Our biggest algorithm update in years

15 april 2019
min. läs
Ruben van der Zaag
It’s no secret that we closely monitor our review algorithm continuously. This means, are our ratings still okay? Are we (and you) still happy with the overall rating? And can the algorithm handle certain review patterns (like fraud or review boosting)? From time to time we make minor tweaks to the algorithm, but this time, we felt the algorithm needed a big update and that’s why we’ve just launched our biggest algorithm update since 2012.
Photo by Markus Spiske
Algorithm update (Photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

Quick summary of the update

This is going to be quite a long blogpost. So let’s start with the conclusion of our algorithm changes. After that you can decide for yourself if you want to know the data behind the changes.
By updating the algorithm:
  • Our rankings will be more up-to-date and recent 
  • The rating for the golf course becomes an even more important element
  • Members who write complete reviews are rewarded 
  • Members will keep their contribution points over time 
  • Golf courses have to work harder to keep an active ranking
Want to keep reading? Below is an explanation of what our Algorithm is. You can also skip directly to the various changes we have made to the algorithm:

What is the Leadingcourses algorithm?

Nowadays we feel that Leadingcourses.com is much more than just a review platform, although it still is our biggest passion and reason to exist. When we started years ago, our platform was really only about gathering golfers’ reviews about golf courses. To do so, we needed to think of a way to create a honest and transparent rating system for golf clubs. Below a quick explanation how this works. 

When a golfer rates a golf club, they do so by giving a grade for 8 different items:
  • The general impression of the golf club
  • The course(s) played
  • The facilities (practice facilities, parking, etc.)
  • Course maintenance (greens, fairways, tee-boxes, etc.)
  • Clubhouse (appearance, atmosphere, etc.)
  • Value for money
  • Hospitality
  • Surroundings
Some people think that the sum of these 8 items divided by 8 gives you the rating for that specific review. That’s not correct. We’ve always felt that certain items (like the golf course) should have more weight than others. We also believe that older reviews are less relevant than new reviews (as things might have changed over time) and that some people are more knowledgeable and credible when rating a golf course.
Monitoring our algorithm is key (Photo: Chris Liverani)
That is why we created a formula that takes all of this into account, an algorithm. Our rating is one of our main assets and therefore we closely monitor and guard that rating algorithm. We have several mechanisms in place to check if our rating is still correct and robust. We also make sure that our rating algorithm can detect and withstand any fraud or abuse. As our rating is becoming more and more important, people will try to find ways to influence our rating. And it’s our job to make sure our rating is correct at all times.

What we have changed to the algorithm

When we thoroughly reviewed the algorithm we decided to make changes to the following items:
  1. Contribution points
  2. Completeness of reviews
  3. Weight of individual items
  4. Depreciation over time

Contribution Points

When a member writes a review about a golf club, he gets points for his review. Points used to depreciate over time, so people had to keep contributing to stay at the same level (beginner/bronze/silver/gold). We asked ourselves: “Is it fair that people who join Leadingcourses today and write about their experiences, have more points than older members whose points have already depreciated?” The answer: No.
So, from now on a member will keep the points he received when writing the review(s). This means that more golfers will have a higher status which will have an impact on the overall rating. 

A golf club also gets points for every review they get. Based on the number of (total) points, a golf club will have an active (orange) or inactive (grey) ranking. Contribution points for clubs will always keep depreciating so our information stays relevant.
Profile completeness
Members also get points for completing their profile. The more complete the profile, the better we can help golfers find the courses that are best suited for them. Because we added some extra fields it was possible to go from a beginner to a bronze user status just by filling in all the fields in your profile. We believe this is not fair, so we amended the number of points you get per filled in field in your profile.

Uploading photos
Adding photos to your review also gives you extra points. We found out however, that some people upload way to many photos with their reviews. We are not kidding when we tell you that some users upload an average of 70 – 100 photos per review. One member actually uploaded 178 photos with one single review . This behavior is not really helping other golfers, so we wanted to stimulate golfers to pick out the most relevant ones.

