Twenty-three Ways Golf is Better than Classroom Assessment and Grading

By Ken O’Connor

I am a keen golfer and I sometimes think about how much better golf is at assessment and grading than what we have often done in the classroom. Let me list the ways as I see them.

  1. The scorecard tells you what the local rules are and the distance and par for every hole. It also tells you the relative difficulty of the course and of each hole on the course.
  2. The target is always clear because there is often a map of the hole beside the tee and, except on the odd hole with a blind tee shot, you can usually see the whole hole from the tee. Along the way there are markers at 200, 150, and 100 yards from the center of the green and even more accurate distances on sprinkler heads. Most courses use different colored flags to indicate whether the pin position that day is in the front, middle or back of the green.
  3. The rules allow the use of technology to obtain precise distances through the use of golf specific GPS devices and laser measuring equipment.
  4. You are allowed to use fourteen different clubs according to the length and type of shot required – and your personal preference/ability.
  5. Golfers of different abilities can play each hole from longer or shorter distances. The club where I play has four sets of tee markers that can be configured to play the course with eight different total distances.
  6. Your handicap is based on the best ten scores from your last twenty rounds; this recognizes consistency while emphasizing more recent performance.
  7. For handicap purposes anomalous scores on individual holes are not included. This is done through a process called Equitable Stroke Control whereby, for example, a golfer with a handicap between 10 and 19 never records a score higher than 7 on any hole for handicap purposes.
  8. After each round you enter your score into a specially programmed computer and if your score is outside the normal range for your handicap the computer asks you to confirm that the score is correct.
  9. You usually score individually but you can play in groups but group scores are never used for determining your handicap.
  10.  The handicap system allows golfers of very different abilities to enjoy playing together or to compete against one another because the scratch golfer is hoping for a birdie but is satisfied with par, the mid-handicap golfer (me) is hoping for par (and the occasional birdie) but is satisfied with a bogey, and the high handicap golfer is hoping for a bogey but is satisfied with a double bogey.
  11. Most good courses have a driving range, a short game practice area and a practice putting green so you can warm up before playing and practice between the days on which you go out on the course.
  12.  Practice doesn’t count as part of your score but the better and the more you practice the more likely it is that you will have a good score.
  13. You don’t have to play the full 18 holes.
  14.  Scoring and playing golf is based on honesty and self-regulation.
  15. You keep track of your score on each hole and your total score but you can and should keep records of various aspects of the game, for example, fairways hit, greens in regulation, number of putts, number of approach shots, total length of putts made, number of times in bunkers, how many bunker shots.
  16.  If you have a lesson from a professional they may ask you to bring your scorecard for your last few rounds. They will glance at the overall scores but they will focus on the details described in #15 because this shows the areas for improvement that should be the focus of the lesson.
  17. No golf pro has ever given me a score for a lesson; they give descriptive feedback in small chunks, never focus on more than three things at a time, and encourage self-assessment of what is working and what is not working because they know you have to be able to self-correct when they are not with you on the course.
  18. On a difficult course or a course you are playing for the first time you can employ a caddy to guide you around the course and give advice especially about putting.
  19.  Players with differing physical capabilities or preferences can walk the course or ride a golf cart.
  20.  You usually play with others but you can play on your own
  21. You can play for fun or you can play competitively.
  22.  There are many different forms of competition – fun to serious, individual or group.
  23. Refreshments are available while you play – either from a cart that comes around the course or at the half way house.

If you any suggestions or revisions to this list please share them with me.

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2 responses to “Twenty-three Ways Golf is Better than Classroom Assessment and Grading

  1. Many thanks for posting this. It’s very useful.

  2. Pingback: Faculty PD: Assessment Principles & Practices | i-Biology | Reflections

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