November 2022: Winter Mode

By Kelly Neely, Sr. Director, Handicapping & Course Rating

I’m not sure who came up with the clever title of “Hallothanksmas” for this holiday-heavy time of year, but it seems like an astute marketing scheme cooked up by one of those craft store chains. You know, the ones with isles full of confounding artsy things like tiny pom poms (what exactly are these for? Cheerleader mice?) and kaleidoscopic displays of glitter. By the way, it’s worth noting that we continue to boldly explore space but have no antidote for glitter. I still have some stuck on my desk from a Christmas card I received in 2005. That stuff is harder to get rid of than a bad short game.

But Hallothanksmas and the inescapable rotation of festive décor isn’t the only thing going on right now. This is also the time of year for shifting into winter golf mode. Combine the ofttimes-unpredictable weather of the Pacific Northwest with the twists and turns of handicapping and course rating topics, and it’s no surprise that queries bubble to the surface.

Q: A rather annoying friend told me that we have to post scores through November 30. If this is true, why? Seems like we should end the season in October.

A: We all have that one friend. You know, the one with the rapid-fire correction reflex, quick to give you a reality check just when you don’t want one. I’m sorry to give them more fuel, but your Rather Annoying Friend (they might be Rules Official material) is spot on. Our active season for posting scores is March 1 – November 30. We’ve determined that the months of December through February is the timeframe when our region will most likely experience inclement weather to the degree that it has a detrimental impact on Course Ratings. No, we’re not meteorologists, we’re just obsessed golfers with stout raingear and that’s almost the same thing. When magical, mystical Course Rating values break down, they can make an ugly mess of handicaps and we can’t have that.

Q: I’m down in Palm Desert all winter and am posting all my scores. But my friends at our club in Oregon stop posting theirs for three months! How is this fair?

A: I could bring up the fairness factor of spending all winter languishing in the sunny perfection of Palm Desert while your friends are up here shivering and slogging around in the gloom, but I’ll let that pass. Sunbelt states enjoy great golf course conditions year-round, while states in the northern half (it’s actually more than half) of the country do not and are therefore seasonal. For score posting purposes it matters where you are playing, not where you are from.

Q: Could handicap active seasons change because of climate change, causing warmer weather in places that don’t usually get warm weather in the winter months?

A: Climate change is not just causing warmer temperatures, it is also causing temperatures to the opposite extreme, tropical disturbances, more “hundred year” conditions, and snow and ice storms. Places where there is typically more snow may, in some seasons, experience more rain and all of that affects the playability of golf courses. Wetter conditions means the ball doesn’t roll as far. Less roll effects the Course Rating.

All of that said, by the time we get to a point that the temperature is warm enough that it ceases to snow in Central Oregon over the winter, more than likely we’re talking apocalyptic weather changes. Golf would be the last thing we would worry about in the Wasteland of Mad Max, where we would no doubt be using our clubs for other purposes. 

Q: I split my time fairly evenly between my homes in Oregon and Arizona. I’m a member of a club in each location. Which one do I need to designate as my “home club” and why?

A: I hate to state the obvious, but this falls into the “Nice Problem to Have” category like when you accidentally-on-purpose cook too much bacon. The Home Club designation within the Rules of Handicapping is specifically for situations such as yours. During this time of year while you are in Arizona, ask your Handicap Chair to go into your GHIN profile and set your Home Club to the AZ club. And when you travel back to your club in Oregon, please have it switched back to your OGA club. The Home Club is determined by frequency of play. And while you’re enjoying months of blissful warmth in Arizona, you’ll have double the joy because your Handicap Index will be updated an hour earlier.

Q: My buddies and I annually travel to Bandon Dunes over the winter to play. Some years we have great conditions and are always surprised that we cannot post our scores due to the OGA off-season. Can’t an exception be made?

A: Before I answer this very good question, let’s all take a meditative moment to go to the Happy Golf Place that is Bandon Dunes. If Bandon Dunes was an aromatherapy candle, it would smell like a heady combination of salt air, swirling winds among the pines, old scotch and cigar smoke. And if lost balls had a scent, it would smell like those too.

Sorry, an exception cannot be made to post scores during our winter period on a course-by-course basis or turn the season on and off depending on what Mother Nature is currently bestowing upon us. We set the whole region up with the same date parameters to keep it consistent and fair for all players. In addition, we must declare our season in advance to the USGA.

Q: Quick question. How are temporary greens and / or tees supposed to be treated for score posting?  I’m hearing different answers on this.

A: You may have a quick question, but that doesn’t mean we have a quick answer. Forgive the pithy response, but “it depends.” Each temporary situation is a bit different and poses several considerations.

If the course is rebuilding one or more tees:

How much is the yardage being affected?

Has there been enough difference to change par?

Does the difficulty change enough to update SIA (Stroke Index Allocation – the “ranking” of handicap holes)?

How long is the change going to be in effect?

If it is the green(s) that are under construction:

Is a Temporary green in use?

Is the hole cut to regulation size or is it a coffee can or larger?

What is the yardage change?

What else is affected: Bunkers, Trees, Penalty Area, Green Target, etc.?

Due to that exhaustive laundry list of considerations we’re turning this one into a Long Story Short. Call us old-fashioned, but just call us (503-981-4653).

Back to that kooky word Hallowthanksmas. The best thing about it is the “thanks” part in the middle. It seems especially appropriate this week of Thanksgiving to express how thankful we are for OGA members. There were more of you joining clubs, playing golf, and posting scores this year. Thank you for sharing your passion for golf with us. If we could save all of you a drumstick, we would.