“One member actually uploaded 178 photos with one single review”

Therefor we decided to change the amount of points for photos drastically. You can still upload as many photos as you want, but you will only get points for the first 10 photos per club you upload. We hope this helps golfers to pick the best or most relevant photos of a golf club while preventing people to upload every random photo. As all changes are implemented retroactively this will have a negative effect on the points of users who have uploaded a lot photos per golf club.
Points per Reputation
Members of Leadingcourses.com can increase their reputation (Beginner/Bronze/Silver/Gold/Pro/Expert/Ambassador) by writing reviews, adding photos and receiving likes on their reviews. We believe that the more someone contributes, the better he is capable to rate and compare a golf club with others.

In the old situation the weight of statuses varied from 50 points for beginners, to 500 points for Pro’s and Experts. In the new situation the weight of statuses varies from 50 points to 300 points. That way a golf club cannot get an active ranking just by having 3 reviews of users with the highest 'gold' status.

Weight of review per reputation:
  • Beginner: 50 points
  • Bronze: 150 points
  • Silver: 250 points
  • Gold/Ambassador/Pro/Expert: 300 points

Completeness of reviews

“Good course”

Sometimes we get reviews with only one or two words. Although we do approve them (not everybody is a Hemmingway), we do appreciate it when reviews are a little bit more informative and complete. Reviews are meant to tell other golfers how your experience at a certain golf club was. Based on your review, another golfer might decide to play at that golf club. That’s why we had a close look at the completeness factor of a review.

In the old situation, a member could get 50 or 100 points for his review. 50 points when the review had less than 100 characters, 100 points when the review had more than 100 characters.

In the new situation every aspect of the review gives you points. So you get points for:
  • The overall rating
  • The course rating(s)
  • The sub item rating(s)
  • Your handicap while playing
  • Date played
  • Motivation length
So the more complete your review is, the more it will help others and the more points you will receive.

Weight of individual items

A small but very important change we made is the weight of each individual item in a review. As we said in the beginning, some people think that the sum of the 7 items you score a golf club on divided by 7 gives you the rating for that specific review. That’s not the case.

The golf course on the other hand is the most important item in a review, because that is what it is all about. Without going into individual specifics, we can say that in the new situation the weight of the golf course is a little bit bigger than it was and that makes it the most important of the 7 items. Also a championship course is now more important than an executive course. We do not want a club to receive a lower rating just because they also offer a par 3 course or pitch & putt course. It’s actually great for the sport if they do!

We already mentioned that some items are more important than others. Value for money for instance is a difficult one, as a € 100 green fee might be a lot of money for one person, but mere peanuts for another. That’s why it only counts for a small percentage in the total weight. Value for money does not really ‘say’ something about the course or club, it just indicates that you feel that the price is right (or not). 
Not all items have the same weight (Photo: Tingey Injury Law Firm)

Depreciation over time (for golf clubs)

To make sure we stay relevant, we depreciate the points over time for reviews given to a golf club. That way golf clubs are motivated to keep gathering reviews by golfers so the rating stays accurate. This is very important as golfers will base their choice on the ratings of a golf club. 

Let’s say a golf club received their first 6 reviews in 2011. Their ranking went from inactive (grey) to active (orange). If a golfers would visit the profile page of that club in 2011, they would be able to make a solid choice based on those 6 reviews. But what if the golf club didn’t gather any more reviews since then? Are those 6 reviews still relevant in 2019? We believe not.

And that’s why reviews depreciate over time. It has always been like that, but this time we’ve made the depreciation go even faster to stay as relevant as possible. In the old situation the review points would stay at 100% for the first year. After the first year – and every year to come – the review would loose 30% of its total points. In the new situation the review still stays at 100% for the first year, but then looses 50% every year after that.
So if a golf club doesn’t get any new reviews, in time they will loose their active ranking and become less visible on Leadingcourses.com as golf clubs with an active ranking are shown before clubs with an inactive ranking in our country and region listings.


By updating the algorithm:
  • Our rankings will be more up-to-date and recent 
  • The golf course becomes the most important item of the review 
  • Members who write complete reviews are rewarded 
  • Members will keep their contribution points over time 
If you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to comment below or to send us an email via our contact form on the website!
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Ruben van der Zaag

Ruben van der Zaag

Marketing & Communications @ Leadingcourses.com. Loves sports, music and good food, in no particular order.
Missa inte våra erbjudanden på utslagstider, nya artiklar och allt som har med golf att göra genom att ta del av vårt nyhetsbrev.
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