A Few Rules for Faster Play

Have you ever noticed that golfers tend to hate the group in front of them? It’s because that group is holding them up, at least in their minds. Real or imagined, slow golf sucks. If the group in front of you truly is holding you up, there’s no need to worry about the nuances of fast play. But if you’re the hold up, consider picking it up a bit. Here is a partial list of “rules” that if adhered to, will make the game proceed faster and everyone will be happier.


  1. DON’T PIDDLE! If you have already hit your shot and you are the only person still within range of the group behind you, DO NOT piddle with your clubs. DO NOT clean your club. DO NOT put its head-cover on. Get in the cart and move on. Believe it or not, the cart will operate properly while someone is holding a club. In fact, if you’re the passenger, you can clean your club and replace the head-cover while the cart is moving. When the cart comes to a stop, you can then put your now shiny club back into the bag.


  1. BE REALISTIC ON YARDAGE. Believe it or not, most golfers have the experience and knowledge to make a pretty good guess as to the distance from tee to pin when pulling up to the tee box. DO NOT casually mosey on up to the tee box, range finder in hand intent on reconnoitering the terrain. DO NOT lose sleep over whether or not the hole is 152 yards rather than 154 yards, especially when you hit your seven iron 150 plus or minus 20 yards. If you think that plus or minus two yards is going to make a difference, ask you caddie for his opinion. You obviously have one because you must be on the PGA Tour if you’re truly that precise in your shot making. Otherwise, increase the dosage on your medications for delusions of grandeur.


  1. MULTI-TASK. You see it all the time. Someone strolls up to the tee box, rangefinder in hand, but devoid of clubs. After taking readings worthy of a professional surveyor, the golfer now saunters back to the cart to select a club. Two heads may be better than one, but two trips take considerably more time. When you pull up to the tee box, you are given a number of clues. For example, the scorecard shows the yardage. The USGA approved stone monument in the ground generally has the yardage on it. A placard is frequently mounted on the ball washer or some other handy device. You may have played the hole the day before and can probably assume they haven’t added an additional two hundred yards to the hole. You can even go to the extreme and look at the pin and estimate its distance. Stunningly, humans can be pretty accurate in these situations. Now, take a club with you to the tee box! If you’re in doubt, take two clubs. In the worst case, take three – one longer, one shorter and your best guess. This applies to par three holes and to fairway approach shots. One trip is easier and faster than two or three.


  1. AVOID THE DRINK CART unless the course is backed up. If you’ve got an open hole in front of you and you stop at the cart, the beers you’re buying better be for the group behind you as a peace offering. Otherwise, wave them through or skip the libations.


  1. ABANDON RITUAL or at least cut down on it. Ritual has played a key role in people’s lives for eons. From religion to the Elks Lodge, ritual has played a part. Some golfers engage in more ritual before striking the ball than an exorcist expunging the demons … and with about as much success. Some of the observed ritual defies explanation.

I have seen (as have you) players who go through a full address and practice swing while facing the opposite direction from the hole. They already squandered twice as much time as a “fast” golfer before they even face the hole! Then some golfers not only push the limits of sanity, they blow through them at full throttle. Some stand behind the ball and extend their club pointing at the hole as if the club will somehow observe and learn the proper direction and whisper it to the ball at impact. One player I know actually “plumb-bobs” the hole. That’s not uncommon when you’re on the green, but when you’re 500 yards distant on the tee box, the meritorious effects of this action may be hard to discern. With all this, we haven’t yet even taken a stance!

We’re now fifteen seconds into the ritual since the tee was placed in the ground. (Note that “fast” golfers have generally teed it up, taken their stances, and made their swings in less than ten seconds.) It’s time to take a stance. Meticulous attention is made to the proper stance while the collective thoughts of the others in the group are focused on “ … finally, the S.O.B. is going to take a swing and we can play on.” Wrong! The stance now taken is solely for the purpose of taking one or two or three deliberate practice swings, none of which approximate the path, tempo or timing of the ultimate swing – should it ever come.

Finally, we can move up to the ball and take a stance. Signs of industry. Something might now happen.  All the years of practice, the lessons, the study, Golf Magazine and Golf Digest subscriptions, and the viewing of PGA tournaments on the television are finally about to coalesce in one elegant swing timed to perfection with a tempo that would make Bach swoon. But wait … there’s more.  Lay the shaft of the club across your thighs and make certain it still points to the hole. That’s certainly not out of the question given the amount of time that’s been diddled away getting to this point of near euphoria. Ah ha! The club points a half degree to the left. Good thing you checked. Now move one thigh forward or back; don’t move your feet. That’s because the one thing that doesn’t change during your swing is your legs. The feet could go anywhere.

Alright, get ready to swing. Oh, one last thing. Run through your metal checklist. Inside out? Check. Strengthen the grip? Check. Head steady? Check. Don’t over-swing? Check. Tempo, tempo, tempo. The swing’s a pendulum. Check. Lead with the left side? Check. Square the club face? Check. Pivot rather than sway? Check. Stand upright? Check. Attend to the rest of the checklist (see the diagram above for a partial list).

The only problem now is that you’ve been standing over the ball so damn long, you’re beginning to tremble as your muscles have become the area’s largest producer of lactic acid. You’ve forgotten which items on your list you omitted and which you checked twice. Subconsciously, you realize you only have room for one swing thought at a time while you have fifty-two of them on your list. At least one member of your group has dialed “9-1-1” while another is unwrapping the paddles of his portable defibrillator assuming you’ve died or at the very least, are in the midst of a grand mal seizure.

Finally, your body breaks loose from you muddled mind and takes it upon itself to execute some semblance of a golf swing. Those nearby who have not yet fallen asleep or gone to the clubhouse for a beer watch and now understand what David Feherty meant when he said, “His swing looks like an octopus falling from a tree.”

You’ve been on the tee box long enough to stake a legitimate “squatter’s rights” claim for title to the land. You’ve become subject to the “paralysis by analysis” demon and the only things you can utter after such lengthy preparation are pithy expressions like, “Oh shit!” and “Fore!”

If you take three practice swings before your ninety-five recordable swings, you have in effect played four rounds of golf. Is it any wonder you tend to fade at the end of the round?

Fast players typically take eight to ten seconds to tee it up and hit it. If you’re over fifteen seconds, you’re pushing it. If you’re over twenty seconds, you are a slow player. I have seen players exceed thirty seconds tee to take-off. That is grounds for homicide of the “justifiable” variety.

One final observation on this one – Have you ever noticed slow players rarely think they’re slow?

If the ritual becomes excessive, the results are generally not commensurate with the pre-swing efforts. Consider throwing an extra ten in the collection plate if you’re a church goer. Then you can just walk up to the ball, glance at the green, and swing!

Author: h. Alton Jones


4 thoughts on “A Few Rules for Faster Play”

  1. Your suggestions are valid.


    I’d enforce a penalty for more than three minutes looking for a ball. Am I slow, maybe? However I’ve become warn out helping people look for balls in the rough. Many times the entire foursome is in the rough wasting many many minutes looking. So, nobody is now moving along. How about, “someone” hit in there so “someone” must find his own ball in three minutes or get out and take a drop. How to avoid this is to not hit it in the rough. All evens out unless the player just can’t hit the ball straight.


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