Veteran and newcomers to the art of golf course rating took part in a training session earlier this month in Saskatoon under the tutelage of long-time rater and Golf Saskatchewan volunteer Richard Smith.
Over 20 people took part in the seminar, Smith said that is a little bit higher than the average year, he said with the new Rules of Golf changes that came out this year, the way courses are rated was altered as well. Ken and Rosie Ottenbreit were two new volunteers to the course rating team this year. Ken said him and his wife are avid golfers and have had an interest in how courses are examined.
“Personally I’ve always wanted to do something with Golf Saskatchewan and so the whole idea of doing course rating has intrigued us,” he said. “We checked into it, I’ve always wanted to know how the heck they do this, so we signed up and went to the workshop. We got some hands-on experience doing some holes at The Willows, I’m looking forward to getting out there and doing some course rating around Saskatchewan.”
The Ottenbreits are long-time volunteers in their home community of Melfort but now that both are retired they are excited to give back to the sport together.
“We’ve been trying to do things together,” Ken explained. “There are some things we do individually in our volunteer pursuits, but this is one because we both golf and we both want to give back and it’s something we can both do.”
Ken expected to learn how to rate bunkers, greens, penalty areas, and a course’s rough but he said he was surprised by how in depth the procedure was. He said the experienced members of the team took it upon themselves to go through the learning process in the proper manner.
“What I really appreciated is they assigned one of the veteran course raters to us,” Ken continued. “Wayne Bucknell sort of led us through the process, he was wonderful. He didn’t tell us what to rate them, he put the ball in our court and had us think about what difficulty level we should give certain aspects of the holes. It was nice.”
Smith has been conducting course rating seminars for Golf Saskatchewan for over a decade, he has also worked for Golf Canada providing leadership at seminars in Alberta, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia. He said having excited newcomers such as the Ottenbreits come on board is special for him.
“We’re always welcoming new people, we’d be nowhere and in a lot of trouble without our volunteers,” he said. “One of the things about course rating is because we do it on weekdays in May and June primarily that eliminates a lot of people that might otherwise be interested because they are working when we are on the course. We can’t really course rate on the weekends, and we don’t like to dodge golfers during the weekdays in the summer either.”
Smith said the Saskatchewan rating team will conduct about 10 to 15 rates this year at member clubs. Courses must be rated every ten years or within five years of opening or conducting significant renovations. If a course is not rated, golfers can not post their scores for handicapping purposes.