Over the years, I’ve been campaigning for clubs to take a closer look at their indexing of golf holes. My recent article on this (“It’s time for data-driven decisions in golf”, see our website) generated a heap of positive responses by golfers, many of whom have said they are now approaching their committees to investigate hole-by-hole data.
The incorrect indexing of holes is a “hidden enemy” that causes frustration on the course, and can often be the difference in the outcome of important events/tournaments.
A while back, I helped initiate a project at my club, The Eastern GC, to gather hole-by-hole data for all 27 holes at our course. We wanted to proactively determine the “effective” (i.e. Played-to) index for each hole, while also analysing differences across a variety of six handicap ranges, from each set of 5 teeboxes (Yellow, Red, White, Blue, Black), for both men and women.
Recently, we “crunched the numbers” (ok, the computer did it), and analysed the data that our MiClub system displayed.
As I expected, there were a number of anomalies that made my eyes nearly pop out of my head.
Look, for example, at hole 19 (the first hole played on our East course). This par-5 is indexed as 10 from the White tees. But for the low markers (handicap below 6), it actually plays (“effective index”) as 18 (a difference of 8!). The high markers (handicap 32-36), however, find it to be one of the most difficult holes on the course (effective index of 3; a difference of 7). That is a HUGE swing.
The middle handicappers have similar issues. Look at hole 25, a par-3 that is rated as the 14 index. For the 7-12 handicappers, the hole ACTUALLY plays like a 5 index (a difference of 9!). Compare this to the par-5 2nd hole, index 7. For that same handicap range, the hole ACTUALLY plays to an effective index of 16 (also a difference of 9).
Of course, with the current one-size-fits-all world handicapping system, compromises and allowances must be made – so we can’t have super-dynamic indexing…yet. But armed with this data, we were able to adjust some hole indexes—which has been welcomed by members.
This is just a TINY example of the data that can be collected — and many clubs have that data right at the tip of their fingers courtesy of software providers like MiClub, and MSL, etc.
This also highlights another issue: Balancing the indexes across the nines.
Some courses may see that a majority of “Tough” holes are grouped in one area of the course (i.e. the three or four hardest holes may be in a single stretch – your club’s own Amen Corner). In an effort to “normalise” a round of golf, some courses will artificially spread out the indexing of the harder holes between the nines (i.e. Index 1, 3, 5, 7, (etc) on the front, with 2, 4, 6, 8 (and so on) on the back. This is not, however, always reflective of the true difficulty of holes and/or nines. If your course has an unbalanced layout (i.e. a nine-hole side that is much harder or easier than the other nine/s), then a “balanced” indexing could be a huge disservice to your golfers.
In the future, it’s only a matter of time before we see fully computerised, dynamic hole-by-hole indexing: our scorecard (on our mobile phone) will show our daily handicap, off our chosen set of tees, with each hole indexed according to our handicap/range (Golfer A will have a different index from Golfer B.)
In the short term, however, I encourage all clubs to at least EXAMINE any hole-by-hole data. You may be surprised what you find.