Is Pace of Play Destroying Our Game?


What are we doing about the pace of play which is destroying our game? There is a focus on rules changes but this is not the answer. Carts have hurt the pace of play and have destroyed the caddie program which has been a very effective introduction to the game. Thoughts?

–Michael B, Sarasota


Yes, pace of play is one of the problems we face but it is not the only problem. I have been writing about solutions to the problems the game faces for over 10 years.

There is no question that the game needs to be revitalized and it will require the problems to be clearly defined and a multi-pronged solution developed rather than a piecemeal approach.

Carts have detrimentally affected the game by changing course design and, YES removed an effective avenue into the game via the caddie program. But this is hard to fight because of the revenue stream generated by carts. Let’s also recognize that carts have helped golfers who otherwise would not be able to play but in many cases are now over-used.

Michael, rules changes are necessary but we need to focus on simplicity, rather than perpetuating comprehensive complexity. Rules should be simple with the intent of the rules clearly stated wherever possible. Relying on the player’s interpretation of the intent of these rules – which worked for hundreds of years — would help get more golfers playing by the rules and possibly even speed up play.

More important, however, is to make the game less intimidating and focus on course design and setup to accomplish this. Most courses can be an appropriate challenge – which attracts us to the game — if we played from the appropriate tees. This should also help speed up play.

Michael, thanks for your concern which most of us share but let’s attack with adequate forethought and recognize what we are trying to protect and how we are going about it.

Please share your thoughts by replying below.



22 thoughts on “Is Pace of Play Destroying Our Game?

  1. We used to play from the back tees, our handicaps were low and we were young. The years passed and one day the four members of our team found a solution to the deteriorating results of our game, we decided to play the nine hardest holes from the next forward tees. Needless to say in a few months we ended playing from the forward tees and enjoying ourselves again.

  2. I live on a golf course, Crane Lakes C.C. in Port Orange Fl. and I can’t count the # of times I have seen really poor golfers teeing off from the tips. These are the same clowns who hit that big high slice that hits my house.
    Therefore move up and play faster and enjoy the game more by having lower scores.
    If your constantly in the woods, take a lesson and learn how to hit the fairway.
    Common sense would go a long way in golf, but sadly that is something that is lacking in todays would.

  3. Be ready to play off the Tee. If every player in a foursome piddles away 15 seconds on each Tee that adds 18 minutes to the round.
    Continuous putting; no marking of balls on Green…another 18 minutes.
    Eliminate two-person carts and go to single-person carts.
    When conditions dictate “cart-path only” or 90 degree rule, only low handicappers should ride; high handihackers walk or stay home.
    Less medal play, more match play.

    • Some good ideas here. Complete the thought and ban power carts except for twilight; they just get in the way.

  4. I have often thought that most of us over 65 or 70 should spend more time on the practice tee and with a teacher. This would help us hit the ball with more confidence and play more quickly. If you are a high handicapper play the short tees.

  5. There are many different reasons for slow play. A golfer who tries his best but is consistently in the woods or rough looking for his ball (and that has been me on occasion) plays slow for a different reason than the social golfer who is out to drink beer and and have fun with his friends and doesn’t much care about rules or other foursomes. And getting guys to play from the forward tees (those are ladies tees, dammit) is a hard sell. As is using shorter drivers for more control, but maybe less distance off the tee. Face it, the only drive they remember is that 280 yard laser shot down the middle, 3 rounds ago. Lessons and practice? Boring. I don’t consider golf a game of speed, other than club head speed, so I just try to go with the flow and enjoy being on the course.

    • “”amen to that””..!!
      ‘Lady’s Tees’…!!??…we have ‘Old-Fart’s’ Tees..!!
      Just a “Tad” behind the “Old Dogs”.!!

  6. Frank has advocated fewer clubs in the bag which I think would help pace of play by making it easier to choose which club to hit.

    I also feel that players have to have realistic expectations of their game. Too many high handicappers spend forever over a shot or putt in hopes of some type of miracle result. Usually this does not happen. Actually when I play faster, I play better.

