SLOW PLAY – WHILE YOU’RE STILL YOUNG ENOUGH TO PLAY.
By Gary Reagan
The watchwords for speeding up play from the golf establishment are, “while we’re young”. I may not be young any longer but slow play is going to send me to an early grave. Slow play plagues golf and is recognized as the game’s most pernicious problem. Jack Nicklaus has suggested that 12 holes should constitute a full round. He has a point. Playing 12 holes using crossovers on an 18 hole course would speed golf rounds and make more efficient use of the courses already built. Are we ready to let 12 holes constitute a round? Are we ready for new courses to be built with only 12 holes? Only time will tell if shorter courses and playing 12 hole rounds will work, but until then, we have got to pick up the pace.
Players have a host of choices to speed play and I’ll deal with those later. I just read an ad for a senior golf association and one of the bylaws was that each player promised to play in four and a half hours or less. As John Boehner would say, “are you kidding me”? Taking four and a half hours to play a round of golf constitutes a death march. Four hours to play a round is way to slow as well.
Course managers, starters, rangers, some golf associations, and senior players themselves have accepted that four hours and in some cases four and a half hours to play 18 holes is ok. Four players using carts can play 18 holes in less than three and half hours. Two players using a cart can play 18 in one hour and forty five minutes. I have played 18 holes in one hour and forty five minutes many times with a young pro at my home course. The only caveat is that there cannot be a group in front of us holding things up.
When four hours to play 18 holes is used as a target for a foursome, that’s what you are going to get. Rounds will take four hours….at least. The rules of golf governing the pace of play, according to the USGA and The Royal and Ancient, state that a four ball or foursome should play 18 holes in no more than three hours and fifty minutes .The USGA and The R&A also state that a group should be less than one hole behind the group in front of them. This concept is also understood to mean that a group shall not, “lose contact “, with the group in front of them. The generally accepted pace of play in the U. S., at 4 hours, is nearly 10% slower that than called for by the rules of golf.
What can we do to eliminate slow play?
- The target for the pace of play should be less than three hours and fifty minutes.
- Everyone, that is course managers, pros, starters, rangers, groups of players , and individual players should promote the pace of play for foursomes at three hours and fifty minutes.
- Groups of players need to be aware of their position relative the group in front of them.
- Groups of players who find themselves one hole behind the group in front of them have lost contact with that group and must encourage faster groups behind them to play through.
- When a faster group behind yours asks to play through, be as gracious as you possibly can. I find this point to be particularly sensitive. A macho or defensive attitude toward a faster group which asks to play through is counterproductive and rude. Faster and more enjoyable rounds of golf are necessary to improve the golf experience for all golfers. Egomania, a defensive attitude, or displays of anger, are not welcome. Slow play is often the reason former players stop playing altogether.
- When you hit a shot witch looks like it may be out of bounds or lost, hit a provisional ball after informing playing partners of your intention to do so. The rules of the game allow five minutes to find a lost ball. In these situations use discretion. When you whack one into a bad place, just spend a couple of minutes looking for it and then play your provisional. You probably won’t find it anyway and if a couple of players in your group spend lots of time looking for balls, your group is going loose contact with the group in front of you.
- Begin to anticipate the type of shot and what club you are going to need as you approach your ball. Do not wait to begin this process until after you have reached the ball. I have found that the sooner I begin to feel and visualize a shot, the better I will hit it. To play well you must establish a rhythm in your game. Ask any touring pro or low handicap player about establishing a rhythm and they will tell you it is a must. Dithering over a shot makes you lose your rhythm and then doubt creeps into your mind, and we all know what doubt does to your swing.
- Play ready golf. When your group needs to speed up, agree with the members of your group, that you should play when you’re ready, not necessarily when you are farthest from the hole.
- Park your cart or place your bag on the side of the green which is closest to the path to the next tee.
- Begin to look at and feel putts while other players are chipping or putting before you. Again, spending lots of time reading and then striking putts slows your group down, puts tension in your body and probably doesn’t help you sink putts anyway.
- Play the tees which are appropriate for your skill level.
- Pick up the pace while you still feel young.
- When you are riding in a cart, drop the first player at his ball and then drive to the ball nearer the hole. Waiting to play each ball in turn and then both players making their way to the second ball slows play.
- Don’t record your scores when you on or near the green. Mark the card on the next tee box.
- Make it your practice through the green and on the green to be prepared and ready for the next shot or putt.
Gary Reagan is a freelance writer and a senior golfer. He can be reached by email at email@example.com