While golfers have to accept some of the blame for slow play, golf courses have to accept some of the blame, especially the ones who still try to use seven-minute, or even eight-minute, intervals for tee times.
I personally think 10-minute intervals work best and Jim Henderson of Stevens Park Golf Course in Dallas agrees with me. Henderson reports that rounds are averaging about four hours and 15 minutes at the Dallas municipal course since it re-opened in 2012 after an extensive renovation.
Another municipal golf course in the DFW area goes with seven and eight minutes between tee times and I’ve heard horror stories about five-hour rounds. Going to the ninth tee one day, I noticed that there was already a back up on the par 3 second hole with a group on the green, a group waiting on the tee and another group waiting to drive to the tee.
The courses think they are squeezing in more tee times and getting more revenue, but all this does is create traffic jams like the ones during drive times on the roads. In the final analysis, they lose tee times later in the day and some players just do not come back.
Another reason for slow play is the design of the courses that stretch to 7,000 yards and longer. Of course, the male ego demands that many want to play the tips. Add in all the bunkers, undulating greens with speeds that produce too many three putts and the long drives between greens and the next tee and you add 30 minutes are more to a round easily.
Some people blame the tour professionals, but remember they are playing for $millions and I for one do not blame them for taking their time. Getting 150+ pros around on the first two days, even with double tee starts, makes four-hour rounds almost impossible. The weekend pace should definitely be better with half the number of players, but again there also bigger crowds and more pressure on the leaders not to make any mistakes. While the LPGA has issued some slow play penalties, I don’t see the PGA Tour doing it.
It’s nice to see that the United States Golf Association addressed the issue of slow play at its annual meeting. “Five-hour–plus rounds are incompatible with life in the modern socirty,” said president Glen Nager. “Poor pace of play saps the fun from the game, frustrates players and discourages future play. Slow play is draining enjoyment from the game.”
While still a little skeptical about whether this effort will produce any results, I do think the players themselves need to learn how to play a little faster, too. Here are a few suggestions:
*Move up a set of tee markers, especially if you are unable to reach greens in regulation where you are playing now.
*Play ready golf, hitting when you get to your ball instead of waiting for the player farther away. Just be careful!
*Reduce the number of practice swings. Many times that first swing is your best.
*Don’t drive to the other player’s ball in the shared cart and then to your ball. Park in the middle and take a couple of clubs with you.
*Park the cart to the side or back of the green so that it is easier to get to the next tee.
*Record the scores on the next tee, not on the green.
*Pick your ball up if you have already taken double bogey since most games today involve match play or best-ball. Stableford events also are faster. There are ways to still enter your scores for handicap purposes instead of making those big numbers and slowing down the players behind you.
I did hear how one owner solved the slow play problem at his golf course. He took a handful of cash with him and when he found a group out of position, he would ask them to leave and hand them a refund. When asked about this practice of discouraging some golfers, he responded that these golfers were now slowing down play at other courses and his other players appreciated coming back to his course and playing in four hours or less.
Players who take advantage of the twilight rates at courses also seem to move at a faster pace in their desire to get in as many holes as possible before the sun goes down.
Rangers at many courses are not given enough authority to ask players to move at a faster pace. Henderson, however, has given one of his PGA professionals at Stevens Park with a little more authority out reminding golfers when their pace of play is not fast enough. I recall one of the marshals who I worked with at Horseshoe Bay Resort actually asking groups to skip holes if there was a hole open in front of them.