We Hold This Truth to Be Self-Evident …

I am NOT a slow player.

That is pretty much the refrain heard from all golfers, especially the slow ones. But … if you’re not the slow player, then who is that slow player? Him! Of course! Who else?

Obviously, someone’s estimate of his (or her) pace of play is in error. Here are a couple tricks for determining who that pokey player might be.

Assuming that statistically, one out of four players is “slow”, look around your foursome. If the other three golfers are not slow, then it’s you.

Look around your foursome. If the group in front of you isn’t impeding your pace of play and no one in your group is hitting the ball, then it’s you. Hit the damn ball. Play “ready-golf”. Someone, for crying out loud, someone hit the damn ball.

If you’re walking up to the tee box without a club or two, but with your range-finder in hand, then it’s you. Hit the damn ball. You can’t hit the damn ball without a club.

If you have more than one hole open in front of you (assuming someone teed off on the first hole in front of you), then your group is slow. Refer to the suggestions above to identify the offending player or players. But while you’re going through that process of elimination, hit the damn ball.

The secret to playing faster golf is not to run off the greens. Play “ready golf”. It’s as simple as “hit the damn ball.”

Slow players penalize the others in the group. They trigger the angst of those waiting for them to finish and prompt deep philosophical contemplation and esoteric questions about reality and “What the hell can be taking them so long?” For some golfers, the question of “Why are you slow?” gets broken into two separate questions. The first – “Why?” This has been pondered by thinkers for eons and remains without a definitive answer. The second – “Are you slow?” The answer is clearly, “Yes”. Hit the damn ball.

What can be done to improve the pace-of-play and make our players happy? For those habitually waiting in the Acacia Lounge for others to finish, a great many suggestions have been put forth. I offer some of them for your deliberation and comment. I also try to help you respond by presenting a survey and ask you to cast your vote. To vote, cast your votes in the survey to the right and click the “Vote” button.

Recommendation #1: A common suggestion is to penalize each and every player in the offending group one or two strokes. If we assume a standard of a four hour round, a player has to cover each one hundred yards of golf course in well under four minutes. Assuming a group finishes on a 500 yard, par five hole … if it finishes more than twenty minutes behind the group in front of it, we have an instance of slow play. A penalty of one stroke on the final hole is assessed. It can and will be argued that the entire group shouldn’t be penalized for the actions of one slow player. It can also be argued that the three faster players should be doing all within their power to move the slower player along. This could be defined as the “Too Bad Tad” rule which roughly translates into “it sucks to be you”. Incidentally, the rule can be uniformly administered as follows: When entered into the scoring computer, there is a hidden time stamp put on each record. The computer can easily be programmed to sound the alarm and assess the penalty when the score of one group is entered more than twenty minutes later than the score of the previous group.

Recommendation #2: Any group finishing more than twenty minutes behind is assessed a fine of $5.00 per player that is put into the prize money pot. This suffers from a perhaps minor drawback in that the offending slow player could win a skin with a high face value attributable to the fines levied against his faster playing partners. This objection can arguably be countered by citing the “Too Bad Tad” rule above.

Recommendation #3: A group finishing late (by whatever definition we adopt) becomes responsible for the drink tabs of the group in front of it. This option has merit by virtue of the fact that it not only incents faster play in the slow group, it also encourages faster play in the group in front, especially if members of that group are “libatiously accomplished”, i.e., of Irish or Welsh descent. If we stack the deck by putting the O’Malleys, O’Conners, McCartys, Joneses and O’Sullivans in the first groups, not only do Acacia’s profit go up, we also will enter the era of two-and-a-half hour golf rounds.

Recommendation #4: Create a rating system for golfers within the J-Golf group. Each of us is rated by our peers and will fall into one of five (A through E) categories. Your rating will be done anonymously, but will be public. If you don’t like being rated as a “D” pace player, hit the damn ball. The rating can then be used to assign tee times, pairings, etc. When you think about it, this system is already in place; it’s just not formalized. Most everyone knows who’s fast and who’s slow. I’m constantly inundated with requests (that shall remain private) about not being paired with slower players or not putting slower players toward the front of the group. I try to take such requests into consideration, but my job would be made much easier, if slow players would just “hit the damn ball”.

