Monday, March 03, 2008

Slow play a problem at all levels

Near the end of his most recent newsletter, Tiger Woods raised the subject of slow play, suggesting that something serious be done about it on the PGA Tour.

Woods allowed that it’s a difficult subject and when a group falls behind the time clock, it’s probably not fair to penalize everyone when it’s typically one player’s fault.

Tiger conveniently left it to our imagination whether he was pointing a finger at J.B. Holmes, who not only nearly beat Woods in the first round of the recent Match Play Championship but nearly drove us all batty watching his fidgety and maddeningly prolonged pre-shot routine.

If that wasn’t Tiger’s intention, it should have been.

And he’s right, slow play continues to be a problem. Unfortunately, that’s nothing new. What would be new would be a more serious crackdown that resulted in quicker, more hard-hitting penalties than the various warnings and bad time citations now handed out on tour.

There’s nothing much more fun than hanging around a tee waiting 10 minutes for the group in front to clear out. Or, if you’re a spectator, watching a group of guys wait for the group in front to clear out.

One of the reasons cited in a recent New York Times story about the declining numbers of active golfers is the amount of time it takes to play 18 holes. Golf should never be a five-hour game but that’s what it’s become in too many places.

Adam Scott, who keeps getting mentioned as the game’s next great player, chimed in over the weekend, endorsing Woods’ suggestion for more severe penalties for clock chewers. Maybe if top players make enough noise, something more will happen.

Sadly, pace of play has become a problem at all levels. There’s no reason for double-digit handicappers to be pacing off yardage from sprinkler heads. They’re not good enough for it to matter, consistently.

The simple solution would be to have 100, 150 and 200-yard markers in the middle of fairways and on carth paths. That’s enough.

Speaking of cart paths, the worst words in golf today are ‘Carts On Path.’ That guarantees you’ll need a meal or a massage or both to get through 18 holes because it will take so long.

By the way, have you ever seen a course offer reduce rates for carts when they have to stay on the paths? Seems only fair.

Anyway, the point is Tiger has a point about slow play. Do I have the solution?

Not right now.

I need some time to work on it.

Is slow play a problem where you play? What should be done about it? Let us know in the comments section below.


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a reduced cart fee if it is carts on path only.

I tend to not mind as much if someone is slower putting than in the fairway or rough, but putting can get long too.

KRON said...

I played this weekend, and I thought we'd never finish. The problem? A threesome in front of us lining up every putt as if they were going for the course record. This same threesome also didn't play ready golf. I mean, come on, we're on a muni. Get over yourself and address the ball if you are ready first.

Anonymous said...

I love to play golf but I hate the time it takes on the Weekend. Why do people take 3 or 4 practice swings and then a swing that looks nothing like the practice swings? And people please take just 15 minutes and pratice your short game and putting it will save you at least 10 strokes, and some of you weekend golfers might break 100. And I don't care how much golf you watch or Nike you wear you will never ever be TW, so stop trying and be you.

Anonymous said...

One of the most 'interesting' things I've heard recently on the course was a gripe from an older player last Sunday morning that "those guys ahead of us are walking--it'll just kill our pace." This, before we teed off at #1 as a put-together foursome in 2 carts, and proceeded to slow everyone down behind us while quickly losing sight of the walkers in front.

Walking, which I like to do but was discouraged from doing by the guy manning the cash register, actually does speed play for us regular guys, unless we would otherwise have trouble walking. I'm not a huge activist about it, but the fiscal situation of many public courses has mandated cart use, which doesn't allow players to get to their own ball, ready themselves and hit.

Oh, and another thing about this particular older gentleman--he typically would be staring off into space when it was his turn to putt, so we'd have to remind him...further slowing the pace as the walkers flew off into the glorious sunshine.

Tony F said...

Four huge causes for slow play:

The first is that many people are oblivious that they are slow. Recently,my twosome (walking) were constantly pushing a twosome (riding). I finally approached the gentlemen and asked if we could play through. When I told him that it had taken us almost three hours to play (11) holes, they had no idea. They let us play through but they also picked up their pace considerably.

Second, there are much more junior golfers playing (especially at private clubs). Many of the juniors often play in foursomes and are too busy yucking it up on a social basis to pay attention to what is going on around them in terms of other players. I know of a couple of clubs in the Northeast that will not allow junior golfers to play unless they take a golf etiquette course offered by the club and essentially agree to abide by club sanctioned guidelines on pace of play etc.

Third, most golfers simply do not understand what playing "ready golf" means. Be ready to hit as soon as it is your turn. You should have already had plenty of time to take practice swings, line putts etc.

Fourth, most courses (public and private) are monitored poorly. Most "rangers" don't want to do anything to upset anybody especially if it is a private club. A good, consistent approach by the club (without making it personal to the offender) is usually all it takes.