Wow was the first word out of the mouth of Mark Bultema after leading about 20 course raters through four days of a recent rating of the four golf courses at Garland Lodge & Golf Resort.
“In my 20 years of rating courses with the GAM this is the largest group of courses we’ve done at one time,” said Bultema, the current Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) president and long-time volunteer course rater. “And it might just be the best rating experience we’ve had, too. What a wonderful, welcoming resort.”
The GAM and its group of raters work on dozens of courses each year as an official arm of the United States Golf Association. An official course rating allows golfers interested in maintaining a USGA Handicap Index as part of the World Handicap System the ability to post scores for rounds played at the facility.
A course rating keeps a course in compliance with the Rules of Handicapping for a USGA Handicap Index for 10 years. The GAM raters gather raw data to verify yardage measurements for each tee, determine Course Rating and Slope Rating for each tee and other specifics that go with the formula for the World Handicap System.
What it all means is that any visitor to a Garland course can turn his or her score in via the World Handicap System and have an up-to-date index for events, tournaments and more anywhere else they play golf.
In addition, the Garland courses – Fountains, Monarch, Reflections and Swampfire – can host tournaments and events using official USGA Handicap Indexes and the many groups who come to play can adjust their Playing Handicaps to the Garland courses for events for simple fun, fair competitions.
Kyle Wolfe, director of member services for the GAM, said typically the raters for the association do not take on multiple courses at a facility in one visit.
“It was the generosity of Garland allowing our volunteers to stay there,” he said. “They welcomed us with open arms and treated us great. They clearly understood the importance of getting their courses rated.”
The GAM raters met with Dave Sanderson, president and chief operation officer for Garland, early in the week and then rated each morning and played the courses they rated in the afternoons.
“Everybody here has been great to communicate with and they’ve been on top of it in organization,” Bultema said. “The carts we need have been set up each morning, box lunches have been prepared and their attention to detail has been great. The course conditions are great, the greens are consistent from course-to-course. They know what they are doing here.
“They’ve treated us like they treat their guests, and it has been fantastic. We actually talked the other day about if you had to play golf every day the rest of your life at one place, what destination would you pick, and Garland was in that mix for our raters. It’s really that good here.”
Bultema said the GAM lucked out on its week at Garland in terms of weather, and the leaves turning colors made for a delightful setting.
“Some of our raters – they are all golfers like you and me – had been here before, but some didn’t realize what a great place it is,” Bultema said. “It’s great. I think our raters will be coming back as guests and telling their friends about it.”
Wolfe and Bultema said the GAM is always recruiting and looking for more people who are interested in becoming raters.
“We got just about everybody involved in this rating and obviously there’s always more courses to do,” Bultema said. “If people out there are interested, all they have to do is reach out through the website (go to GAM.org, and under the handicapping pull-down look for course rating and volunteer information).”
This summer Garland celebrated 70 years of welcoming golfers to its expansive vacation playground. It’s good for another 10 as a place for golfers who want their score to count. Then the raters will come again. The raters can’t wait.