Slow Play: Causes and Fixes

Fix it BUT Also Find the Cause

This is in answer to many e-mails and comments regarding last week’s Q&A about the PGA Tour/USGA Anchoring issue and the suggestion that we had bigger problems to attend to.

There are many golfers – myself included — that believe that slow play is one of the biggest problems golf now faces. It is the source of many issues which together are eating away at the attraction and the addictive powers our game has offered for at least 500 years.

We have had some interesting and considered comments — which I am sure you have read – to last weeks Q&A.

Yes, I believe we do have bigger problems than anchoring.

If we, and especially the guardians, are serious about addressing the problems facing the game, we must find out what has caused the change as well as trying to fix the problem – which only temporarily alleviates it while we anxiously await for it to resurface.

Some suggested fixes are that we should roll back the distance the modern ball goes. Others believe that we need to play the more forward tees– which is negating the fix if we roll the ball back. I personally do not believe that equipment is to blame for slow play.

Some other suggestions are:
• Ready golf
• Putt it out (continuous putting)
• Course pace ratings
• Fewer clubs (fewer decisions)
• Distance measuring devices
• Easier courses with less rough
• Slower greens (some greens are too fast)
• A free drink for a round completed in under 3 ½ hours
• Strategic tee locations for less skilled golfers
• 12 to 15 minutes between tee times
• Specific times for juniors and beginners
• Stricter and more Slow- Play rangers
• Getting rid of golf carts around which many un-walkable courses are designed
• Change in the Handicap system by collecting and recording only medal play (tournament) scores.
The list goes on and in many cases these are reasonable fixes, and include even some root causes but without concomitantly finding out what causes the problem and only looking at fixes we are doomed to state of policing, monitoring and enforcing something which should be self enforced which can only lead to a healthier game.

How about a concerted effort to educate golfers at an early age and even some refresher programs for adults, regarding consideration of others and an understanding of the etiquette upon which our game and social living is built, all in conjunction with some real fixes?

If the guardians of our game focused their attention on Slow Play with the same vigor shown in proposing the ban on anchoring, then we would be better off, knowing that the governors and the rest of us are in sync and the game is moving in the right direction with full sails and the wind at our backs.


P.S. Please let us know how you feel we need to address the Slow Play problem by sharing your comments below.

51 thoughts on “Slow Play: Causes and Fixes

  1. Frank,
    If really want to help slow play the Club Professional needs to require a mandatory meeting with the leagues prior to the season and review what they need to be doing to maintain a four hour pace (perfered time at most clubs). (2 1/2 hour players can go climb a tree as we’re not running a marathon, but enjoying the game). I’m also not interested in bending all the rules so someone can get home early and mow thier grass. Ready golf should be incouraged and more effective marshalling by rangers. I’ve been a professional ranger and a starter for over twenty years and I’ve seen and hear it all. As a starter I always tell the groups to please repair their ball marks, and try and keep up with the group in front of you. If you can’t see them then you’re the problem. I try and make everyone feel good in coming out to visit with us and we want you to have a great day of golf, but I just want to point out a couple it things. It’s all done in a courtious and respectiful manner but some people you just can’t please and they are dealth with accordingly. It’s only a very few that cause problems for everyone. Yes, they paid their money to play, but so did all the other people who are having to wait behind them and it’s a lot more than one group. Until it’s strickly enforced it will never change.

    • If the pros on TV played faster, everyone would play faster. It is natural for humans to imitate. They have become so slow (also the LPGA) that everyone thinks that is the way to play.

      They need to enforce faster play on tv. It’s almost getting too slow and boring to watch.

  2. I played at one course where they said they were experimenting with the following: continuous putting, leaving the flag in and not removing it, counting it in if it hits the pin, and picking up if within the leather of the handle. This shortened the round for our foursome to close to 3 hours and the scores were actually a little better than normal.

  3. Try throwing out the score card; just enjoy the course surroundings and the well struck golf shot. Too much focus is placed on the scores so too much time is spent analyzing: your swing, practicing the swing, reading the green etc. If you must have a “game” within your group, play match play rules (i.e. someone wins the hole); there might be less time spent on the greens. Keep individual scoring for tournament play and base handicaps on tournament play.

  4. Speed of play is pretty much a part of the rule book as it is in tournament Chess.
    I have played courses where the Marshall’s are on it. It makes a difference.
    You just have to make it clear at check in that you have to adhere to the times allowed per hole. The GPS tracking on the carts is a great way to monitor speed of play.
    The courses need to understand that there will be more revenue generated by keeping the pace of play up then there will be loss of revenue because someone gets their feelings hurt.
    The biggest reason I do not play more is I simply do not want to spend 6-7 hours of my day, most of it standing and waiting, to play a round of golf.
    If “the powers that be” realise that this is a huge issue and not an option then the sport will thrive.

  5. – Tournament committees must issue guidelines and SANCTIONS on slow play to ALL professional and amateur tournaments – and ENFORCE these to the letter.
    – Officially allow continuous putting.
    – National golf federations worldwide to make guideline videos in their own languages on prevention of slow play and issue these to all national golfclubs and professionals and, on request, for sale to individual players.
    – All club professionals to be made aware of the slow play problem and to include instruction on preventing this to all their clients.
    – Club committees to ensure that they have a relevant “slow play” policy, which is made known to all members and visitors via club magazines, websites and other media.
    – Members known to be regular slow players be courteously advised by a selected Committee member on (a) measures they MUST take to speed up their play and (b) what sanctions will be applied if they do not !
    Ken Elvery,
    Dordrecht, Netherlands

  6. I wonder if continous putting would be any faster? Then everyone would be waiting while the player lines up his second and third putts. With the present system while one person is setting up others can be reading their own putts so that they are ready to go once the first putt is on the way. Even Tiger says he does this. Maybe continuous putting if it’s a tap-in, much like we see on TV.

    • Continuous putting without touching the ball. Lift, clean, replace once only. And within a grip length or the length of your foot should be good, unless there’s a million bucks on the line.

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