COURSE CARE
Enhanced Hole-Location Sheets Take Guesswork Out of Championship Play August 23, 2018 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By Edward Moran

Preparations are made to cut a hole during a recent USGA championship. (USGA/John Mummert)

As anyone who plays the game knows, a golf tournament can be won – or lost – by inches. One poor decision, such as misjudging the hole location or not knowing the distance to carry a greenside bunker, can cost a player valuable strokes.

Before hitting a shot, players use different tools to gather information – yardage books, distance-measuring devices, a caddie’s local knowledge. This year, competitors in events conducted by several Allied Golf Associations (AGAs) around the country are taking advantage of improved hole-location sheets that provide the exact geometry of greens and their surrounding hazards.

Replacing the sheets comprised of circles representing each green, the geometrically accurate greens and surrounds added to the competitive experience for players in the 2018 New Jersey State Golf Association (NJSGA) Amateur Championship in July at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, N.J. These guides replicate the sheets used by players in the U.S. Open and other major championships.

“Precise hole location is an important factor in every single approach shot,” said Chris Gotterup, who finished third. “I like the sheets that we have now because they show the picture of the green. That helps you visualize things more compared to just the basic hole sheet that leaves you guessing. This is much more precise.”

The sheets are generated from course maps, which are at the core of the USGA’s facility resource management app. In 2017 the USGA started using the app to generate advance hole-location sheets at all of its championships. This year, several Allied Golf Associations are using the program as well.

“I think the impression from the players is that [the hole-location sheets] definitely bring the event to a little bit of a higher level,” said Brad Bardon, the NJSGA’s manager of tournaments & operations. “They’ve seen [the sheets] being used at the U.S. Open and PGA Tour events. They’ve seen that imagery on social media when [tournaments] release the hole locations, so they now have that same view and it just enhances what we do.”

The resource management tool has simplified what had been a laborious process for AGAs.

“One of the projects we started two years ago was physically going in and creating green schematics for our select major championship events,” said Chris Gaffney, the director of championships for the Metropolitan Golf Association. “The USGA’s new hole sheets took away an enormous amount of work and gives us the same end result, just in a much faster format.”

With the positive feedback from championship managers and players alike, it’s easy to envision a future in which these advance hole-location sheets will become the standard rather than a novelty.

“We get players that come from British Columbia, Oregon and Idaho,” said Scotty Crouthamel, the senior director of rules & competition for the Pacific Northwest Golf Association, which is based in Federal Way, Wash. “Now those associations who we work closely with are all calling, saying, ‘How do we get these sheets?’ Because their players are seeing us use it and now they expect that as the standard.”

Edward Moran was the 2018 communications intern for the USGA’s Research, Science and Innovation Department.

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