Your Thoughts About Slow Play?

I believe that most golfers don’t like being held up on the golf course and despise it, if they are held up for more than a couple of holes, as this is a harbinger of what to expect for the rest of the round.

Slow play is not something new but is getting worse, so how do we address this problem as it is one of the main reasons for people leaving the game right along with the intimidation factor (see my book “Just Hit It”).

First, we need to thoroughly research and clearly define the problem. Then we need to develop some practical solutions, followed by simulations and real tests to determine the efficacy of the solution(s) to eliminate the problem.

Based on some extensive surveys it is evident that we have a multifaceted problem and thus a multifaceted solution is needed.

I believe that slow play is a disease that is badly affecting the game. It is better to find the cause of the disease which will eliminate the need to find a Band-Aid solution.

Band-Aids only work on scraped knees and cut fingers which will eventually heal by themselves as Mother Nature will take care of this for us.

This is not the case for the frustration of slow play as the only solution Mother Nature has is to not play. Playing only nine holes at the same slow pace is not a solution.

The cause of the problem is the lack of a true understanding of what is so attractive about the game. I suggest that we have an instinctive urge to evaluate ourselves. Like throwing a rolled-up piece of paper across your office, with the intention of it landing in the waste basket which, if successful, results in an excited exclamation — “YES” — and a hair-raising tingle of satisfaction. This is very personal but satisfies the self-evaluation process.

If the waste basket is too big the satisfaction is proportionally diminished, and if it is too small you would look elsewhere for the self-evaluation challenge. The challenge must be realistic.

A golfer must be able to score a par on every hole — about 25% to 30% of the time. One of the best course designers, Dr. Mike Hurdzan of Hurdzan Golf Design in Columbus Ohio has been on the forefront of recognizing this and has contributed significantly to designing and/or re-designing playable courses.

A playable course is one which will help significantly in speeding up play, but this must be accompanied by education of golfers, course management, and also a little more attention to Section 1 of the Rules of Golf i.e. “Etiquette”.

Golf course architects and good course management need to play their part.

If you don’t catch fish, you move on to another pond but if you still don’t catch fish, after a while you stop fishing and look for a challenge elsewhere.

What solutions do you have regarding slow play? Please share your thoughts by replying below.



50 thoughts on “Your Thoughts About Slow Play?

  1. Public courses should enforce 7 shots in the fairway then you pick up and 3 putts on the green then you go to the next hole. Also, what’s wrong with a skill attainment system?

  2. After playing in a golf league for 40+ years I believe that the reasons for most slow play are spending too much time searching for lost balls and too much time spent on putting. In our league we ask that a player take no more than two minutes to hunt for a lost ball. We also have a maximum score on any hole of triple bogey. When a player reaches that limit they are to pick up. We believe that a nine hole round should take no more than 2 hours and try to encourage that as a goal.

    • So true. And how about them League chops who’ve been golfing 30+ years and continue to pretend that they don’t know how/where to make a lateral drop? Fn shameful.

  3. Par for a course should be a number, like 72, and a time like 4:15. If your group can’t play at that speed, they need to move up as many tees as needed to achieve the par. Alternatively, the ‘time par’ can adjust during the day. For example, if you want to go off in the first hour your par is 3:45. Next hour is 4:00 and starting with the third hour the par goes up to 4:30. At the tail end of the day, the time could go back down to 3:45 for twilight golf.

  4. So last weekend a PGA Tour group took 6 hours to play a round of golf. This is nuts and JB Holmes taking 4 minutes and 10 seconds to hit one shot – a lay up is also unacceptable. I for one am fed up with constantly waiting for players to get on with it but what I do notice is that players in carts do not seem to have any idea what to do to speed up play – ie. get going and it ruins golf for all those behind them when groups start to stack up and patience wears thin. The PGA Tour should impose a 2 stroke penalty if you do not complete the shot in the stated 40 seconds but they will not because the players have the tour by the throat. Last weekend’s performance by professionals was a disgrace, no wonder a January survey in England found the most boring sport to watch was – golf – and stuff like last weekend and on both public and private courses in aiding in driving players out of the game and not bringing new ones in. Of course for amateurs it would assist if many understood they will never hit a drive 300 yards nor any other club the pga distance so hit the damn ball and get on with it.

