by Rich McLean, Golf Canada Referee
If you play tournament golf at most levels, or even as a member at a club that does this as part of their regular maintenance, you’ll probably notice that the course you’re competing at has a few more bells-and-whistles in the setup, and a lot more folks in shirts bearing association logos than you would normally see during your regular club rounds.
What you see at the course is the result of hours of pre-tournament and event day work put in by committee members that you will see at the course on tournament day, such as starters, scorers and referees. And, in the case of some Provincial and National events, this prep will be done by a dedicated team of people assigned to course setup. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to get the course ready for competitors, long before the first tee peg goes into the ground, and also on the ground during the event.
Committee members (the vast majority of which are volunteers) will physically scout a course in the days, weeks or even months before a tournament, and be in contact with club owner/operators and superintendents to literally get the lay of the land. Courses will change over time by either natural, or artificial means, so it’s important to do the homework so we know what the players will be facing come tournament time.
Among the more noticeable things you’ll see at a tournament-prepped course are painted lines, clearly identifying things like penalty areas, ground under repair, dropping zones, etc. Or maybe you’ll see more stakes indicating the presence of out-of-bounds. All of these bits of polish are the result of a committee member taking the time to do the work so that players and referees can more easily identify these areas, and make life on the course as easy as possible. With the advent of expanded use of penalty areas since 2019, this has become even more important, as well as time consuming. For example, eQuinelle Golf Club in Kemptville, Ontario requires more than 2 full cases of red marking paint to be laid down around the course to identify penalty areas. Not to mention other paint colours like yellow and white. That’s a lot of paint, and it takes hours to do.
Then we have things like tee markers and hole positions to place. A lot of consideration goes into setting yardages and hole locations to find that balance between fair and challenging, without going overboard, especially when an event will have players of different skill levels or ages competing over the same course.
Now we get to the actual tournament days. At the front end, you’ll have tournament registration people who’ll get players checked-in and provide them with important information prior to tee time. Then you’ll have starters who are responsible for keeping track of players and getting them out on the course at the appointed times. You may also see spotters who are there on certain holes to assist players with finding errant shots to help keep things moving along.
After your round you’ll see the folks at the scoring area who take the time to verify the player’s hole scores and get them posted for all to see. Scorers are also integral in relaying any scoring or rules issues to the committee so that any questions can be resolved before a player signs their card to make it official.
Out on the course, you may even see volunteers that are in charge of tracking pace of play to help ensure that all competitors are getting around the course as efficiently as possible.
Finally, there’s the course maintenance staff. The hard working individuals who are up before dawn to make sure you have a great course to compete on.
All of these people, many of them communicating and watching behind the scenes, are working hard to make sure that your round goes as smoothly and distraction-free as possible.
Next time you’re teeing it up in a tournament, set some time aside to thank those people who are there to help you get the most out of your rounds. Believe me, your recognition is appreciated.
By the way, notice that I’ve barely mentioned the referees? That’s because you folks already know why we’re out there 😉