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. Educating players is all good, but not the solution. The soluton is easy. A standard procedure when taking tee times is the solution. First six groups are told they must play in 3 and 1/2 hours and if they don’t keep pace a ranger will ask them to pick their ballsup and move forward! All other groups are told they must stay up with the group in front. I like no spectators, no beginners and dress code. You will then have a 3 hour and 50 minute course and all happy!

    • No beginners? I guess that will help kill golf a lot quicker. Were you born an accomplished golfer? I hope you mean that a person should have a grasp of the fundamentals and some lessons. Also dress code is different from private to public courses. On the public courses casual dress is fine with me as long as shirts have sleeves and shorts are not cutoffs.

      • The talk about rangers forcing groups to pick up denies the economic reality of the game- courses are hurting for revenue and players won’t come back if they feel pushed around. You need them to “buy-in” to the concept first, then maybe you can push.
        Btw- You can play Torrey Pines in a Tshirt and Jeans, and it moves along quite well in my experience, but of course dress has nothing to do with slow play.

  2. As an experienced Construction Carpentry piece-worker (one who gets paid for what they get done, by the “piece”) I’ve gotten very used to maximising my time and moving efficiently.

    These are all good points and ideas above, some more practical then others, but one thing I’ve learned is that if you take care of the seconds, the minutes take care of themselves. If you take care of the minutes the hours take care of themselves. That is: maximise your efficiency every which way you can- many excellent tips are noted above. Another way to say it is “Hurry every chance you get”. This may seem like rushing, but it’s really not, in fact it allows you to have more of a leisurely feeling because you’re saving time to spend where it counts.

    However the big problem is one slow group of player can hold up a whole golf course and set the pace. It’s very similar to vehicle traffic slow downs. To see improvement we need to get everyone on board and that’s going to mean some education and even confrontation. I.E. There’s a walker in my regular foursome who always leaves his bag at the front of the green, and even though there’s plenty of time to move it to the back he doesn’t and then it slows us down (although I just tee off without him on the next hole to keep it moving). I can’t confront this guy, he’d be offended, but if I could point him to some guidelines he might get it.

    What could really help perhaps is to compile these specific suggestions and make a one page summary of the most critical ones. It needs to be specific, a memo to just “play faster” doesn’t help. A Frankly Manifesto that courses could post and email out would be fantastic. So Frank, how about putting your erudition and throw-weight into this issue?

  3. I’ve seen most of these ideas before. Mostly tried. Mostly failed.
    The solution to the time it takes to play is to stop making us play in foursomes.
    Twosomes should be the new standard group size.
    I’ve heard all the arguments against this.
    “Can’t get as many people around the course.” I thought not having enough people on the course is the problem.
    “I want to spend time with my three buddies.” Really? You want to watch three other people play golf? If time with your friends is the primary reason you play, there are cheaper and less frustrating ways to spend time with your friends.
    A big reason play is down is that it has become next to impossible to get four people to show up in the same place at the same time. So no one plays.
    Much easier when you only need to find one.
    Course operators. If you’re struggling, try this idea one day a week. Let people know they can play in three hours or less guaranteed. I think business is about to pick up.

  4. Antonio B.
    Amateurs want to emulate the pros in all sports, golf included. Start slapping penalties on the pros for slow play – and show it on TV! – and the amateurs will soon begin to understand and accept that the same can apply to them. Then all we have to do is convince management at golf clubs that they can actually make more money with a faster turnaround, compared to fewer golfers taking up course time with their slow play.


    • If the group ahead of me wants to stop at the turn for a snack, they’ve lost their place. I just bypass them and hit on the 10th tee.

  6. I just wanted to let you know what I see as a course Marshall. Everyone is allowed a certain time each hole. I had many fast players complain about slow players but when I time the slow players I find they are within the time limits. Just because you’re a fast player doesn’t mean everyone has get out of your way. Be patient.

    Other issues are:

    Fast players playing gimmies. If you’re that good you don’t need gimmies.

    Rough being too long.

    Greens being too fast.

    Cup placement too challenging.

    Slow moving elderly members playing during prime tee times.

    Drunks on the course.

    Too much preshot routine.

    Too much story telling instead of playing.

    Walk ons. Tee times are needed for prime times.

    Courses charging too little and trying to cram too many people on a course to maximize profit.

    Courses need to support the Marshals when they enforce the rules and speed of play. Otherwise players don’t follow any rules.