    • Don’t be blaming last week on JB Holmes just because you read a headline tweet, pal. That final group waited on EVERY shot for their first 14 holes. Tune in before chirping, pls.

  5. Frank. Two quick fixes to help relieve some of the slow play problems—if using a cart drop one player off to hit while the other goes to their ball. Hit it and pick first player up who should be walking towards the hole. Second fix please,please,Please putt out if you are not in someone’s line. You’ve just putted so just finish up-you just made your putting stroke,felt the speed of the green and seen the “break”so Go For It.

  6. Since this has been debated for decades – there is apparently no easy answer. What comes to my mind is that this is both a heart and mind problem. The “mind” problem is that a large percentage of golfers think they are better than they really are. Yes, they SHOULD play the correct tees….and play enough club. This will never change. And the heart problem doesn’t let many players think about the other guy….and how he feels about standing around, waiting. That does work the other way, too….in that the guy waiting needs to have a heart about someone ahead who may be trying their best.
    Soooooo……..twenty years from now golfers will still be talking about the SAME PROBLEM. Oh, well.

  7. Like the NBA and NFL, the PGA Tour has a shot clock. Unlike the other 2, however, it appears the PGA Tour is extremely reluctant to use it. This must change! I get it that tough winds and high purses, along with high payout differentials for finishing 2d vs 3d or T3 or T2 make for increased mental pressure, but these guys are pro’s, if they can’t handle it, let them go back to the or Podunk County Muni Tours. Put a Tour official with each group. Run the shot clock from when the player and caddie start walking after a shot. Have the official wear a radio earpiece so he/she can get the ShotLink distance that shot went. Allow a standardized time increment for each increment of yardage the shot went, such as 15 seconds for each 10 yards or fraction thereof, for example. Upon arrival at their ball, player and caddie have 45 seconds to decide what shot to play and make the stroke. If they walk slower than stated above, their time to make the shot is eaten away to cover their lack of hustle, but as long as the next shot is on its way in time, no penalty. If the player busts time, 1st time, warning. Second time same event (not necessarily same round), add a stroke. Third time, add 2 strokes. 4th time, DQ. Equip marshals with flags such as used by NFL officials so Tour official can call ahead to marshal to flag the ball of a player who just took too long to make that stroke, so BlimpCam can alert the announcers to mention it on air (“Oh no, Schmedlap just got flagged!”) Time everybody, all the time, not just certain groups with reputations for being slow. Also, play “ready golf”, not “farthest out is up”, as long as players who have already hit stay out of the way of the guy farther out. Color code the caddie bibs to match colored tape on the stopwatches so the official can easily see which clock is for which team. Ready golf would help reduce the complaints of being told you’re slow but it is another player in your group that is holding everybody back.

  8. Make the hole 50% larger for all but the flatbelly Tour. There’s next to no gratification from making a three-footer anyway, and there’s an inordinate amount of luck when it comes to making longer putts (12+ feet). Watching double-digit handcappers mark short putts, plumb bob etc, to grind out short putts is embarrassing. A larger hole would save several minutes on each green x 18 holes = 3.5 hours would then be adequate/realistic to complete ANY round of golf.

    There’ll never be a solution to slow play on the PGA Tour because of the large purses. Best plan would be to publish the slow play warnings/fines each week so that the repeat offenders are then shamed by the public. Otherwise, it’s the same old story; lesser lites like J.B. Holmes and Ben Crane take all the heat while boy wonder sweethearts like Jordan Speef always get the free pass by pulling BS rules out of the bag to game the system. Fines are obviously meaningless, so taking away Fedex Cup points might help. e.g. X number of “on the clock” infractions means you receive an Unvitation to your next Major.

  9. Slow players usually don’t change and fast players keep on playing quickly. Several yrs ago I prevailed on a notorious practice swinger to just hit it. He shot 78 for one of the few times he’s broken 90. In spite of that experience he continues to take 3 practice swings and then checks his clubhead position halfway back before he plays a shot. Maddening but he’s incurable. There are a few tour players doing the same thing and the tour does all golfers a disservice by not penalizing these players strokes for slow play.

