The world keeps getting faster. So why does golf seem to get slower and slower? And what can be done to speed up the game?
According to a 2012 study by the National Golf Foundation, the average 18-hole round on a weekend during peak season took 4 hours, 16 minutes. Weekday rounds clocked in at 3:55. Consider that many rounds on busy public courses approach or exceed 5 hours and it’s obvious there’s a problem.
Many reasons have been cited for the slowdown. As equipment has improved, golf courses have gotten longer and tougher. More water, sand, trees and rough mean more time searching for balls and hacking out of trouble.
Many courses built in recent decades are wrapped around housing developments, stretching the space between greens and tees. Some observers blame the pros for setting a bad example with their glacial pace.
Whatever the reason(s) may be, golfers still have control over the speed of their rounds. With the help of GolfNow, whose “Play Fast” program encourages golfers to do just that, here are 10 ways to pick up the pace.
1. Keep moving: Proceed quickly the next tee after putting out, and to your ball between shots.
2. Be ready to hit: When it’s your turn to play, take 45 seconds, maximum, to hit your shot.
3. See it, read it, hole it: While others are putting, read your putt and be ready when you’re up. If you’re first to hole out, grab the flagstick and replace it once the last golfer has finished.
4. Use rules with discretion: Even though the Rules of Golf allow five minutes to search for your ball, you should take no more than three minutes before declaring a ball lost and taking appropriate relief.
5. Always be prepared: Start the round with tees, markers, balls and a ball-mark repair tool in your pocket. Replace head covers as you walk or while waiting for others to hit. Write down scores on the next tee, not at the green while the next group waits to play.
6. Be cart smart: Drop off your partner and drive to your ball, or vice versa. When you leave the cart, take three clubs, not one. Park behind greens, not in front, whenever possible.
7. Watch your partners: When someone in your group hits an errant shot, watch it closely to pinpoint its location. Help others search for balls when it's convenient – close to your ball, for instance – and move on when it's not.
8. Play your correct tees: Choose a set of tees with a Slope Rating no higher than 142 minus your handicap index. For example, if you carry a 22 index, the highest-rated tees you should take on would be 120. Or, just tee it forward (e.g., play one set ahead of your usual markers).
9. Speak up: Ask management to set up the course properly by keeping the rough at a reasonable height, green speeds manageable and pin placements away from extreme ridges or humps. Also ask for tee times to be spaced 9-10 minutes apart, for groups of less than four to be consolidated (i.e. put twosomes together) and for fivesomes to be prohibited during busy periods.
10. Be accountable: Recognize that slow play isn’t always the fault of other players. If your group falls behind or is constantly getting pushed, take stock of your own behavior, pick up the pace if you can, and encourage your mates to do likewise. And should the course marshal ask your group to speed up, don’t take it personally. He’s just doing his job.
And one to grow on:
11. Let faster groups play through: If you’re being pressed and the coast is clear ahead, wave the next group through. It’s always the right thing to do.