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 is slow play by Pros and then there is slow play by amateurs. Most of the comments have already been made and they are all true. Some amateurs are just slow and they will never get faster. Course Marshals used to warn them and push them along. Now there are no Marshals because the IRS screwed the system up.

    We sometimes solve the problem by skipping the hole and passing the slow folks up.

    It does not pay to get mad and rant and rave.

    • Yes it DOES pay to get mad. I played at Centennial GC in Carmel, NY 2 weeks ago, as a single with 3 other show up ams, while I was prepping for a GCTour event that I won. I play off 3.8, ONE guy in the group shot 100+ for the first 9. He was both TERRIBLE and CLUELESS about his pace. When we came around for the back 9 the starter says to us, and I QUOTE in NY Metro “dielect”: “What the h*ll is rong with u’s guys. Ur screwin’ up our entire operation over here…” Well, I politely told the starter, “Dude…one guy in this group is TERRIBLE, and I’m gonna let him finish with the other guys while I go have lunch…” So…ONE slow player can back up an ENTIRE TEE sheet of a few HUNDRED players all day. On courses all over the world. So, yes it IS a big issue in the game.

  2. Cart golfers can speed up play by following these suggestions: After hitting your shot get the cart drive to next stop and then put your club away. Drop your partner off and while they are hitting you are at your ball and ready to hit. They start to walk down the fairway and you pick them up on the way. For gosh sakes finish putting out if you’re not in someone’s line!! Mark you score at the next hole! Play ready golf! These are just a few suggestions to help move things along. It really doesn’t take a lot to to make a big difference.

    • Very good ideas here. We always play “ready golf”. Besides, the quicker you play, the quicker you can get to the 19th hole. 😉

  3. complaining about slow play is adolescent bs…let each of us play the game we choose, and accept each other as we are….relax, tolerate diversity, and minor annoyance…its just your reflection

    • NO! Fit the pace-of-play guidelines ON COURSE…or DON’T PLAY and hold up the rest of the world SELFISHLY and rudely.

    • You must be one of the self centered slow players who doesn’t care about anyone but yourself. How dare anyone tell you that you are slow Narcissist!

  4. Cart etiquette (or common sense) is a big part of the solution, IMO.

    1. Have slicers/pushers ride with slicers/pushers….hookers/pullers ride with others who play the same type of game. How many times have you seen a foursome in carts “tack” their way down the fairway, driving from one side to the other to find each other’s ball and hit shots.

    2. Require cart drivers to park the cart on the side of the green CLOSEST to the next tee. Countless times I see golfers hit a chip from in front of the green, then walk onto the green, leaving their cart in front of the green, between the hole and the fairway. When they leave the green, they must walk back toward the group on the fairway waiting to hit their shot. Do this 18 times, and you add 18 minutes to the round! Better signage in front of the green would help here.

    3. Teach players to exit the green at a BRISK pace. I often see players STROLL off the green engaged in conversation, etc., with no thought of the fact that they are holding up play behind them.

    4. Mark the scorecard on the NEXT TEE, not before exiting the green area. The same goes for replacing putters, wedges, etc. in your bag.

    All of these things seem trifling, but taken together, they can and do add an (estimated) extra 30 minutes to a round of golf! I hasten to add that I don’t know whose responsibility it is to undertake some of these tasks to educate the golfing public. Golf course managers seem loathe to do it for fear of ruffling the feathers of paying customers. Many courses have even done away with rangers whose job used to be to keep play moving, urge slower players to keep moving, etc., etc.
    But it is an ongoing problem that is ruining the golfing experience…..!!

  5. Frank, two points here from me.
    1) I watched Jordan Speith at the Masters two years ago take over 75 seconds to hit each of 2 putts on the 16th. He missed both of them. It’s a small sample but slow play does not equal better play!
    2) The problem in amateur golf is that the suggested 40 or 45 seconds to hit a shot is unenforceable. I played in a club match play a year or two ago when my opponent took over a minute to hit almost EVERY putt. What could I do – nothing.
    So there are two conclusions. It’s the PLAYERS who have to decide to sort this because the USGA AND R and A certainly aren’t going to. And secondly the pros, with all the garbage about bifurcated rules notwithstanding, have to go first, then maybe amateurs will stand up to their friends and opponents and tell them that they are going to claim a hole in match play and leave it to the club committee to decide!!!!

  6. The most elegant solution I’ve seen at a local club is a standard-issue time clock like you’d see at a factory, where employees “punch in” and “punch out”. At this particular club, the started punched a card for you when you teed off. When you returned, he punched it again. If you weren’t able to complete your round in 4:20, OR within 10 minutes of the group ahead of you, you got 1 warning and then were barred from scheduling a tee time during prime times (before noon on weekends and holidays). Once banned, there was a process (again using the time clock) where you could earn your way back into morning tee times once you were able to prove that you could keep up. Elegant and simple.