  10. Frank, I am only an average golfer and I often loose balls and take time trying to find them (and I can’t afford just to leave them). I certainly don’t achieve par very often and, while I try to speed my game along, I play many more shots than the elite golfers. However I pay my green fees like anyone else and I am entitled to play a full round no matter how long it takes. The important thing is that I am in the majority. Most golfers are like me. It is only the few good golfers that get held up (and complain about it), except on a weekend in New York where everyone gets held up and slow play is the norm. Sometimes I get delayed by a slow group, Since I tend to play late in the day (its cheaper then) slow play in front often means I don’t get to finish before it gets dark. Golf is not a game just for the elite, although it may have started that way. Most golfers are slow and by trying to speed them up you are actively discouraging them rather than trying to grow the game as you so often claim.
    Further, we were all beginners once and hitting many shots until we got the hang of it. And don’t tell me this should be done on the range – where’s the fun in that? So don’t tell us poor average golfers that we should play faster, we cannot and not only will you discourage us from playing, you will prevent newcomers from even getting started.
    And another thing is the marshals that go round some courses trying to hurry things along. I remember being held up by a slow foursome but having a marshal telling me repeatedly that I was playing too slowly. I certainly wasn’t going to commit the sin of hitting into them. People who act as Marshals tend to be officious even to the point of being obnoxious. I have never played that particular course since and have no intention of ever doing so.
    And yes, if the course is clear ahead and faster players come up behind, I have no problem letting them play through. So often, however, there is a queue ahead and there is no point on letting them through. Most people do not mind being held up. it is part of the game and often happens even at PGA level. (I see it every week on the Golf Chanel.)
    Finally, I do have one of your famous putters which enables me to sink more putts and play a little faster. That is one point were we agree.

    • Nigel, go buy cheap used golf balls and maintain the pace of play. You do not have the right to hold up 60 people because you paid a green fee. Also, buy a ball retriever and go look for balls when the course is empty. Your behavior discourages other from playing.

  11. I’ve mentioned this previously, but enforcement is important. I used to play a course where they’d give your group a card and you’d punch your card with a time clock at the beginning of the round. You had 4:20 to punch your card again at the end of the round and turn it in. If you failed to finish in the allotted time (or within 10 minutes of the group ahead of you) you were banned from getting a tee time in the most in-demand times (Sat/Sun morning). We also need to empower course marshals to move people along.

    Course setup and maintenance can also help, since groups fall behind looking for errant shots. This might mean marking certain areas as hazards to discourage players from wading into thigh-deep grass to look for their lost ball. It might also mean cutting the rough lower to expose balls better, or stationing course staff to act as forecaddies in areas that are particularly prone to lost balls.

    Education also plays a role. Many people I’ve played with don’t take a provisional when they should. This not only forces them to contemplate returning to the tee box to hit their next shot (per the rules) or forces them to spend too much time looking for their lost ball since the alternative is worse.

    Finally, one thing that I DON’T agree with is allowing the group behind you to play up on a par 3. Par 3’s have a natural tendency to space out play on a course. If I arrive at the tee when the group ahead of me is still hitting on a par 3, I can usually rest assured that by the time I finish the hole, they’ll have had plenty of time to hit their tee shots on the next hole, AND their second shots. Allowing groups to play up eliminates this natural space creator.

  12. Your best chance for par is, in part, determined by which tees you use. This, I believe, would increase both satisfaction as well as increase the pace of play.

  13. I believe that it starts with education in the beginning. My father taught me about playing fast meaning don’t dawdle over the shot get your club and be ready to hit. I understand pre- shot routine but this is getting terrible. If I took 4 min to hit a shot I would have been left there on the course by my father. There is no excuse for not playing fast even if you are not good at the game. Pick up the ball and move forward there is no shame in saying you are not playing well and to keep the game moving just pick up. Also you should take 2-3 clubs with you when you get out of the cart. That way you are not going back and forth. Take on for exact yardage, one for longer and one for shorter. Its that simple folks. You can talk on your way to the next shot but when you get there Hit IT. I walk and I can play faster than most people riding.I may have a bad game once in a while but I still move. Also PLAY FROM THE PROPER TEE”S. If you are not less than a 10 handicap then play from either the whites or the gold tees it will make the game more fun and enjoyable. Thanks you.

  14. Two changes would make a big difference: amateurs abandon lost balls within 1 minute and take a 1-stroke penalty from best guess of where ball left the fairway; and no betting, which causes endless pauses over putts. The latter would be difficult to enforce except by a sort of social contract.

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