In my most recent post I shared my viewpoint around the issue of slow play which I feel is significant and will have a negative effect on the growth of the game. I say growth because players who play often do not like slow play, but tend to accept it. Max Adler’s Golf Digest article is spot on for me; slow play is an issue but does not stop me from playing (though it may keep me from playing as much as I would like). In my 20’s, my main barrier to the game was money and now, in my mid 40’s, my main barrier to play is time.
Here are some proposed action items to help address issues of slow play ultimately supporting a culture change in the game. It is not good enough just to talk about the issue; debate is healthy and positive but should always have an action component to it.
10 Items to Support Proper Pace of Play (items 1-5)
1. Align Expectation to Reality
The game takes time. People need to understand this. To play 18 holes on a full-size course is a commitment of time. Slow play can be a perceived result when reality is not aligned to reasonable expectation. However, if time is a concern, many courses offer 9-hole playing options. There are now some 12-hole courses in Canada as well as academy or executive golf courses which should allow for a quicker play.
2. Play tees according to handicap
This change alone could help transform the consistency of play. Golf courses in North America should make it standard practice for players to show their golf association handicap card and that would dictate the tees in which they would play off. No card means forward tees. No compliance means loss of playing privileges. This could be commonplace within a year. Radical, perhaps. But culture change needs a shift in thinking.
3. Forward Tees, not Ladies Tees
A good friend of mine suffered a stroke a few years back. On a trip to South Carolina many full size courses had tee boxes which made the course less than 3000 yards. Then they had their next set of tees around 4800 yards. We called the first set, ‘friendship tees’ which helped my friend considerably. He was able to play one-handed and compete at a level which suited his skills given his condition. A few others opted for the second set. There was no mention on the card or in our group of ‘Ladies Tees’. That term needs to leave the game now.
4. Incentivize Fast Play
Charlie Rymer mentioned this on Morning Drive on March 16 and it is an excellent idea, although not a new one. Courses can be creative to reward players who come in within a certain time deemed acceptable (and 4 hours 30 minutes should be the ceiling). We’re all used to reward programs now, so perhaps daily deals on food items at the 19th hole or earn points for discounted or free rounds? Either way, courses can do more to help move us along and reward us when we do! Some courses can promote times for faster play, some for more recreational play.
5. Let People Play Through
This is an issue of etiquette and respect. Things happen within a round. Wayward shots, lost balls, we’ve all been there. But the misfortune of one player or group should not hold back or bottleneck groups behind you. Waive them through at an appropriate place, such as once your ball is on the green. Marshalls need more authority to enable this and players need to be more respectful and courteous.
Items 6-10 will be posted soon. I welcome your thoughts and comments.