Pace of Play and USGA

It looks like we are going to get some real positive action from the USGA about the biggest problem we have in golf.

After review of  the press release dated Feb 2 2013 — for full content see — I called the USGA HQ to discuss how serious it was about combating the slow play problem. I am pleased to report that it has at last hit the very front burner.

Within the press release, the USGA has identified some of the key factors known to influence pace of play, which include:

  • Course design (overall length, green-to-tee walks, location and number of hazards)
  • Course management and setup (green speed, hole locations, height and location of rough)
  • Player management (most significantly, the proper distribution of starting times)
  • The effectiveness of player education programs.

This is, as I have strongly suggested, the first step in solving the problem i.e. to clearly define it. The results of our survey Growing the Game have helped in this regard.

Then, the next step is to develop a solution. The USGA has developed a plan of action  to  “… develop a broad set of initiatives to identify challenges and solutions regarding pace of play issues…”

This initiative includes:

  1. Analysis of Key Factors
  2. Research to Produce Pace-of-Play Modeling
  3. Pace Rating System
  4. On-site Assistance at Golf Courses
  5. Player Education Programs

As much as we have questioned some of the recent rules changes adopted and/or proposed by the USGA, we need to stand behind it and work together in solving this slow play problem.

This initiative to attack a real problem facing the game is laudable and I know it will bear fruit, if all of us stand behind and support the USGA and participate in solving and implementing a sound, well designed solution.

If we are to participate and support this initiative, we need to provide some constructive input.

In this regard, I suggest the research – outlined above — seems to have been developed from the perspective that slow play is a problem caused by many golfers, and that a research program such as Pace of Play Modeling will help. I believe it is good, interesting research but subordinate to a more direct approach of addressing the key factors outlined above.

My analogy several weeks ago, in trying to define the cause of the problem I stated; “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 driver; a tourist enjoying the ambiance; or is it the fact that the road is too treacherous for some drivers?”  Answers to these questions are the root of the problem, which I believe need to be addressed as soon as possible.  

In some instances, an interim solution may be as simple as pulling the slow car(s) off to the side of the road until the back up is cleared. With appropriate gaps between tee times this should soon speed up the traffic back to normal. In some instances ejection from the highway (course) – with reimbursement of the toll — may be appropriate.

This may seem too harsh but if agreed to as a condition to drive on the highway at peak hours when paying your toll it should help relieve the congestion. For those who are financially affected by losing a toll for a car, they will soon recognize that losing one slow car and reimbursing the toll, allowing five more to travel the highway – paying tolls – makes sense to the highway owner. Bunny slopes for those who are still learning is what I suggested in my book Just Hit It and in the analysis of the survey results mentioned above.

I believe that very few golfers actually cause slow play but it affects so many, that it appears to be caused by the whole. We need to approach solving the problem by understanding the root cause and from this perspective we will find an effective solution.    

I ask all of our Frankly Friends and all of their friends to join us in resolving this problem and to do what we can to support such a worthy cause. Your ideas and suggestions, will be passed directly on to the USGA and I will do my best to make sure they are seriously considered and incorporated into developing a long term solution.

Thank you and I look forward to your comments to help and support this initiative. The game will become more enjoyable because of our efforts.



19 thoughts on “Pace of Play and USGA

  1. A friend of mine was complaining the other day that no-one should be allowed to walk a course. All courses should be cart only. He had been behind a group of 4 who were walking, while he and his wife were carting (a twosome following a foursome). My friend plays quickly – he’s older and doesn’t hit the ball very far, and even when they do put it in the rough/trees, after a quick look (with no result), another ball is dropped and put in to play. I attribute his “quicker” play to his self imposed rules and not looking very much for lost balls. The group in front of him seemed to be spraying their shots and spending a lot of time looking for their balls. They were allowed to play through, though.

    I told him I totally disagreed with his idea of carts only (ludicrous). To me, a slow group is usually the ones who are really trying to play by the rules of golf and want to find every ball that they lose. When they are having a bad round and hitting many balls in the rough/trees, and spending a lot of time looking for it, it really slows things down – cart or walking – doesn’t matter. I don’t mind too much if a person has a longer pre-shot routine as long as he/she keeps it in the fairway and keeps up on the greens.

    To me, one of the major problems with pace of play is spending too much time looking for lost balls. If you’re having a good round (fewer lost balls), it usually goes quicker. A bad round is usually longer. Yes, there are many other factors, and the courses have a role to play in this for sure. Time time management is a big one IMO.

  2. for the Pro game here are some other suggestions
    1) you may only lift and clean your ball ONCE on the green and putting should be continuous unless you are standing on another players line, with the exception of matchplay.
    2) Keep caddies OFF the greens- the ‘committee’ meetings held to decide on line of putts is ridiculous. The players should be the one to decide and only him/her.
    3) Prohibit players and caddies from advancing up the fairway past the point where their ball lies. This business of going forward 80 yards to look at a green should be stopped. They all have practice rounds they all have course planners and detailed measurements etc they shouldn’t need to do this.

    I agree with Gary above- get them all on the clock right from the off and don’t wait until it gets too bad. Also authorise the Referees to make decisions re penalties at the time. This business of waiting for the chief ref is time wasting. We have refs, let them do the decision making or don’t bother to have them with each game!

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