The signature slogan “While we are young” was coined by the United States Golf Association in 2013 to combat issues of slow play while on the golf course. Pace of play should be treated as a top priority at every golf course facility and tournament. In a recent Professional Golfers of America study, the top reason why people do not take up the game or continue to play the game is the amount of time it takes to play 18 holes. There are many ways to get players to play, but part of the reason is waiting on the golf course for slow players. The USGA has been at the forefront of golf’s most frustrating challenge statistically, utilizing their own software and data analysis to successfully implement their ideas for our national tournaments such as the Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens, U.S. Amateurs, U.S. Junior Amateurs, etc. Recommended pace of play is dictated by several factors, but generally a round should take somewhere between 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours.
Pace-of-play issues from a player’s standpoint can be explained to a nongolfer very simply by comparing the issue to traffic. A player who is slow will consider it to be somebody else’s fault, whether it would be the group ahead or someone else playing in their group. “Maybe it’s the other drivers fault, certainly not me.” Slow play (AKA slow driving) stems from a person’s ego. The person in the $120,000 Bentley driving in the left lane going 5 mph under the speed limit feels entitled to do whatever he or she wants just like a golfer who is a 15 handicap and won’t even carry the ball 200 yards in the air feels like he or she can still play the back tees. Whether it’s a semi truck feeling obligated to pass on a 5 percent incline or the tourist who plays his course back home at 6,800 yards and decides to play a course he/she has never played at the same yardage, the issue will never cease.
Everybody has ideas to combat slow play at their own facility that may in fact be great theories and ideas. While I may still be young, I have been employed at a golf facility since I was in middle school. For those of you who run golf tournaments or fundraisers, here are my top 5 suggestions to keep pace of play efficient:
—Don’t sell mulligans to raise money, sell frutts (free putts).
—Regulate a maximum score on a hole, such as double par.
—“Scramble” is not the quickest format.
—Players can only read putt from directly behind ball. Any green reading from sides or opposite the hole is a one-stroke penalty.
—If you are letting a group behind you get in front, the proper way is to hit tee shots on next hole, then let the other group go ahead and hit their tee shots. Just remind them not to hit your ball.
For detailed information on pace-of-play considerations, please visit usga.org/pace-of-play-resource-center.html.