Why Can't We Play Golf Faster?
The pace of play was very much in the news the past couple of weeks, and it’s a topic that gets lots of dialog, but little action to change things. The time it takes to play a round of golf has steadily increased for decades. What used to be a 3 to 3-1/2 hour entertainment has turned into 5 hours in way too many cases.
On the professional tours recently, Kevin Na’s false starts and endless waggles drew lots of attention and criticism, but no penalty at all. On the LPGA, however Morgan Pressel’s seemingly one-time delay cost her a loss of hole, which was followed by loss of focus, and loss of match. The PGA Tour hasn’t penalized a stroke for pace of play in 17 years! Which was right?
To me, the pace of play problem all started with the professional tours, and then that snail-like approach to playing a round of golf crept across the game to contaminate the entire spectrum of recreational golf. I say it starts on the tours, because that is the most visible example to us all of how the game should be played. We watch, unwittingly learn and copy all too often.
We all know it’s an issue, so why can’t something be done? I hear all arguments, one even being that “I’ve paid to spend my afternoon on the golf course; I’m in no hurry to see it end.” Valid, but if you want to spend 5 hours out there, why not play 27 holes and have even more fun? How about if the entire fee structure for golf changed from a green fee for 18 holes to a green fee for an allotted time? If you buy 4 hours and can’t finish the round, tough . . . your time is up and you have to leave the course.
Better yet, what if they did that on the pro tours? The first starting time in the morning has 3-1/2 hours to finish their round. If they don’t . . . DQ. Sheesh, they play threesomes with caddies, for Pete’s sake. We play four and fivesomes, shooting 75 to 85, lots of bets on the line and never take more than four hours at our club. We have a walking group on Wednesday afternoons, 4-5 of us over 50 years old, carrying our own bags and playing for money, and never take anywhere close to 2 hours for our nine holes.
You can play fast without hurrying. There’s a big difference. Being ready when it’s your turn to play. Looking over your putt while others are putting. Lining up the putt from only behind the ball, instead of stalking it from all sides.
It’s said that cost, time and difficulty are the three things that make people leave the game. It would seem to me the time thing would be the easiest to fix . . . if we/they really wanted to do that.
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It was reported that the LPGA players were warned prior to the tournament that officials would be monitoring pace of play. Morgan Pressel was given 2 warnings. I think they did the right thing by penalizing her.
When I play amateur tournaments (provincial and national), expected pace of play is clearly outlined during the pre-tournament players meeting. There are 4 check points on the course: hole 4 or 5, 9, 13 or 14, 18. Each foursome has to arrive at each checkpoint on schedule, based on their tee time. If you are off schedule or are out of position (more than a hole behind the group in front), your foursome would be given a warning. The officials then put each player on the clock. You have until the next check point to get back in position. If you haven't completely gotten back on schedule but officials can see you are attempting to pick up the pace, you probably won't be penalized. It's a good system and should be used on all the tours.
The idea of paying for time instead of Green Fees does not unfortunately hold up under scrutiny. We have all played behind comps or societies which have slowed us up or at weekend when everyman and his dog is on the course, alone with no hold ups I can finish a round at my rgular course in 3 - 3&half hours, when encountering these things that can go up to 5 hours +, why should I have to pay more because of others slow play.
I agree that pace of play is entirely too slow. I try to get out very early, often before the actual first tee time and my foursome is done in 3-3 1/2 hours, even looking for those lost balls ( yes, mine too). There is another cause to this problem for us hackers, seven minute tee times. All the courses in my area say that they want to speed up play but refuse to miss the chance for more money by rolling back tee times to a more reasonable pace.
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