Pace of Play

By Steve Divnick, President of Divnick Golf

Golf is a very expensive game. I'm not talking about the clubs or other equipment which is relatively minor. I'm not even talking about the real estate, even though that is significant. And no, I'm not referring to the green's fees, as they are somewhat in balance with other sports or leisure time activities.

I am talking about the TIME. The investment of time to play a round of golf is HUGE, especially for a person in the work force. By the time you get your foursome to agree on a time and place, get the tee time, put on your golf attire, warm up (I know, most of us don't really warm up), play your round, change clothes and shower, drive back home or to the office, and brag about your score, you have probably spent upwards of 5 to 6 hours. That is in incredible investment of time.

But we do it because we love to play. What most of us don't like is SLOW PLAY. And with a concerted effort by the golf course and all players, we can easily shorten the round.

I appreciate new players, young players, slow players, old players, ladies, or whoever might be included among those who play slowly. But there needs to be a more pro-active policy on golf courses so those of us who's time matters can get a round in as quickly as possible

The following are my observations and suggestions for improving the Pace of Play.

Course Responsibilities and Enforcement

•  The golf course MUST enforce the pace of play. As a practical matter, that should be defined any time there is space ahead and pressure behind. If someone is waiting and there is room ahead, then the slow group must let the people behind play through without delay.

•  All courses should institute a rule with a maximum of 3 over par. If a player can't consistently shoot at least a 3-over par, they should either pick up, or play a best ball format...meaning, hit from the same spot as one of the others in their foursome, at least until they get to the green. After all, they are not going to win the scoring title, so why not enjoy the game and save a lot of time.

•  Looking for balls must be limited to 3 minutes. If you can't find it, take a penalty and continue.

•  Drop the confusing numbered locations of the flag and go with a visual red, white, or blue flag system.

•  Golf courses should promote "ready golf" rather than wasting time trying to figure out who is "away". This should also apply to the tee box. If the person with the lowest score on the previous hole is slower than the others, too bad. It isn't fair to slow down the group, or the whole golf course.

•  Golf courses should promote the idea of "have fun during a liesure round." For instance, forget the "stroke-and-distance" penalty for hitting out of bounds or into water. Rather, just drop the ball near where it went out of bounds, and where you can get a decent shot toward the green. Leave the stroke-and-distance and technical ball dropping to the pros. If everyone in your group is out to have fun, then all of you can play the same way with the same relaxed rules.

A golf course should be much more proactive in these pace-of-play guidelines. They need to post the guidelines several places around the clubhouse, be sure to hand out a little card to new players if they are not already aware of them, the starter should restate the guidelines in a positive way, and the rangers should enforce them. The positive way to do that is to convey the message, "We value your time, and enforce the Pace of Play Guidelenes so you can enjoy the round without being delayed by slow players."

Player Responsibilities

In addition to honoring the above points, individual players should do the following, and their playing partners should encourage and support these steps.

•  The shortest-hitting player should walk the fastest or do whatever is necessary to get to their ball and play it without causing others in his/her foursome to wait.

•  Plan ahead. Get an idea of which club you will need before you get to your ball. Evaluate the break and distance for chips and putts while others are playing so you are ready to go when it is your turn.

•  Don't take a lot of time waggling and practice swinging before your shot. There is nothing more frustrating to your fellow-golfers than to be a slow player AND take a lot of time in pre-shot routines, especially if you then hit it poorly.

•  If you are a beginner, or if you are physically unable to hit the ball very far, change your goal. Don't focus on your final score. That will be discouraging. Play for the fun of it. Give yourself free drops. Move out from behind trees. Don't keep score. Consider every shot a game in opportunity to practice or to hit a good shot. Playing from divots or from behind trees is inviting nothing but frustration. If you are a beginner, you need to develop your skills before you start keeping score. If you are older, you need to give yourself a break, and do whatever is necessary to enjoy the game and fellowship.

•  If you insist on Mulligans, limit yourself to one on the first tee. Or, if you want to take a Mulligan every time you hit a bad shot, do it from where your bad shot just landed. Don't hit it from the same spot. In other words, if you don't want to count the stroke, that's fine. Just don't take up more time in the process. Hint: Use an erasure to change your score. It is faster than Mulligans. If you want to hit a lot of balls from the same spot, that is called a Driving Range !

•  Develop an attitude that allows you to speed up your game, or let people play through. If there is room ahead of you, look back, and if someone is standing and waiting for you to get out of the way, let them play through. There are only two options...speed up or let people play through. On the other hand, if you are also waiting on the group ahead, it doesn't matter.

If golf courses and players were mutually committed to speeding up the pace of play, more rounds would be played, and the entire industry would benefit.

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