    For amateurs not playing in tournaments, we need to play ready golf and pick up when we’re out of the hole. There’s really no excuse. I also think most people would play faster if they walked, but that’s not always an option unfortunately.

    As for the pros, they need to enforce the rules. Let a player know when he’s on the clock and then hit him with penalty strokes on every instance of slow play thereafter. They might need an official with each group to give some kind of “10 second warning”, but DeChambeau’s actions are indefensible and interfere with his opponents’ ability to have a fair chance of success. I guarantee that once you dock a player a stroke or two, the attitude will immediately go from “they don’t enforce this so who cares” to “what do I need to change in my pre-shot routine to ensure I’m not taking too much time?”

  7. The PGA Tour and Masters evidently prefer to “enforce” the ALREADY EXISTING slow-play guidelines that have been in place already for SOME TIME…on 14 year-old amateurs instead of the horrendous pros. Or, as Lee Westwood said when asked about slow play in public golf, “Well, they’ve really just learned it from us on TV, haven’t they?”. It started with Deane Beman teaching Jack Nicklaus how to play slowly 60 years ago, and has continued with every #1 player ever since, save for Palmer and Tom Watson, and Tiger’s not too bad, actually. It’s firstly a TOP-DOWN problem of NON-enforcement of EXISTING RULES and POLICY!!!

  8. Get rid of greens book, yardage book ( use GPS instead) and stripe on ball (watch how long it takes to align ball and then do it more times before putting. Local golfers need to play ready golf, not who has honor or who is furthest away. (except on green)

  9. Sure, do 90% of the previous suggestions. However equally important is to ALWAYS know what’s going on behind you. If it’s backed up, its your responsibility to pick it up.

  10. Absolutely play appropriate tees
    Carry fewer clubs for fewer choices
    Ready golf
    Yardage book or device or Just Hit It
    Maximum of 3 over on each hole ( 2 is better )
    Drop ball and take penalty where ball went OB unless tourneys
    Use Frankly Frog so you don’t have 3 putts
    Drop lake ball on green side to save time
    If you can’t play in under 4 hours , just play nine

  11. I take issue with your statement “A golfer must be able to score a par on every hole.” Surely those golfers are the elite 1% that you keep complaining about as having undue influence over rules. I know that you go on to say 25% to 30% of the time but I suggest that this applies to something like 10% of all golfers out there. I also suggest that slow play is ‘par for the course’ and if you want to grow the game of golf it is part of the price you pay to have us ordinary golfers out there taking part in the sport we all love. A little patience on behalf of the good players is what is needed. Also the common sense to go out when it is quieter, and usually, cheaper.

    • I think the point being made is that par is possible for you on any of the holes you are playing. You may only par 25 to 30% of the holes on any round, but the percentage will be from ALL the holes on the course, not just a select few.

      • 100+ shooters can play golf in under 3 hours. Hit and MOVE on and KEEP moving on; better players are often slower players also.

  12. As someone who has officiated at over 100 JR golf tournaments, what i see as one of the biggest problems is people wasting time on their shot. Many times they’re not ready when it’s their turn. We see this with the pro’s all the time. They wait till someone else hits, then they go thru routine with glove, yardage, have lunch with their caddy. It’s insane. there’s a lot they could do while waiting. Bryson is a clown on the course. Brooks, is dead right. These guys have hit the shots thousands of times. If there’s something unique, difficult about a shot, i can understand taking a bit longer, but most of the shots the pro’s make are very pedestrian. As an official, i have no problem in warning a group, and/or player. And i have no problem in giving out penalties where appropriate. I do believe if the PGA was serious, they would be giving out penalties and you’d def see pro’s speed up play. Thus is their livelihood, strikes can cost them a tourney of a very large paycheck. People emulate pro’s. Lastly, i totally agree with you about golf etiquette. Many people complain, yet don’t practice it themselves. It’s kind of like speeding. The speed limit applies to everyone except them.

  13. I agree with you on this problem. My suggestion one is only telecast PGA Tour Final round and only last nine holes. Try this for one season. PGA tour players are pro and it is their job for leaving. We are all enthusiastic golf players with various skill and interests. If you see tour players more often and frequently on weekly bases intrested golfers will follow their instinct. Secondly all public golf courses should print and instruct golfers of all skill level to limit two putts per hole regardless their score on that hole or any holes. This means a boggy or double boggy etc.Thirdly golf course should provide three Marshall’s to monitor play.

  14. Plenty of slow players could become faster players if they:

    took only one practice swing

    stopped pacing off yardage and made a good guess

    played the appropriate tees for their ability

    played ready golf

    made continuous putting a habit

    These are old suggestions, but still valid because they’re ignored so frequently.

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