It never fails. You get to the course and find the first tee wide open.
Off goes your group and after a few holes, you’re swinging well and in a nice groove. You walk (or drive) to the next tee and find a group waiting to tee off. Up ahead is another foursome in the fairway, and in front of them another on the green.
Bye-bye, momentum. Time to hurry up and wait.
For many golfers, especially those who like to hit their shots quickly (bless them), slow play is the kiss of death. First they become mildly agitated, then frustrated, and before you know it, they’re storming off the course and cursing a blue streak.
No doubt, slow play is a serious issue that plagues the golf industry. A typical round now takes about 4 ½ hours to complete – more time than many people are willing or able to devote to 18 holes.
Back to the main point: How to handle slow play without letting it affect your game. Here are five tips that can help:
- Stay loose and work on tempo: Too often, repeated breaks in play cause the muscles to stiffen up. It’s also easy to have your tempo broken. Take the club you’ll use for the next shot and make slow, easy swings to keep your body loose and your swing in rhythm.
- Talk to your partners: Nothing makes the time pass more slowly than watching the group ahead, counting the seconds until they replace the flag and walk off the green. Strike up a conversation and distract yourself – and your partners -- from the agonizing pace.
- Practice your chipping or putting: You’ve got time on your hands, so pull out a wedge and chip a few balls at the nearest tee marker. Try that flop shot you’ve been meaning to work on. Drop a couple of balls in the rough to see how shots react when hit from the thick stuff. If you finish a hole and there’s no one behind you, stick around and putt a few more. (It’s perfectly legal.) Who knows, your mini-practice may pay off later in the round.
- Gather your thoughts: Rather than silently (or verbally) stewing over the situation, step to the side and assess your round thus far. Are you making a particular mistake over and over? Swinging especially well? Think about what you must do to fix a problem, or keep up the good play, and apply it going forward.
- Enjoy the scenery: What is golf but a walk in the park (spoiled or otherwise)? Think of a slow round as an opportunity to stop and smell the roses – perhaps literally. Besides, where else would you rather be?
- Bonus tip – Ask to play through, or summon a ranger: If you notice that there’s an entire hole (or more) open in front of the group ahead of you, politely ask if you can play through. If the opportunity doesn’t present itself – or on the off chance the group refuses your request -- flag down a ranger or call the clubhouse and alert them to the problem. It’s in management’s best interest to please the customers, so they should either ask the offending group to pick up the pace, or insist that they let you play through.
Unfortunately, slow play is a fact of life. There’s no point letting it ruin your score or your enjoyment.