By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
It began as a well-reasoned plan to improve the pace of play and also to save golfers the embarrassment of horrendous holes.
But after a few years, Western Conference coaches are thinking that a modified Stableford scoring system for girls golf matches perhaps wasn’t such a good idea after all.
This year Wesco coaches voted to return to stroke play, and the change has been accepted without controversy or regret.
According to Snohomish High School girls golf coach Ken Roberts, who “absolutely” supported the switch, stroke play “is the only way girls can understand where they’re scoring, and it makes it real easy to compare where they need to be for districts and state.”
With a modified Stableford scoring system, “it was sometimes frustrating for the girls because they really didn’t know what their (stroke) score was,” Roberts said. “You kind of get a general idea (with Stableford), but you never really know for sure.”
Unlike stroke play, where every shot from the first tee to the 18th green is counted, Stableford uses a point system for every hole. According to the United States Golf Association, standard Stableford scoring gives five points for double-eagles, four for eagles, three for birdies, two for pars and one for bogeys.
Modified Stableford scoring uses adjusted point values, as determined by tournament officials. Or in this case, by Wesco coaches.
In recent years, Wesco girls matches used a modified Stableford system that gave six points for eagles, five for birdies, four for pars, three for bogeys, two for double-bogeys, and one for triple-bogeys. After a triple-bogey — for instance, following the seventh stroke on a par-4 hole — the golfer could pick up her ball.
Going to modified Stableford scoring seemed to make sense because some Wesco teams have several golf novices, and individual scores well over 100 were not uncommon. Allowing girls to pick up their balls on poor holes helped speed up varsity matches.
The problem, said Glacier Peak girls coach Kelven May, “is that when you go to districts, there’s no pick-up rule. Once you get to the postseason, you play until you get the ball in the hole. But for the last couple of years they were used to picking up. They were not used to managing blow-up holes.”
By returning to stroke play, he went on, “it forces them to manage a few more shots. And it’s just more like regular golf.”
As a compromise, league coaches agreed to let players pick up their balls after the 10th shot on any hole. There has been continuing discussion about adjusting that number to a double-par maximum, meaning a player could get no worse than a six on a par 3, eight on a par 4 and 10 on a par 5.
To date, said Meadowdale girls coach Chris Huddleson, returning to stroke play “has been a good thing. It makes the girls’ scores more relate-able across the state and to other golfers and parents.”
There is, he conceded, “a bit of a learning curve that we’re having right now. And speed of play is, of course, an issue. We’re hoping that it works itself out. But that’s still a big issue whether you’re talking about boys or girls, but a little more with the girls.”
Part of the learning curve is that some Wesco golfers are getting a lot of 10s on their scorecards. “And if everybody on a team is a brand-new golfer and if they’re getting 10s on every hole, that’s a long day,” May said.
Still, “my take on it is that I like it,” he said. And for golfers who struggle, he added, “hopefully it drives you in the offseason to get better so you’re not getting a 10 on every hole.”