Your Thoughts About Slow Play?

I wrote this article in January 2018 and thought it would be appropriate to re-post it as it seems as if very little has changed. Please share your thoughts below about how to solve this problem.  — Frank


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.


33 thoughts on “Your Thoughts About Slow Play?

  1. There are 2 causes of slow play. First, no one educates golfers about the 20+ ways to play faster. Advising someone to play “ready golf” and “hit it while we’re young” doesn’t work because many people need concrete examples. Also, only a few golfers know how long it takes the average PGA tour threesome to play a round of golf. Second, the people in slow groups do not notice that they are 1 hole or 2 holes behind the group in front of them. (Each hole is about 15 minutes.)

    • Basically, this entire discussion comes down to ETIQUETTE, the concept and former 1st SECTION OF THE RULES OF GOLF BOOK.

      (…not anymore, of course, since the idiotic USGA and R&A took a cue from the ongoing 21st century global mess where school kids now have a good chance of getting shot in the face, and human civility is NOWHERE to be found, and MOVED ETIQUETTE from the front of the RULES BOOK to be arcanely buried as “Rule 1.2b” — it used to supercede the game, and be the unique-to-almost-all-sports FIRST characteristic of it…and now? NOTHING.)

      So, IF you learned to play golf correctly, the first thing you WOULD have learned in the right old skool was…etiquette. And PART OF THAT is “appropriate pace of play.”

  2. Watching a pro tournament in person can be an excruciating exercise. They have a caddy, a yardage book and they know to the yard exactly how far they hit their 8 iron. What on earth takes so long? Granted, trouble shots may take a bit of thought, but this ridiculous performance happens from the middle of the fairway! Require ready golf, penalize slow play and hit the pros where it hurts with stroke penalties. Make them set a good example.
    As for us amateurs, course designers need to step up to the plate. A public course that hosts a Champion’s Tour event that I have played for many years is a prime example. Tee #1 has about 100 yards of thick dense grass in front of the tee so when Joe Average duffs his opening tee shot, not only does it cost him a stroke but now we have to wait while he looks for his ball. Mow it down so that golfers can move off the the tee! Hole #4 195 yard (from the whites) par 3 with sand and water left with trees and water right. The tiered green slopes sharply left towards the water. If you put 4 average golfers on that tee, 3 will be in trouble . BTW, the pros play the hole from 150 yards, but course management wants us off their tee box. The preceding hole is a par 5 so you have 3 groups coming up behind. Can you say logjam? Hole #5 is a par 5 that requires an uphill carry over thick rough of 180+ yards from the whites. Any less will require hunting through the thick grass to find the ball and a wedge to get out. Again , a stiff penalty for higher handicap golfers that doesn’t affect the pros at all.
    Not that golfers don’t have to share the blame for slow play, but course designers need to step up to the plate too!

  3. Golf courses should post signs that state “slow play will not be tolerated”, “the expected time of play on this course is —hours, —minutes and will be strictly enforced. The golf course should have rangers that have the teeth to expel groups that refuse to keep up with play.
    It is up to the golf course to solve this problem regardless of what the cause is.

    • Unfortunately, there’s a LIMIT of “CONTROL” over slow play. Only mechanisms I’ve PERSONALLY experienced that work are FSGA (Florida) and, at times, GolfChannel”Tour” PRINTED scorecards with 2:15 9’s, and GCT PENALTY of 2 shots a man — NO questions as to who’s fault it was (it is then naturally expected that the right guys will “hold him down” and give the slow guy “the business” in the woods or behind an outhouse after the penalty is given, and THEN he’ll likely REMEMBER better in the future) — if u EITHER/OR don’t make the time or finish MORE than 15 min. behind the group in front of u on #9. Trouble is…this CAN and DOES work in a tournament in which all are signed competitors. It can HARDLY work on resort guests or most public golfers, however, unless the golf course is WILLING to go to SWAT levels of public golf pace of play enforcement — which will then naturally” involve pushback, “incidents”, and reduced green fee sales to some players, undoubtedly. And then again, we see NO PACE OF PLAY ENFORCEMENT ON TV EVER — ABSOLUTELY NEVER — w/ pro tours…so why should any public player accept same personally without a fistfight with the starter/ranger/course owner? Good thing the USGA/R&A actively and intentionally DEMOTED etiquette in the rules this year, to promote fist fighting on course, at least — a very much “21st Century-style” move on their TOTALLY WRONG parts. And they also got rid of the RIGHT language of “Fellow Competitor” in 21st century favor of, evidently, “OPPONENT that u should possibly shoot.”

  4. On the professional tours I believe the rules are already in place to penalize players for slow play officials just do not appear to apply the rule. The penalty stroke for slow play must be used more often even in critical situations.

    For the majority of us I believe Lee Trevino once said “miss it quick”. And I concur with Mr. Mullany move up to the senior or forward T. I started at 65 and see a lot of people young and old that should play from the forward T.

    I also like Mr. Cook’s remark, drop a ball where it went out of play. In addition, with ticks present and the abundance of poison ivy, stay out of the woods at all costs.

  5. Play ready golf. Get to your ball and get ready, don’t wait to think about the shot until everybody else has hit. In hazard, place the ball. Some courses think they’re setting up for the US Open, keep the ruff to a hitable length ( it aids in looking for balls). Everyone in the group should be watching others shots (helps in locating errant shots. Hit from correct tees, it’s suppose to be fun.

  6. If most of the time you can’t reach a par 4 green in 2, its time to move up a tee. I now apply this rule to myself, having just turned 70 and now averaging about 200 yd. w/driver and 160 w/fairway hybrid. Can’t get there from whites any more so it is now forward tees (no longer “ladies” tee) for me. Faster play and more fun too. Also I walk whenever possible and usually play in the afternoons or evenings.

  7. Hate slow play. Lot of times when hit in woods , my groups will just through down a ball where it went out, take a stroke penalty and play on. If all agree to doing this at beginning of round, no one has an advantage in not hitting av provionare ball. Speeds up play. We also are quick to let 2 somesomes or faster players through, such as people scrambling.

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