    I also strongly agree with the comment about doing away with all distance penalties. No one should have to return to the tee box for any reason. A one stroke penalty for out of bounds or in the water should be plenty with a drop within two club lengths of where the ball crossed the hazard line. We play this in my league and it works fine for everyone.

  7. Tee it forward is a big help for many courses. We should encourage more match play and modified Stableford formats: if you are out of the hole – pick up and move on.

  8. I make the game easy.!!
    Just pretend that you are playing the ‘Open’.!!
    Conjure up’ground under repair/TV Towers/Gallery chairs/Hospitality tents/
    Cables/Score boards/Grandstands…and the all important hitting a spectator
    and kicking onto the green.!!…Get relief from all and sundry.!!
    Get over it…if one was any good they would be on tour.!

  9. Totally agree w Frank. I’ve been a single digit handicapper for 70 yrs and one additional factor is laser range finders. Amazing how 18 handicappers that can’t control their distance by 20 yds, take the time to laser a narrow par 3 green that they’ve played a hundred times. Yesterday, I watched a better player laser the distance when he was on top of a yardage marker. Even for the best, there’s a time to attack pins and a time to be conservative but some of these duffers are deluded into pin seeking. I’m not opposed to lasers because they can definitely be a help but their use is out of control.

  10. Work to teach people to play from the appropriate tee box. Teach etiquette that if you are playing slow you allow others to play thru.. Change the out of bounds for duffers. Do not go back to the tee box but take a drop where the ball exited the fairway and take a two stroke penalty.

  11. The biggest problem with pace of play is its lack of enforcement at too many courses. Private clubs can often make rules and punish slowpokes, but public courses either can’t or won’t do so for fear of confrontation or losing customers.

    My former club issued you a time card on the first tee that was stamped by the starter when you started. You had 4:20 for your foursome to return that card, or turn it in no more than 10 minutes from the group ahead of you or you were marked late. You got one warning and then you weren’t allowed to make a morning tee time and were relegated to afternoon play until you could prove that you could keep up.

    I would imagine that such a rule could be implemented at a public course easily, yet it doesn’t happen.

    Finally a note to the guys who played a 3 hour front 9 in front of me 2 weeks ago: the selfie you took on the 9th green almost resulted in your early demise. Thank you for quitting at the turn.

    • If my club followed a group playing at a 4:20 rate, we would call for a marshal by the third hole.

  12. Want to save some time in pro tournaments? I think we should allow caddies and players to use range finders during the tournament to eliminate the player/caddie conference on every shot. It sure would have helped determine actual yardage on Jordan Spieth’s errant drive in The Open. It would also help even out the talent in the caddie pool so each pro is playing with accurate, available information. The better caddies have a profound effect on their players success, quite possibly to the extent of winning or losing. I think the overall talent of the player should determine whether they win or lose and not the talent and ability of the caddie.

  13. “Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and, when all else fails, do what seems fair.” I know the rules need to be a bit more complex than that, but just paging through “Decisions on the Rules of Golf” leaves me shaking my head!

    I do think that playing from the proper tees would help speed up the game immensely. Other than the USGA’s “Play It Forward” campaign, most courses display right on the scorecard which tees you should be playing given your (real or estimated) handicap index. I can’t tell you how many four-and-a-half hour rounds I’ve spent following a foursome who can’t reach the 250yd. marker off the tee, yet wait for the green to clear before hitting their next shot. Partly, it’s a function of their not knowing or overestimating how far they can hit any club consistently.

    I’ve moved up to the gold tees this past year once I realized that, at 69, my average tee shot was 205yds. And you know what? For the first time in almost a decade, I’m playing real golf again. I get the occasional snide remark and annoyed silence, and I’m usually teeing off last, but I’m also signing for 81s instead of 95s.

  14. Playing from the appropriate tees is the first step in fixing pace of play. Playing ‘ready golf’ is the second step–if your target area is clear, hit away. Just because another of your group is 40 yards across the fairway and slightly behind you is no reason to wait. That’s a stupid custom. not a rule.

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