Niwa climate researcher is working with Golf NZ to re-evaluate the country’s courses

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Niwa climate researcher is working with Golf NZ to re-evaluate the country's courses

Wind is a major factor in determining the difficulty rating of a golf course.

Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images

Wind is a major factor in determining the difficulty rating of a golf course.

For New Zealand golfers, a debate could be settled for them – what is the windiest and toughest course in the country?

Niwa climate scientist Dr. Richard Turner is working closely with Golf New Zealand on a nationwide re-evaluation of golf course ratings.

Wind speed is a key factor in determining the difficulty level of each course, which in turn is used to calculate the player’s handicap.

However, applying constant daily wind speeds to a variety of golf courses across the country is a long-term challenge for Golf NZ and is widely discussed by players.

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That could change, however, thanks to Niwa’s high-resolution weather model known as the New Zealand Convective Scale Model (NZCSM).

Traditionally, the calculations used numbers from individual weather stations closest to each golf course, but Turner, an avid golfer himself, found that the closest wind speed record was not always representative of the golf course itself and was sometimes quite far away.

CHRIS SKELTON

The Hororata Golf Club suffered significant damage in the floods in May 2021. Five weeks later the club reopened and the course is playable thanks to fundraising and the hard work of volunteers.

The NZCSM forecasts the weather on a 1.5-kilometer grid, which results in a very detailed forecast that takes into account the interaction of the weather systems in New Zealand’s very different terrain.

The NZCSM average wind speeds over the past four years were used in the rating calculation of nearly 400 golf courses across the country.

“The goal of the ratings is to make the field as even as possible, but the challenge is to make sure that consistent data is used in deciding on these ratings,” said Turner.

“Wind is a crucial component of golf – every shot that is not hit correctly increases the error if it is windy.”

Golf New Zealand Handicap and Golf Service Manager Phil Aickin.

ROBERT CHARLES / FAIRFAX NZ / stuff

Golf New Zealand Handicap and Golf Service Manager Phil Aickin.

Golf New Zealand Handicapping and Golf Services Manager Phil Aickin described the ongoing reassessment as a “breakthrough for us”.

“Estimating the daily wind speeds on our courses was a difficult task for us. We want a fair handicap system for everyone, which means that the wind speeds have to be as accurate as possible. “

The organization is in the middle of the process of re-evaluating course reviews and aims to complete the project by the end of July.

Aickin expects the ratings of about two-thirds of the courses to change, although most are minor and not noticed by members.

However, some are important from a disabled perspective, he said.

The USGA Course Rating System, which takes a number of factors into account when rating a course, was introduced in New Zealand in 2000.

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