Jonathan Ward is England Golf’s Course Rating Coordinator. We asked him when we can expect all golf courses to be fully graded
At the very heart of the World Handicap System are golf course ratings. It’s the metric that forms the basis for everything else – from difficulty to our own WHS ratings.
Across Home Unions, teams of experienced volunteers have spent countless hours, despite the pandemic, visiting thousands of courses to provide course and grade ratings and give us the baseline to measure our own abilities as golfers.
At the end of last year, England Golf appointed Jonathan Ward as Course Rating Coordinator. His role is to oversee the entire grading program in the country and support county and regional councilors to ensure that all 1,800 clubs have a course that is graded to WHS requirements.
Former County Development Manager for the governing body and County Secretary of the Durham Golf Union for nearly seven years before taking up his new role at England Golf, Jonathan is steeped in the game.
We sat down with him for a long conversation that we will post in four parts.
In this part, we ask Jonathan about the provisional grades assigned to courses in the new system and if this has now been resolved…
“We have a few latecomers but maybe it’s more because they’re making big changes to the course and it’s pointless until those changes are made,” explained Jonathan.
“A few counties are ahead of the game, but for the most part the second rating cycle will begin in 2022, as every course must be rated at least every 10 years.
“So we are starting the second cycle and all counties are looking to assess 10% of their courses every year going forward. For some that might be just four, five or six clubs, but in larger counties it might mean up to 20 courses this year.
So what kind of things are they going to watch? Are they going to take into account the scores of the golfers or let the clubs take care of it? How are you going to achieve that level of consistency that you talked about?
Jonathan continued: “The level of consistency obviously depends on the training, ability and knowledge of the assessors.
“They are on the front line and most scoring volunteers are appointed by county bodies. They get a lot of on-the-job training and we regularly have benchmarking type exercises where we ask team leaders to do assessments – they’ve been online for the last couple of years – to make sure no one look away from the Ball.
“You may have seen the course rating guide, which is very detailed and the team leaders refer to it during their ratings to make sure they get those metrics in the right places.
“Each assessment we do accumulates more experience and knowledge. It is my role to have these guides and training materials and everything related to assessments for our team leaders to have access to and we are there s they need to pick up the phone.