What is the Hacker’s Rating System?

Ever seen a rating by another golf publication and wondered how they came about that rating? What makes a 5-Star Course anyway??? Well, we often wonder the same thing. We enjoy being different. We want you to know what we look for, and we reveal what it takes to be a great course by "Hacker's Guide Standards."

Our Rating System evaluates 60 specific (on and off course) elements of a golf course from 5 core categories and scores those elements on a scale of 1-10. Those 60 elements are then "weighted" in accordance with the significance of that specific element. (i.e. - The playing conditions of the course are weighed with more significance than the variety of items in the pro shop.) While we mostly looks at a golf course from the perspective of the “hacker” or modestly skilled player ( ) we place considerable emphasis on the beauty, design, uniqueness and the fun factors of a course.

A perfect score in all categories would be 1000 points. While not impossible to attain it's not possible to attain. (Just nod.) Even Whistling Straits wouldn't be a perfect course for a hacker. There is, after all, a lot more to a great golf course than a costly green fee. That's not saying they wouldn't score really high though... even a hacker appreciates a course of such amazing design! Right? Okay, maybe.

The reviews and ratings of each course were completed by a team of nearly 100 volunteers ( Team Hacker ) dilligently screened and selected from almost 3,000 applicants over the past 3 years.

We are very detail oriented, which the courses tend to appreciate. (The good ones anyway. The bad ones tend to hate our honesty.)

Here are the 5 categories we rate with a brief description of the elements considered in each category:

Hospitality (18%) = 180 points

What is the quality of social interaction and guest service? (Food, beverage, pro shop, course control, etc.) Does the course host leagues, accommodate junior golfers, provide instruction and/or have all the basic (or perhaps even additional) amenities? Also evaluates the quality of a course website, the tee time reservation process, and the accommodations made for female golfers.

Playability (23%) = 230 points

Primarily from the perspective of an 18+ handicapper. ("Bogey golfer") Evaluates the degree of difficulty of the course design and how it impacts genders, age groups and/or skill levels of golfers. Also considers the condition and amount of hazards, care of rough, walking vs. riding options as well as a strong emphasis on tee box and hole-to-hole signage, scorecard details and distance measurement systems. (GPS or otherwise.)

Facilities (18%) = 180 points

What do you get off the course? Examines the clubhouse, the logic of the property layout and cleanliness. Food service options, practice areas, quantity and quality of restrooms vs. locker rooms, pro shop quality/variety and general off course experience/atmosphere are all additional focal points of this category.

Conditions (23%) = 230 points

What is the overall condition of the golf course? What about the tee boxes, greens, fairways, cart paths and hazards individually? How nature-friendly is the course? Strong emphasis on pace of play, speed and design of the greens. Props go out to course superintendents in make the most out of the real estate they were given.

Value (18%) = 180 points

6 of the 12 elements have to do with cost: Of round, cart, practice, food & beverage, etc. "Little” courses can stand on equal ground with the “famed and fortunes.” Who gives the most for the least? A course relying on its reputation (to charge $200 a round) can be knocked to its knees by the municipal beauty next door at ¼ the cost to play. Balanced with all the cost considerations are the factors that make a round valuable for most of us: Signature holes, great atmosphere, beauty, fun and the lack of “buyer’s remorse.” Those are our values.

Courses that scored in the Top 10% in each category have been given a Hacker’s Favorite Award for 2010 & 2011 (depending upon which State was rated).  In the opinion of our Team Hacker raters, these courses represent the best courses in  their respective categories and deserve all the accolades they receive.