Don’t Hurry, Just Play Faster – An Opinion

Old GolferIt’s been a long time since my days in Northern California where a weekend round of golf was fast if it was played in less than five hours. Slow play defeats many golfers. It makes it difficult to maintain focus and tempo. It’s tiring when you spend more time in the sun waiting for the group in front to move along. Someone once asked rhetorically as we waited on a tee box, “Have you ever noticed you always hate the group in front of you?” Every bad shot becomes the fault of those who are holding you up. A pleasant day becomes drudgery.

To put tact aside for a moment, extremely slow play is inconsiderate, if not simply rude. In some cases, slow play comes from a lack of knowledge. In a few cases, I suspect the slow players are just attempting to satiate their need to be the center of attention. In other cases, some people seem to live in a constant state of oblivion. In her later years, my mother would walk into a grocery store, stop in the middle of the entrance blocking everyone’s way while she tried to remember why she’d come to the store in the first place. Her spirit lives on in a few golfers. If there are two or three holes open in front of your group, you’re standing in the grocery store doorway. Pick up the pace.

The trick is to play faster without hurrying. The little things like lining up your putt before it’s your turn, taking the appropriate clubs to the tee box when you go up to get a read on distance (rather than having to walk back to the cart to get them), leaving your towel, clubs, etc. on the back side of the green rather than where you have to walk back toward the fairway to retrieve them. Plumb-bobbing from three feet really does nothing other than make other golfers wonder if maybe you’re a club or two short of a full bag. If you can’t see that the putt breaks hard to the right from three feet, you’re probably going to miss it anyway. There are countless little things to reduce “cycle time”.

The USGA has a series of videos designed to help play move along faster. I encourage you to view them for their entertainment value. Hope springs eternal.

From the USGA – Pace of Play…  From the USGA – Ready to PlayFrom the Royal and Ancient – Pace of PlayFrom the USGA – Playing Through

The Club and the Men’s Golf Association can take steps to improve the pace of play. It is certainly in the Club’s interest. With a better pace of play, more golfers can play in a given time period. This translates into income. With a reasonable pace of play, more players enjoy their golfing experience. A happier membership is far more inclined to return to the club, not to mention recommend it to others.

There has been some discussion that by establishing a set time for completing a round, all problems will be remedied. For example, proclaiming that a four and half hour pace is acceptable. Nothing could be farther from the truth, especially if it is the only criteria used to measure pace of play. “They’re on pace” is, in some cases, a realistic rationalization. However, in most cases, it is nothing short of nonsensical. A seven thousand yard course does not play the same as a six thousand yard course. A round where players are restricted to the cart paths does not have the same pace as a round where players may go directly to their balls. A round where each player has a separate cart will have a faster pace of play than a round where there are two players in every cart. A round where it’s raining like hell with forty degree temperatures will not be played at the same pace as a round under sunny skies and seventy-five degree temperatures.

A four and a half hour round is on the long end of acceptable in the worst of conditions (the USGA says anything over four hours is not acceptable). However, no one can put forth a cogent argument that it is acceptable under all or even a majority of conditions. When there are three open holes between one foursome and the next, it is an insult to the intelligence of the groups behind to suggest “They’re on pace.”

There are many things that can be done to mitigate the problem. But, before anything can be done, there first has to be recognition that a problem exists. If you agree or disagree, press the “Comments” button below and share your opinion.

