A reader from Muskegon, Mich., asks if we change a course’s ranking based upon minor alterations to the design. “Like, say, if they were to chop down the Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National, would that give them a higher or a lower score? Or what if at a certain course in Grand Rapids they fixed a certain tee so that it didn’t point way right when you need to hit it left to stay out of the trees? Would that make a difference?”
I see two points that need correcting in Muskie’s e-mail. The first is the perennial misunderstanding of “higher or lower score” as it pertains to the Top 50 rankings. The Cal Sci algorithm is concentrically weighted around “a perfect 10,” which means that high and low scores are to be avoided, not pursued. Put another way, if Smash star Katharine McPhee scores a 10 on the Carnegie Mellon Feminine Pulchritude Scale (FPS), she’s got no way to go but down. Or up. She can’t do better.
Secondly, it would make no difference if they re-oriented that tee so it pointed straight down the fairway. Muskie would still slice his drive into the trees.
But to the larger point, yes, we take minor alterations of a design into account when we issue our adjusted ratings.* For instance, the 45th-ranked Heartland Golf Club of Kansas City, Mo. (aka Hillcrest Country Club) is restoring Donald Ross’s original ninth green, correcting a 21st-century design blunder. When the green is completed in the fall, Heartland could leap into the Top 40.
* A new Top 50 is posted daily at 2:15 a.m. CDT. We publish hard-copy Mandarin and Portuguese versions on a weekly basis, but only in Africa and the Middle East.
“That’s all well and good,” writes a junior golfer from Sun City, Ariz., “but you can’t possibly know what’s happening at courses around the world. I’ve heard that Pete Dye, just to name one architect, keeps ‘tweaking’ his designs ad infinitum, jumping on a sand pro at the drop of a hat. So your ratings must necessarily be flawed.”
Wrong! The Top 50’s vast network of course raters keeps an eye on all the work being done at ranked courses. Last week, for example, workers in San Francisco applied the finishing touches to a new short-game practice area at TPC Harding Park, site of the 2009 Presidents Cup. Positioned between the parking lot and the practice range, the new practice area overlooks beautiful Lake Merced. But it wasn’t overlooked by us! Harding Park jumps three positions to No. 78.*
* If the new grass survives the typically-brutal San Francisco summer, HP will climb even higher.
As for Pete Dye and his constant course-doctoring, give us some credit. We shadow his every movement with unpaid interns.
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but The Memorial Tournament is being played on the immaculate fairways and greens of the 51st-ranked Muirfield Village Golf Club, designed by Jack Nicklaus and the late, great land-form artist, Desmond Muirhead. (Nicklaus is famous for winning 18 major championships. Muirhead is famous for designing golf holes in the shapes of states, stringed instruments and farm animals.)