Tag Archives: Ft. Meade golf

Spanish Layout Is for Real

“How do your course raters document their findings?” asks a reader from Lower Venice, Italy. “Is it merely checked boxes on pages? Do you obtain sworn affidavits? How do we know that your raters have even visited the courses on the list — or, more importantly, the courses not on your list?”

Good question, Vinny. I can answer it by reminding you that our course raters have photographed every hole on every golf course in the world, from top-ranked Askernish Old right down to our perennial bottom-ranked layout, the Ft. Meade City Mobile Home Park Golf Course of Ft. Meade, Fla. Furthermore, Top 50 raters are bonded and they have to produce a signed chit from the superintendent or head pro of each club before they can collect their honoraria.*

*We typically pay our raters in carnival script to minimize the possibility that they will be caught short by international currency devaluations.

By the way, the image bank at Catch Basin is not limited to golf course photos. We ask our globetrotting nitpickers to document every aspect of a facility, from the front gate to the darkest corner of the superintendent’s shed. Just this morning, for instance, we downloaded hundreds of photos from Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola Club de Campo in San Sebastian de los Reyes, Spain, site of this week’s Madrid Masters. The RSHECC has two championship golf courses with mountain views, a splendid ivy-covered clubhouse, a sprawling parking garage, and a terraced practice range that offers three levels of grass tees plus a mats-only range with both covered and rooftop tee lines.

South Course Starter's Shed

Sketches of Spain: The starter's shed at RSHECC South. (John Garrity)

“I was particularly taken with the starter’s shed on the first tee of the South Course,” our rater told me by satellite phone. “It made me feel nostalgic in some hard-to-describe way, so I gave the facility a few hundred discretionary points.”

The beauty of the Cal Sci algorithm is that we can adjust for this bonehead’s misapplication of the ratings formula, leaving RSHECC with a more appropriate bonus of 25. We’ll post the club’s new ranking when we get fresh numbers back from Pasadena, probably on the Memorial Day weekend. (No, the Top 50 does not “holiday.” The full-capacity golf weekends are when we are needed most.)

By the way, Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola Club de Campo translates as “The Royal Spanish Horse Society Country Club.” I asked our rater to send me a hat, but he claimed their hats don’t make it through the embroidery process.

Top 50 on TV: The PGA Tour finishes off its Texas Swing at Colonial Country Club, No. 24. I planned to post a course photo, but I got distracted scrolling through our gallery of “Colonial C.C. Bark Beetles,” which takes up about 5 gigs of storage space. If you’re desperate to see what Colonial looks like these days, check back here later. Otherwise, you can tune in to the Nick Faldo Networks (Golf Channel and CBS), which will cover all four rounds of the $6.2 million Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

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Explaining the Top 50 Algorithm

The head pro at one of my top-rated courses has a question about the Top 50 system. “Why,” he asks, “does a course rated lower than ours sometimes get a higher score?”

The question makes me smile.

Like the Spinal Tap guitarist, the club pro equates big numbers with superiority. Eleven is better than 10, 10 is better than 9, etc. He is puzzled, therefore, when the Top 50 gives fifth-ranked Prairie Dunes a score of 9.71, while 29th-ranked Royal Melbourne swaggers off at 11.20.

Askernish Old Golf Course

The unforgettable 14th or 15th green at Askernish Old. (Kieran Dodds)

The answer, as I explained in a Top 50 column back in 2007, is that 11 is not better than 10 — not when 10 is “perfect.” The Cal Sci algorithm I use to produce the Top 50 assumes that input data can be scored either in a linear fashion (picture a football field with the number 10 where the 50-yard line would normally be) or concentrically in two dimensions (the best example being the small-to-large circles used for frog-jumping contests). The Carnoustie Golf Links, for example, had too much rough when the British Open was played there in 1999 — scores soared and a Frenchman almost won — but not enough rough in 2007, as evidenced by the fact that 22 players shot par or better for 72 holes. The two extremes canceled each other out, and Carnoustie stayed put in the ranking at No. 66.

A course’s “score,” as I told the unhappy pro, is the product of dozens of mirrored attributes, some of which can only be expressed in computer language or Cockney rhyming slang. That’s why Furnace Creek Golf Course of Death Valley, Calif., with a seasonally-adjusted score of 18.77, simmers outside the Top 5,000. (No course with a sun-bleached-skeleton logo has ever scored above 8.0 or below 12.0 in the Top 50.) The data for top-ranked Askernish Old, on the other hand, boils down to a tasty 10.19 — a number that is the qualitative equal of a 9.81.

Ft. Meade (FL) Golf Course

The Ft. Meade (FL) City Mobile Home Park Golf Course -- "the worst of the worst" according to former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. (John Garrity)

If this explanation is a bit over your head, take a look at the attached photographs. First you have the fourteenth or fifteenth green at Askernish Old, which is about as close to a “Perfect 10” as you can get … and then you have the clubhouse and second green of the Ft. Meade City Mobile Home Park Golf Course of Ft. Meade, FL, our perennial lowest-rated course. I should add that every whole number, whether plus or minus, follows the Richter Scale model of base-10 magnitude metering, so that a golf course scoring 9.0 or 11.0 is actually ten times worse than a 10.0, a 12.0 is ten times worse than an 11.0, and so on.

Ft. Meade, if you’re curious, scored a 19.68 on my last visit. And that’s after the partial eradication of fire-ant colonies and a rolling of the clay greens.

Top 50 on TV: No. 4, Pebble Beach Golf Links, is one of three courses hosting this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Pebble Beach will be seen again in June, when the U. S. Open makes its once-a-decade appearance on the picturesque Monterey Peninsula. (Tiger Woods, who won the Open by 15 strokes in 2000, may or may not play. A source close to Woods asked not to be quoted, adding, “I just asked you NOT to quote me!”) Widely praised for their strategic design and beautiful scenery, the Monterey courses nonetheless have their critics. “If you moved Pebble Beach fifty miles inland,” Jimmy Demaret smartly observed, “no one would have heard of it.”


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