Time to Speed Up Play

I don’t play golf on the weekends. It’s not that I don’t have the time. Got that. It’s not that I don’t get asked to play by my buddies? Nope, despite my occasional fits of frustration with my play, my friends like me and want me around. And it’s not that my wife won’t let me out of the house. In fact, she pleads with me to “go do something.” It’s because I simply am unwilling to spend five to six hours playing a game that should take half that time.

The fact that I don’t play golf on weekends, when many people do play, is rather a result of my having the luxury to play on weekdays, although now that most courses (and apparently most of the workforce of the United States) considers Friday a weekend day (the reality of this transformation borne out by my having to play a five-and-a-half round on a recent Friday), my window of opportunity has shrunk to four days. Being a writer, my time is pretty much my own. So, I play golf Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays when there aren’t as many other golfers around. And let me tell you, weekday golf is so much more enjoyable, satisfying and (here is the important point) quicker.

I play most of my golf on daily fee courses, which by their nature, traditionally harbor more slow golfers than private courses. But my friends at private courses also moan about slow play, some resorting to getting up at 5 a.m. to be the first in line to get out on weekends so they can get home by noon.

Playing a five-to-six-hour round of golf is unacceptable. There is absolutely no reason on God’s green fairways that it takes almost an entire work day to get in 18 holes. Not when I can walk 18 by myself, on a wide open course in about two and a half hours. The problem with golf, pretty much the only problem with golf, is that there are other people doing it at the same time you are doing it. And many of these people can’t play very well, haven’t learned proper etiquette and time management, or just don’t give a darn one way or the other.

C’mon, admit it. You’ve all seen the guys in front of you climb onto the back set of markers and then roll their drives about 50 yards down the fairway. Well, there’s an hour or hour and a half added to your round.

Sadly, most courses I play, and I get around some, do little if anything to prevent slow play. Oh, they may write something on their scorecards pronouncing in a somewhat official manner, “Keep up with the group in front of you,” or, “It should take you four hours to play a round.” Really? Why does it hardly ever seem to happen? Slow play is a very real issue for the golf industry, one that never has been cured, or even adequately addressed for that matter.

It is difficult for a golfer to develop any sense of rhythm or flow to his or her game having to wait five to 10 minutes on each and every shot. Think about it. When you played your best rounds were they quick rounds or six hour rounds? I’ll bet a dozen Titleists that your best rounds were also your quickest.

Of course, there are relatively simple ways to remedy the problem of slow play, none of which seem to be doable, enforceable or even considered by most courses or players. Still, here are few tips for all of you malingerers out there.

Play the set of tees that meet your ability. Please don’t play the tips when you can’t sniff 100 or even 90. It will add 10 to 15 shots, and another hour or so, to your round.

Play best ball matches. This will prevent you from having to finish out the hole when you’re hacking it up and trying to salvage a 10. It also will eliminate the need to putt everything out, as seems the desire of many slow players.

Look behind you. Seems quite easy, right? But few players actually care about the people behind them. I’m asking for a little courtesy toward your fellow golfer here. If you are dragging, pick up the pace.

Move aside. If you are slow and want to play slow then move aside, especially if you are in a foursome and there are two or three golfers behind you. Those five minutes you spend letting someone play through will make the golfers that were behind you happy and will ease your mind and prevent you from rushing.

No cell phones on the golf course! I played a round recently where the guys ahead of us were backing off shots to answer cell phone calls. This is almost cause for launching a ball over the miscrient’s head as a warning shot. Leave the office at the office and tell the wife you will be out of touch for a few hours.

Practice common sense and course awareness. Be ready to hit immediately after your partner has hit. Line your putt up while your playing partners are putting. Park your cart near the rear of the green to allow you to move away from the putting surface quickly after finishing a hole. Write down your score on the next tee, not after walking off the green. Don’t engage in endless, and usually fruitless, searches for golf balls hit into deep, dark woods, water or the high fescue grass that seems all the rage these days. In a friendly, casual match, play everything as a lateral hazard. Drop a ball and play on.

Golf course managers can speed up play but they appear reluctant to do so, perhaps fearing the ire of the paying customer. But a smiling ranger pushing players along, a little lecture about slow play at the pro shop counter, or words of advice from the starter and a recommendation on what set of tees to play could help.

If all, or even some, of these words of advice were heeded I might be able to go back to playing on weekends.

Geez, I hope they never make Thursday a weekend day.

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