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. The main thing that gets me mad with slow play is when the marshal comes to my foursome and tells us to pick up the pace when it is a group four groups ahead of us playing very slowly. My partner and I played 14 holes in an hour and 15 min then it took us another hour to finish the last four holes because of a foursome in front of us.

  2. I have 3 irritations as I see these all the time. USGA should outlaw the alignment mark on the ball. We have to look at the line of the putt from every angle and then bend down and one eye the mark with the line of the putt. Then we take our stance and oops, we need to bend down and change the ball alignment. This times as many putts a foursome takes is a huge reason for slow play. Also the people that have to clean the club, put the cover on and then put it in the bag. Especially aggravating when you are waiting for them to clear the green. Lastly is the betting where we make people putt 1 footers because cash is on the line.

    • even if USGA were to ban the “alignment line”, there’s the sidestamp, put on the ball at the factory, that can be used for the same purpose, without the hassle of finding the Sharpie you left in your bag in the unheated garage all winter is dried out.

      • that side stamp is where the mfr puts the model of the ball, adding it to the 2 larger logos would be too costly in their tooling, and a $3 ball would go to $5

  3. my wife and I play 18 holes on an ave of 3 1/2 hours. we are ready to hit and putt out. I shoot in low 80’s and my wife low to mid 90’s. we playy the correct tee’s and always enjoy our play. now that we are older we no longer belong to private club, so we play public courses in and around Berks Co. Pa. Get Up Be Ready and Play to Your Best

    • I’m envious that you live in Berks Co, PA, where the 2015 census indicated its population to be around 415,000. In Los Angeles Co, CA, where I live, the same census indicated 10.2 million. I think the number of rounds played in any given day are just a tad higher in our area than in yours, making it difficult to play quickly as one would like. Nevertheless, I agree wholeheartedly with your motto!

  4. Where to start?

    Players are getting older so they are naturally getting slower. Increased use of carts, at least in Australia, means more congregating during play. Instead of a person going to locate his or her ball in a difficult position, two people go whereas the second one could be off playing his shot then coming back to the other for club selection and play straight away.

    Changing the oob rule to drop as near as possible where ball was last seen under penalty of one shot would speed that up. My course is a beautiful links in the shape of a long thin rectangle. All of the holes on the outside boundaries have oob on the right (good for us left handers) but a nuisance for those having to re-load a provisional every time.

    Courses are getting too long (see also comments about players getting older as well. On non- competition days the club should put out one set of tee markers, close to the front of tees (do visitors to Cypress Point get to play from the championship tees on 16?) with the longer tee markers used only for competition rounds and even then varied depending on which competition. I have already written to you Frank about limiting clubs to 10, the longest being a 15.5* 3-wood. Encourages more accuracy from the tee, less time spent choosing which of your 4 wedges you are going to use and keeps the holes in proportion if they are played shorter.

    Finally, the pros have to set an example. Are they now on a shot clock? If so, do the transgressors get their names in the paper for all to see. If “no” to the last two questions then they ought to be. I almost went to sleep watching Holmes trying to play his approach to the last at Torrey Pines last weekend (and the telecast was between 7.00 am and forever Monday our time). Six hours for a round of golf was really over the top.(Good to see JDay winning again though).

  5. i think most people who play golf basically regularly and also casually, tend to improve their play and take extra time, one reason. secondly when golfer pays for a round must have credible handicap and pro should verify. If no handicap schedule them last group or back nine. Provide time bracelet which has only 5hours only This is extra cost to course but may work. At 5 hour time the bracelet would make very loud noise and want stop. this will require the golfer to leave course. The pro should be assess 2 to 3 strokes with warning for future tournament suspensions.

  6. As a former fighter pilot the phrase “check 6” has a special meaning. It means always knowing what’s going on behind you.
    Guess what, golf may not be life and death but the need to check 6 is still a necessity. If the group behind you is waiting on every shot at least determine if it’s your fault and respond accordingly.

    • Exactly. My playing partners feel that if we’re on a 4.5-hr pace, we’re all good. Nope. There is NO REASON why a round a golf should take more than 3.5 hours.
      10+ handicappers pulling out range finders from “ANY” distance is fkn embarrassing. Hit the ball, pal. Then start walking.

  7. One of the major contributors to slow play is slow play on both tours. Granted this is their means of income so every shot means more, but the result is 5-6 hour rounds. Then many amateurs watching golf try to emulate what the pros do and the result is slower play.

    • The hurry was the glitterati of the music world (and I use that term very loosely, btw) circling the block in their limo’s, probably swilling bubbly and tying their legs in knots so as to not wet the upholstery until they could exit and stumble down the red carpet on live tv for the Gramma’s…..while JB Holmes takes 4+ minutes to hit a mediocre layup.

