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Dawdling golfers aren’t helping grow the game


Despite all that has been written, blogged and spoken over the last few years, the pace of play is still too slow at most golf courses. I have written about this before, but the issue continues to linger. The top three reasons why people quit golf or aren’t interested in trying it are: it takes too much time, it’s too expensive, and it’s too frustrating. We can’t do much about the last two, but legions of golfers don’t seem to comprehend that they can’t play at a snail’s pace.

            Part of the difficulty stems from golf courses that are far too long for the average player. One golf industry executive, Barney Adams, former CEO of Adams Golf, thinks a round of golf is lengthened by designers who improperly create golf courses that are not golfer-friendly, by over-watering American courses, and by course set-ups that are much too long for the average golfer. Adams has a point, by my analysis tells us the problem goes much deeper and is much more complicated, because there isn’t one primary cause of golf played in slow motion.

            Let’s start with what golfers see on television. Heck, even Jack Nicklaus has said that watching golf on television is like watching paint dry. The PGA Tour, as televised weekly, is virtually encouraging slow play by recreational golfers by the way they run their tournaments. On his flat screen at home Joe Hacker is watching Jon Rahm walking 100 yards from the fairway up to the green to check out the details, and then walking back to his ball. He’s also watching Lydia Ko stalking her par putt from seven different angles. That’s Joe’s frame of reference. TV has created slow play by example and default. They don’t seem to realize it’s dreadful for golf.

            Golf courses have tried using signs, advisories, education and cajoling to speed up play. Notices on carts and other tactics to get golfers moving seem to go unheeded. Even marshals and golf course “ambassadors” have little influence on folks who think it’s their rightful entitlement to poke along as long as they bloody well please if they have paid their money. Resort courses generally do a somewhat better job policing dawdling golfers, principally because they’re keenly interested in two things: getting golfers on and off the course (think turning tables at a restaurant), and making sure their guests have a good golfing experience. It should be understood, however, that most major resorts train their course marshals rigorously and empower them to enforce pace of play policies, something most other courses often fail to do.

            Still, resort courses don’t have to deal with what I call the “notorious groups.” These are the groups (usually several foursomes) that play ego-driven games for money and don’t care who they hold up or inconvenience. They’re like idiot drivers who don’t use their turn signals and cut you off, not caring who they infuriate. The bad-boy bozos should be put on the clock, and their groups relegated to starting times that don’t bother us faster players. Providing electric carts that shut off when you drive slightly off the beaten path is fine, but what we really need is carts that won’t go after the four-hour allotted golf round time has ended. Golfers are customarily charged “green fees” for a certain number of holes, like nine or eighteen.  But maybe they should be charged for four hours “course usage” and ushered away when the time has expired.

            Here are some suggestions that can help you speed up your pace of play. First of all, walk faster. I see too many folks just shuffling along not noticing that there are golfers waiting. Play “ready golf.” Be prepared to play before your turn; don’t wait ‘til it’s your turn to figure out what you’re going to do. If you’re ready to play hit it, don’t wait. A fivesome should never hold up a foursome. Make your “lost” ball search time limit two minutes. If you suspect your ball is out of bounds hit a provisional ball. Limit your practice swings to two, not five or six. Put your macho ego on hold and play the proper tees, mostly shorter. Don’t bother lining up your fifth putt.