A Plan to Combat Slow Play

Too many golfers believe that slow play is the number one problem in golf. For us – course owners, architects, administrators, manufacturers, golfers, and everybody involved in the game – to ignore this problem and not do something about resolving it, would make us complicit in allowing this potentially fatal disease to eat away and eventually ruin the most wonderful game ever devised by man.

As I mentioned, in previous writings, we need to look for the root cause of the problem as well as some quick fixes to alleviate the immediate pain. Having a selection of pills from which to choose to relieve every irritation is not a good long-term solution for golf or our health care.

An example of some quick fixes are a “pay by the hour” pill, which might get those who want to play eighteen holes around faster but not those who would like to play nine holes slowly. Or a “stop emulating the tour players” pill is questionable because the PGA Tour have not to date addressed the slow play problem effectively. However, it seems that they have recently recognized the extent of the problem which may affect the game and in turn their viewership.

Another suggested quick fix is to make the hole larger – this will only diminish the challenge, which is the attraction golf presents. The list of pills – suggested by the most concerned golfers, with the game at heart — goes on and I believe some are band-aids which will fall off, or pills which will eventually lose their potency.

When we recognize that it takes only one slow car on a single-lane highway to hold up all the traffic we start making the problem explicit. From this point of view let’s define why that single car is moving slowly. Is it a student (learner) driver; a tourist enjoying the ambiance; or is it the fact that the road is too treacherous for some drivers?

There may be many other reasons and addressing the root cause is the real challenge and is our most effective way to resolve the problem.

We need to develop some immediate solutions, knowing well that some may not be as effective as we would like and may need some tweaking or rejection later. However, we must do something soon, and never become complacent or lose our willingness to introduce new ideas based on the results of a concerted effort to research the efficacy of new initiatives.

Some immediate suggestions to get us off first base are:
• Modify the design of courses – tee positions, fairway widths, and length of rough – and make them more friendly to the average and less skilled golfer, while still challenging the skilled golfer – this is in the hands of the architects and supported by course owners and superintendants.
• Insist on the use of tee boxes appropriate for the average handicap of the group (four-ball or two-ball)
• No less than 10 minutes between tee times
• When paying green/cart fees, golfers should accept the conditions of play. Included in these would be the provision that golfers holding up the course would move off to the side, out of the way of faster moving traffic until the backup has been cleared. This process would be administered by a well trained ranger.
• Golfers should be reminded that their position on the course is immediately behind the group in front of them, not immediately in front of the group behind them.
• Educational pamphlets such as “How to avoid getting side-lined” or “How to help improve the enjoyment of the game” with some tried and proven procedures such as how to speed up cart golf; how to speed up play on the green — and many other sound suggestions to help speed up play and make your game more enjoyable.

These, if implemented ASAP with an eye to improving them as we learn the effectiveness of each, are some of my suggested slow traffic control suggestions.

We do not have the luxury of sitting around talking about this anymore.

Neither do we need to make the game a tyrannical experience for those who are attracted for the inner warmth it stimulates when we accept the challenge to evaluate ourselves in the company of our friends.

Please give us your input and suggestions regarding this form of attack and the need to act as soon as we can and refine later.


45 thoughts on “A Plan to Combat Slow Play

  1. I personally like the “drop a ball where you think it was lost and add a stoke” mentality. But if you’re required to keep a handicap to get into stroke play or a scramble, you have to play by the rules of golf. The rules of golf are the reason for slow play most of the time.

    • The rules are not what makes slow play. The rules are what make the game so great and have let it be what it is for these hundred’s of years. If you finch on the rules you are not playing golf. Follow what the experts say and you will not be the problem.

  2. Hit your shot get in the cart and clean your club and put on head cover while rolling to next shot. Drop off your cart mate and go to your ball if safe to do so. Play ready golf no honors.

  3. I am sure not every course doesn’t have slow play. Maybe we could learn from the ones who have sped things up. When I use to play one of our local courses I saw speaker boxes at every tee. They were long un-used. One of the marshalls told me that the course use to be known for being the fastest course in America. He said they would be all over you on the speaker system if you fell behind.

  4. Play would speed up with one simple rule change: put a limit on the distance of the ball. The longer flight of new balls has resulted in making holes longer. This causes average golfers to over swing, causing less control and more poor shots. This results in more time looking for lost balls or recovering from poor lies, causing more poor shots, etc. The greater distance from modern equipment and balls does not improve the game.

  5. Why not two holes on each green? One normal size for the low handicapper, and larger for the higher handicaps. That might make golf a lot more fun! Direct your slower players in your group to the proper hole AND the proper tee!

  6. Would having a magnetic card assigned to your foursome that you swiped on every tee work? That way, the pro shop could tell which groups were on time and which one was lagging behind causing the backup and call their cell phone to ask them to speed up or let the group behind play through. No one would want to have the pro shop call them. One of the other comments pertained to people not giving a damn about others and sadly, that is spot on. Too many people believe if they pay their money, that gives them license to do whatever and whenever they want, regardless if it offends someone else.