  8. turn on the golf channel.! have routine start behind the ball. pick your site.close your eyes take mental picture of shoot. repeat this process at every shot. now the ,the pitch and run,plan your landing spot. on the green at last. now look at putt from all sides,set up over the ball/ into your routine.if you miss the putt,mark your ball like the wait your turn while your playing partners do the same your turn to repeat your routine,you make the putt repeat 17 more times. jb hollmes a great model.

  9. Dr. Lou Riccio has studied this extensively and has started a group (endorsed by the USGA) to combat slow play. Please refer to

    for a USGA article on Dr. Riccio’s golf laboratory.

    His web site has much good information on this topic.

    He has a great many remedies for slow play, some of which I have included below:

    “Principles for Individuals:
    1.Walk directly to your ball at a speed of at least 3 MPH (about 100 yards a minute.)
    2.Be ready to hit and never take more than 45 seconds to plan, address and hit a shot.
    3.Never take more than a total of 45 seconds to putt out (all putts.)
    4.Never take more than 3 minutes to look for a lost ball or a ball in the water.
    5.Pick up or concede putts when you are 3 strokes out of the hole.
    6.Read The Return of the Four Hour Round by Pat Mateer at least 3 times.
    7.Teach the Principles to at least 3 new players each time you go to the course.
    8.Share at least 3 pace of play ideas, known successes and failures with the Three/45 Web Social Site.
    9.Organize a Three/45 club in your area to advocate for a quicker pace of play.

    Principles for Groups:
    1.Your group should never take more than 3 minutes to clear the tee, fairway landing area or green.
    2.Limit the number of players looking for lost balls to 3 – the fourth should be hitting.
    3.Wave up the following group on Par 3s if a group is waiting before you have reached the green.
    4.If your group is out of position, speed up and get back in position within 3 strokes.

    Principles for Superintendents/Course Managers:
    1.Set your first tee interval to at least the time it takes to play the longest par 3.
    2.Have at least 3 on course check points providing Pace of Play feedback to groups.
    3.Adjust difficulty conditions on holes whose average time to play is more than 45 seconds more than the time estimated by the USGA Pace Rating System.
    4.Reduce putting surface speeds to control for 3 putts.
    5.Get course set-up advice from one of these 3 experts: the USGA, Bill Yates or Steve Southard.
    6.Provide the 3 fastest groups with preferred tee times and or Pro shop rewards.

    Principles for Course Designers:
    1.Design the sequence of holes so slow play holes are the first 3 holes, preferably the one with the highest cycle time (or nearly the highest) being the first hole.
    2.Set up your course so it never takes more than 45 seconds from when the last player holes out until the first player tees off on the next hole.
    3.Design holes so difficulty factors come into play only for 3 handicap players or lower.
    4.Design the course so there is a difference of 45 points in slope rating from the back tee to the forward tees.

    If everyone follows these Principles, we can get the pace of play back to where it should be and we can all enjoy the game more!”

  10. Slow play can be eliminated by a few policies which do not require course changes. Ready golf. Consider the next shot as you drive toward your ball. Use a range finder to quicken club selection. Be ready to hit when it is your play. Hit the shot and watch AND REMEMBER where it finished. Get in the cart and clean your club while your partner lines up his shot. Watch and remember where his shot ended. (“Lost” balls are mostly caused by not paying attention to where it went.) First away player putts until he is in. Enter your score while you are waiting on the next tee.

  11. The game doesn’t need to be changed. It’s the attitudes of the players need adjusting, as well as the attitude of the governing bodies. I usually play the gold tees these days, and yesterday I scored a 78, my best score ever–hitting 14 greens in regulation in the process. And I finished the round in just over 3 1/2 hours. So how does a 17.1 index score that well? It’s because I played the right tees. So why is my handicap so high? Because the USGA won’t let me record rounds I play alone from the gold tees, and the Mens’ Club at my home course makes me play from the white tees in official club rounds. I can barely break 90 from the whites, and I can’t get a waiver to play the golds unless I’m physically handicapped. It’s a mess, and no one seems to be on the same page. How serious is the USGA about ‘play it forward’ or ‘let’s do nine’?

  12. If we catch up and after a couple of holes, no play-through, I will suggest skipping ahead a couple of holes, if possible with no hindrance to others. Then go back and play skipped holes if no hindrance to others or just skip altogether.Some in 4 some do not like this at times so you have to grin and bear it. Or play elsewhere where there are active Marshalls.

  13. Except for tournaments we have a double bogey max. Nobody learns anything after a double.Saves adjusting for handicap also. Also everyone in the league is on the same page, A ll lost balls and out of bounds are played one in one out. Out of bounds hit 3 off the tee is for the the guys who get paid to play. rounds are never close to 4 hours.

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