Recommendation #5: Do nothing – just keep it the way it is. It has been said that everyone needs a villain. As long as some of our players wander around the course in a semi-comatose state trying to remember if he put on matching socks (or any socks at all), we’ll all have ready-made villains. They will continue to cause us to arrive late for dinner engagements or leave the “scoring tent” without knowing match results. We will continue to bitch about waiting for the last group to arrive. We will continue to hear that ubiquitous sarcastic refrain as a group enters the building, “Did you stop for lunch?”

Cast your vote and/or submit additional suggestions via the “Comments” function of this site. Consider ways to improve your pace-of-play or to tactfully (or not) encourage your playing partners to get the lead out, but above all else … Hit the Damn Ball!

(You might want to also review this post for additional tips on playing faster)

Golf Scorekeeper’s Primer

golf bobbiesWhat follows is applicable to our immediate golf group. It is recommended for all golf groups. It’s a combination of policy and “The Law” of the USGA Handicap System. If you find yourself keeping score in our regular golf group, please make certain you are familiar with these guidelines and adhere to them rigorously.

We putt everything out – all the way out. A ball that stops a quarter inch from the hole MUST be putted INTO the hole. Admittedly, few (with the possible exception of this writer) has more than a one-in-a-million chance of missing that putt, but it still must be putted into the hole.

Why? Because if there is ever an exception to the rule, then we have tacitly accepted “exceptions”. Once we accept one exception, we have opened Pandora’s Box and it becomes a question of “What is an acceptable exception?” If a quarter inch putt is forgiven, then it becomes a half inch putt, then one inch, then four, then twelve, thirty and the collapse of the rules is complete and our system is poisoned. Putt them out.

On to scorekeeping …

If someone fails to put the ball into the hole, a scorekeeper is duty bound to (1) record what in the opinion of the scorekeeper is the player’s “most probable” score and (2) denote that score with a “X” placed by it on the card. The “X” (depending upon the game format) will be construed as a disqualification (in the event of individual stroke play) or the highest score imaginable in a team game or Stableford format.

We’re still operating under the “benevolent dictator rule”. If someone absentmindedly picks up a two inch putt either because he’s new to the group and doesn’t understand the rules or he carries the evolutionary remnants of bad gimme habits, the scorekeeper MAY in his sole discretion allow the player to replace his ball on the spot from which it was lifted and complete the hole with no penalty.

“Most probable” score or “ESC” (equitable stroke control) score. The scorekeeper should record the MOST PROBABLE score. Even though a player with a course handicap of nineteen cannot post a hole score greater the seven, the score can (and should) be adjusted at the time of posting into the GHIN system.

A couple of questions and answers may help eliminate any confusion.

  1. A player’s sixth shot comes to rest two inches from the hole. He slaps it away and says “That’s a seven.” What’s the scorekeeper to record?

The scorekeeper writes down a seven. That is the “most probable score”. However, the scorekeeper is obligated to record an “X” adjacent to the seven. The player didn’t finish the hole and is either disqualified from the match or from the hole.

  1. A player’s second shot lies seventy yards from the green on a par five hole. The player’s partner in a two player “best ball” puts his eighty yard wedge into the hole for a gross eagle. His partner pockets his ball and doesn’t finish the hole. What is the second player’s score?

As in the previous case, the “most probable score” is recorded. But now there’s some leeway as to what the most probable score might be. If the person’s a low handicap golfer, chances are he’ll hit the next shot onto the green and two-putt. A five is the “most probable score”. If he’s a twenty-six handicap, a six or even a seven could be justified. However, an “X” must still be written on whatever score is recorded.

  1. A twenty-one handicap golfer (maximum allowable score for posting is eight) is out of the hole for the game being played. He lies seven twenty-two feet from the hole. He picks up and says “Just give me an eight.” What does the scorekeeper record?

Again, an “X” is an absolute requirement. If he makes the long putt, he gets an eight (his maximum), but odds are he’s not going to drain a twenty-two footer especially in his current state of discombobulation. The scorekeeper should record a nine (if not a ten – if he’s three putted the last five holes). The correct answer is “x9”.

For our system to function, we have got to maintain certain inalterable standards. The scorekeeper’s role is critical to the integrity and success of our system. Nobody likes missing a two foot putt; trust me – I’m an expert on that front). But nobody likes playing in a group when different rules and different standards apply to different golfers, especially when there’s a nickel or two on the line.

Play’em down! Putt’em out! Record the correct scores!