Handicapping the golf courses

Constance “Pinky” Markey lives a life most golf enthusiasts can only imagine.

The former high school English teacher and former owner of Lexus of Westport has spent her days since 2011 rating some of the country’s most pristine golf courses as a women’s national course rater for Golfweek, a print magazine and online publication known for its Top 100 rankings.

The Greenwich resident — whose distinctive nickname, she says, came from her pink, “uncooked” appearance at birth — is also a course rater for the volunteer, Elmsford-based Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association (WMGA), which serves a 50-mile radius around New York City, including Westchester, Rockland and Fairfield counties and parts of New Jersey and Long Island.

“We rate the distance of the course, topography, how many hills and valleys it has, and visibility from approaches to green, to name a few,” Markey says. “We want to know what it looks like, feels like and acts like and what it’s like to play that course.”

Her two roles have taken her, usually with a five-to-10 person team, to some of golf’s most hallowed grounds, including Augusta National Golf Club (No. 5 on Golfweek’s classic course list), home of the Masters Tournament; Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey (No. 1 among Golfweek’s classic courses); and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, a series of courses along Alabama’s highways that Markey says is a poster example for a couple’s course.

At Golfweek — which ranks public and private courses throughout North America and the Caribbean — most ratings are determined by a 10-category system that includes memorability, variability, condition of greens, how well it compares to other courses and other mainly aesthetic features. If a course is flat, holds few trees and bunkers, or if it’s under 5,000 yards, it will likely receive a low rating.

Most overall ratings, she says, range from the low-60s to the mid-70s. On its website, the publication includes several Top 100 lists by state and category, most of which serve as selling points for national courses hoping to showcase themselves to potential members.

At the WMGA, “it’s a much more formal process,” Markey says. “Everything is about the numbers.”

The association looks for fairway bunkers, how much coverage there is around the green and hole visibility, to name a few criteria, all of which add or take away points from the total score.

Oftentimes, the 10-person rating team will split up into two teams of five to cover both the back and front nine of an 18-hole course.

Once the numbers are together, they are given to team captain Heidi Komoriya before they are entered in the organization’s computer database.

Founded in 1899, the WMGA is the second-oldest women’s golf association in the country and includes 202 clubs and more than 2,500 individual members.

In her role as a WMGA rater, Markey and her team recently “handicapped” the controversial, yet-to-be opened Trump Golf Links Ferry Point, a former Bronx toxic waste dump-turned-18-hole golf course a tee shot away from the Whitestone Bridge. It’s her most exciting gig of the year to date, she says, though her favorite course remains the Country Club of Fairfield, which she praises for its beautiful layout.

When Markey’s not rating courses — or spending time, and money, on her dream house, Whalerock, on Rhode Island (December 2014 WAGwit) — she’s on the links, often tops in competition. In June 2014’s Ladies Town Golf Tournament at the Griffith E. Harris Golf Course in Greenwich, Markey won the Senior Flight Championship with a round of 84. She was the first female member to be accepted to Greenwich Country Club whose parents were not also members.

Her husband of 30 years, Terry, whom she first met in the third grade, is a men’s course rater. The two often rate and play courses concurrently.

Says Terry Markey, “She lets me beat her every once in a while.”

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