Author: h. Alton Jones


5 thoughts on “Don’t Hurry, Just Play Faster – An Opinion”

  1. I only started playing golf at the age of 40….I considered that golf was “an old man’s game”!
    I was wrong, but I’ve aged more rapidly since I started playing! It seems to me that slow play is endemic to an “older” age group. As President/Captain of my London, England golf club, I attempted to speed up play, especially at weekends. I conducted three surveys over a period of five months, which revealed that the groups with the highest average age were the slowest players and the those with the lowest average age were the quickest – no surprise there! But the duration of the playing round between fastest and slowest was a staggering 58 minutes! Surprisingly, the difference in average handicap of each group made only marginal difference (11 minutes).
    So there is synergy between old golfing fogeys both sides of the ocean. As a ‘faster golfer’, despite my advanced years, I’m as frustrated as Howard and all my like-minded pals. Last week, I told my group that I’d “lost the will to live” after waiting an interminable time on each and every shot; all of us were affected. But what do you say to the 6 or 7 guys (all friends) who continually fall behind their groups in front? Sanctions won’t work. Nor do incentives.
    At Gainey this Fall, slow play has been exacerbated by the f*****g nine-inch grass in the arroyos!
    Every Friday we see quartets in the disaster zones, all seeking 1, 2 or 3 team balls as assiduously (and ineffectively) as novices seeking gold nuggets in the Klondike. Our rounds have increased by 15-20 minutes and seemingly by 2-3 shots on Dunes and Arroyo courses. #9 Dunes is clearly the worst for delays, averaging 20/25 minutes to complete the hole, according to one of the pros.
    I’ve been a member at Gainey since 1990 and have heard every possible excuse for the situation; though every one is just b******t; members’ enjoyment should come first in EVERY decision, not the superintendant’s work schedules or agronomist’s recommendations.
    The MGA (many of whose officers agree with my comments) has let us down this year in this particular area…..
    Despite all the foregoing, I am generally a very happy golfer in our ‘Kildare Group’!
    Slow play will continue to irritate most of us, but when you compare it to 18 holes at Pebble Beach, costing at least $600 and lasting a typical 5 hour 45 minutes while an Asian foursome ahead of us take a million snapshots of themselves and their surroundings, a 4 hour round with good friends at Gainey seems almost idyllic!


  2. Sir H. Alton – I am in complete agreement with our posting. Golf starts to become less fun for me when I can see that the group in front is pulling away and the group behind is pushing us. One of the reasons I am not playing right now is because the cart path only rule makes me a slow player and I don’t want to hold up my group. I don’t have an easy answer for speeding up play but here are a couple of ideas that require some boldness on each player’s part.
    When you realize that your group is falling behind you can make a general comment to the entire foursome that “we are falling behind so let’s do what we can to speed up play”. That depersonalizes it for those who don’t want to hear that they are slow.

    Know the game you are playing and, if your group is falling behind, pick up if you are out of the hole – even if you are curious to find out if you can make that 40 ft. putt for a triple.

    If you know you are a slow player, ask others who seem to be faster players how they keep their pace up. We can all learn something new. Personally I would like to be told if I am playing slow so I can get back in the good graces of those I am playing with.



  3. Howard I want to thank you for your post. And I want to thank the others for their input as well, including you Mr. Forde. This is a discussion we should continue to have now and into the future.

    If you have had the fortune or misfortune of playing golf with me, you know I’m not very patient player (I also don’t like the grounds crew working the fairways in the middle of men’s day either). And that isn’t to say, I’m not guilty of searching the arroyo in hopes my ball is findable in the hazards. I have been known to be wayward off the tee. However, I like to walk to my ball and hit. And it’s not uncommon for me to hit out of order, because I don’t like waiting. Ready golf is far more enjoyable to me. And it is probably more enjoyable to some others as well.

    I’ve resigned myself to our current reality; cart path only makes slow players slower. I just exacerbated the problem of slow play. It also makes deliberate players seem slow, when they do just find under less restrictive course access conditions. Cart path only conditions places a premium on ready golf. The gentlemanly standards should be disregarded, it doesn’t matter who is away. Hit when ready (you should always be ready).

    If we all just played ready golf, the rounds would be a little faster. Playing each shot 3-10 seconds faster per person we could drop 15-30 minutes per round. It doesn’t take much to speed ourselves up.

    Just some random thoughts from an MGA board member…….


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