideal course must take into account various weather conditions. It cannot be brutally tough on calm days, because on windy days it then becomes impossible.
There's a newsflash from the city.
It can’t be tough only when tee markers are placed to the very back because on wet days it then becomes unreachable. It can’t rely only on pin positions tucked behind bunkers because pin placements must be rotated to spread out wear and tear.
Example: A model for Resistance to Scoring might be Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island. At 6,973 yards long, with smallish greens and all sorts of hazards, it can be a difficult course for a scratch player. Yet it is hard to find an unfair hole on the course.
Glad we're not seeding the panelists with any potential biases!
Even in windy conditions. Its routing is such that consecutive holes don’t face identical wind conditions. The greens provide approach options for windy conditions. Some of its greens accept low running shots. Others have hazards in front but no trouble to the rear. Only a couple are heavily guarded targets. Note: The highest average Resistance to Scoring in the 100 Greatest is Shinnecock Hills G.C. with an average of 9.08.
That's good to know.
Why we use evaluations for Resistance to Scoring rather than Slope Rating or Course Rating
The combination of USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating can be a good indicator of a course’s resistance to scoring, though not a perfect one. In general, a course with a Course Rating above 73 and the Slope Rating is above 130 can be rated above 7.5. A course would need to have a Course Rating above 74 and have a Slope Rating above 140 to be rated in the 8.0 to 8.5 range. Keep in mind that Shinnecock Hills has the highest Resistance to Scoring average in America at 9.08.
Yeah we got that about Shinnecock the first time.
So I don't quite understand how a Course Rating can't be automatically used when they are able to quantify what a Resistance To Scoring score should be based on that rating.
Of course, I still just can't fathom why the difficulty has anything to do with the merits of a course. Seems like Fun would be a whole bunch more important.