As a tournament organizer and recreational golfer, pace of play is always a hot topic. For as many years as I can remember, the number one answer to why a player would not return to the World Am has been "Pace of Play". Most people just cannot tolerate multiple rounds of golf that take 5 hours or more to complete. I am one of those people. However, slow play is not a World Am problem. It is a golf problem, and I'm convinced it is getting worse as the years go on.
Let's explore the reasons that attribute to slow play:
WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET
I believe it starts at the top, with the PGA TOUR. What people watch on TV or in person at a TOUR event, gives a false blueprint as to how golfers should go through a round. Tediously measuring distance to the pin and examining putts from 4 angles are important for professional golfers in order to get the absolute most out of every stroke, which could mean the difference between making or missing the cut or winning or losing the tournament.
However, for me, the difference between 107 and 112 to the flag is negligible and borderline irrelevant. I should be aiming for the middle of every green and hoping I don't skull it into the green side bunker. Scrutinizing the break of a green from below the hole and inspecting which way the grain is growing are great if you're Jason Day, but I'm just trying not to have 5 feet coming back when I miss the putt. And don't get me started on the marking of putts. I get it...there is a "through line" that you might step on if you putt out. Lets leave that to the people playing for millions of dollars. If you putt it once and you're near the hole, just keep putting until it is IN the hole!
COURSE DESIGN AND SETUP
This is not meant to be a blanket statement, but I believe it applies to enough courses that it is relevant for all. Superintendents and set up staff do a poor job of setting the course up for amateur play. Its great to say you have greens that are rolling 12 on the Stimpmeter, if you have people that can putt playing the course. If you compound your green speeds with tricky hole locations, you're simply asking groups to spend 5-10 minutes on the green.
I also contend that the grass in the rough should be kept at a height less than the diameter of a golf ball. This is not for the ability to hit the ball out of the rough, but instead the ability to find a ball that is hit into the rough. I shouldn't need a search and rescue team to help locate a ball that missed the fairway by 3 yards.
Golf shouldn't be easy, but it is hard enough without lightning fast greens and super thick rough. Pace can only improve if balls are easier to locate and advance and greens are easier to putt on.
NARCISSISM, ENTITLEMENT AND IGNORANCE
This will be the touchy portion of my commentary. Just keep in mind that if you don't know anyone that I'm describing, but you always complain about slow play...you are one of these people.
The narcissistic golfer is the one that always thinks they're on the verge of the best round of their life. Even if they start with 4 bogeys and a quad, it was just that one bad kick on #2 that caused the collapse and if they can just make birdie on #6 they will have a chance to make a charge on the back side. Look, we should all always want to make the best possible score on every hole we play; that is the spirit of the game of golf. But there is no need to be testing the wind with grass blades, spending more than 30 seconds to line up a putt or (please, for the love of everything decent) looking for an obviously lost ball instead of throwing another one down and moving on with the day.
The entitled golfer is the one that just doesn't care how slow they are. They paid to play and 'by golly', they're going to play however they want. This is unfortunately a popular sentiment these days. That because someone pays a greens fee, they can play at their desired, leisurely, slo(oooooooo)w pace. I don't have anything else to add. This is just a sad truth.
The ignorant golfer is the one that is slow, but doesn't know it. They feel like they're going through their round at a good pace, but are really the one that everybody is waiting on...constantly. Whether it is being slow to the tee box, looking too long for balls, not being ready to hit in the fairway, always needing to go back to get another club, reading a putt for too long, etc., this golfer is just a little slower than everyone else and has absolutely no clue.
STROKE PLAY FORMAT WITH NO MAX SCORE
This is a World Am problem. Tournament golf is always slower than a recreational round. A stroke play golf tournament with no maximum hole score is a major issue for pace of play. If one or two people have "blow up" holes, it could set the stage for a prolonged round for the entire course. In all of our smaller events, we institute a maximum stroke rule to encourage players to pick up the ball and move on. However, in an event like the World Am, players are left to fend for themselves until the ball is holed. My advice on this is to play the safest shots once in trouble to avoid a major blow up. My personal take on it is that I would pick up my ball and DQ myself before hitting a 12th shot on any hole. At least then I can play care free the rest of the week!
The fact is, that slow play is a sport-side epidemic caused by many factors. The best way to combat the issue and make rounds faster is for every golfer to play faster. You don't have to rush, just be ready to hit when it is your turn and limit the extracurricular actions surrounding the game to what is absolutely necessary to hit the shot. To reiterate, we should always attempt to make the best score on every hole...we should just take less time to do it!
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