  7. Slow play on weekends on local or other courses prevents my play or reduces rounds by 50% as I watch the crowd and experience it once and a while and think of why did I come out on weekends. Slow unorganized course logistics has killed alot of rounds from happening.

  8. Lots of great suggestions here guys. Addressing slow play is a monumental if not impossible task. The problem not addressed above is that no one thinks they are slow. You have a better chance of finding Sasquatch than finding a golfer who admits he/she is slow. We have a few slow guys at my club. These same guys hold up play each and every tournament. Of course they don’t think they are slow and become extremely defensive at the mere suggestion they might be the culprit. My strategy is to avoid them rather than cure them. Best means I’ve found.

    • Good point. I’ve never met anyone that said they couldn’t drive in snow either. But somebody’s causing all those wrecks.

  9. What you say is a good start. Any rule changes (ie. lost ball, putting changes for amateure’s etc.) is not in keeping with the same rules for everyone. Every course should have a class that every player needs to attend before they can step on the course. Then have a golf educated Ranger follow up with on course supervision. Don’t change the rules of the game just to suit the uneducated.

  10. re adambarr 1106
    I agree shame is probably the only big motivator as we are all stuck with the single highway.. However the drop ball and count two is good especially on holes that one cannot see where the ball drops exactly. Many golfers think there is an offside rule in golf and will not play when they are ahead of the rearmost ball, even when they are on the otherside of the fairway. Golfers MUST play ready golf unless it is a serious match play game. However I have watched some UK golfers play at a trot and that just isnt golf but exercise better taken somewhere else.

  11. Pace, not race is the answer.

    We had excellent results with an optional lost ball rule in our (walking) golf league for 25 years. Just drop a ball where you believe the old one was lost, add a stroke, and hit your next shot. None of this crap about walking back to the tee to hit another shot.

    Personally, in match play I concede as many short putts as possible, especially if we are being pressed from behind.

    The worst offenders are carts off the first tee with a debate about how many strokes are to be given. They take forever to decide. When they finally make up their minds they use their carts to catch up to the group ahead leaving the walkers in the next group a whole hole behind after their tee shots. The same goes for cell phone calls.

    Some people are naturally faster (especially if you have long legs and great health). Some play from carts. These golfers can race to catch-up if they need to. However, there are others who are playing at top speed and if they get have to wait, they will always be behind.

    The key is to keep moving. Even asking for a ruling is hazard to keeping up the pace of play, because it forces everyone to wait and then run. Simple rules would be better than our current complex system.

  12. Harsh as it sounds…the only solution may be shame. Since we in the U.S. can’t seem to develop a culture of decency to one’s fellow golfer around speed of play, as is done in Europe and elsewhere, we should consider doing the opposite: shun slow players. Simply do not put up with it. “Al, I think you’re a great guy, but I cannot play golf with you unless you pick up the pace.” Make slow play as unacceptable as yelling in someone’s backswing or practice-swinging too close to other people. We wouldn’t put up with such irksome or dangerous behavior…so why accept slow play? Find players who move it, and play with them.

    • It is at its core an etiquette issue. But considering etiquette has largely disappeared from what was once called “polite society” I don’t suppose it’s any surprise that it has disappeared from golf as well.
      Since I really don’t believe that there are any good workable solutions, I find the most logical solution to be a reduction of the time commitment necessary to play. Two can play more quickly than four. It’s that simple.

  13. Frank– If a Scotsman can get around St. Andrews in four hours or less then why does it take us 6 to hack our way around a muni? Number one they WALK. Walkers go straight to their ball and play the next shot. They don’t drive to every shot in the foursome and talk about it for ten minutes. On courses where design allows for a reasonable walk, lets encourage a “Walk Day” once a week and start posting average times vs. those on other days of the week.
    Some local USGA’s offer courses in fast play. Make a certificate from one of those courses mandatory to book tee times on congested days.
    Set aside certain tee times for golfers with a certified handicap.
    Limit golf leagues to certain days of the week and post those days on the course website. Nothing plays slower than a beer league.
    Lastly, courses need to invest in trained rangers. Too many courses leave the pace of play up to the judgement of the players involved. A ranger can direct players to skill appropriate tee boxes, ask them to abandon a search for a lost ball and generally keep people moving. They are the best investment a course can make.

    • I blew a disc out in my back about ten years ago that left me with a numb left leg. I can’t walk 18 holes. But I shot 70 my last round in December using a cart. And I really resent the air of superiority that people that can walk have over those who can’t or won’t.
      I know. I used to be that way myself.
      But you do have a point about all of the talking. Golf, especially it seems for the younger crowd, is all about trash talking, fist bumping, bottom patting and boasting about what jacked up club I just hit. Perhaps the solution to that is to record the behavior on video and show it to them after the round. If they saw how unseemly it looks, it might stop. And it does waste a ton of time.

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