    Not being willing to skip a hole if you get behind. Everybody has a bad hole once and a while.

    Players not understanding the difficulty of the course. Some courses should have handicap limits during prime times.

  7. Great article. Slow play is the death of golf. I’ve actually played 6 hour rounds! Watching the pros like Furyk is sickening. The PGA needs to enforce penalties for slow play. As someone who has officiated at Junior tournaments, many of the emulate the pros. You are absolutely correct in teaching beginners that slow play won’t be tolerated. I have no problem in hitting a player with a penalty… The PGA shouldn’t either…

  8. Consider restricted tee times / more time between tee time / easier tees, courses for higher handicapped & slower players. Some of the slowest players are low handicappers (but they take fewer shots). The better players should get the message after a few rounds.

  9. I play in a retirement location and one of the biggest things I see is that some older people will not move up. In a lot of cases they cannot reach the green in regulation. If they were to do so I believe they would get through sooner

  10. All of hte ideas make sense at some level. Unfortunately, the “sense” of most golfers is driven by what they see on television. Until the Tours and the Majors adopt significant slow play policies and enforce them, in my opinion no one else will.

  11. I agree with most of the comments here. But I paid my money to play and want to try and score well. I can’t if I am constantly hurrying to hit the next shot. We play for money and pride. Are all you guys in a hurry to get home and cut grass or something?

    • this response is typical of The slow player in my opinion. if you play ready golf and walk quickly to your tee shot you have plenty of time to score and still enjoy the game and maybe your winnings and pride would increase two fold

    • I agree completely with this view. The majority of us are slow players simply because we take more shots, and lose more balls, than all you low handicappers. If you really want to grow the game, stop finding ways to dicourage the majority by imposing more rules and restranits. And don’t mention marshalls. It seems to me that that job attracts individuals who like telling other people off. I refuse to play at one course in Florida because of the rudeness of the marshalls. Too many times I have been told to speed up when I am waiting at every shot for the foursome in front. Us high handicappers want to enjoy the game as much as the minority of fast players. We pay good money to play and without our greens fees most golf courses probably wouldn’t survive. Not to mention what we spend at in the pro shop and at the bar afer a nice unhurried round. I suggest that the “guardians” should find something more positive to worry about and not try to spoil the game for most of us who are not gifted with perfect swings or the ability to read greens. I disagree with Frank’s contined comments on this subject, which, to me seems like a snobish attitude as in, if you can’t play fast, get out of my way. I would add that this is the only topic where I take issue. On everything else Frank is a great source of very helpful information.

      • Thanks Nigel for saying it better than me. When we get behind although not often, we let groups go through.

  12. Charge by the hour. If your course is a 3:45 course for a reasonably paced foursome, have a ranger stationed at the 18th green and assess them additional green fees if they come in over that. That too would identify the slow group and those stuck behind them would be excused if they arrived immediately behind the offending group.

    • Absolutely!! You would need a starter on the first to document the time the round starts and a finisher on the 18th tee to calculate the time of the round and determine the charge. Each player would be required to give a credit card before they start and the final amount would be calculated when they finish.

      Since you cannot asses stroke penalties to the golfing public, money talks!!

  13. I can’t remember the last time that a course Marshall had the authority to move slow groups off to the side and allow faster players to go through! It is sorely needed if the pace of play is to be maintained or improved-maybe the biggest contributor to faster play. This allows “slow” players to continue at their slow pace, but not hold everyone up behind them. Right now, this rule (that is on the scorecard of almost every golf course in the US) is not enforced-only suggested. I find it maddening, personally!

  14. My wife and I, and any guest we may have, play ready golf. I can guess how long it will take us to play a round when I watch the group ahead of us on the first green. If they all pick up, wipe, mark, plumb bob, etc it will be a long day. This is especially true when it takes the majority of the foursome 4 shots to get to a par four green. Usually I am disgusted after the thrid hole, and we leave to go home. No they same people never ask if we want to play through. If I hit a wayward ball it is lost if I can’t see it from the cart path. I just hit another ball, I am playing golf for exercise and fun, not maintaining a handicap.

  15. One person per cart would be a huge improvement.
    If you have a pre-shot routine that lasts longer than five seconds you are a slow player.
    There are a lot of good suggestions above. Ready golf is a must.

Leave a Reply to Lee Maiden PGA Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.