Moving On


Slow play? It’s a dirty word in the world of golf. Much time and significant resource has been devoted to trying to determine a remedy to the ill that plagues the game. How many times have you been excited about getting out on a Saturday only to have your excitement crushed by the dreaded 5 hour round? How does that even happen? Many of us with young families don’t have the 5 hours to devote to a round of golf. If you add in warm up and travel to and from the course, your time requirement could be 6 or 7 hours. Pretty much shooting your Saturday right in the knee. If your spouse or significant other isn’t a golf sympathizer or participant, you could land in some very uncomfortable waters. Time is a precious commodity that shouldn’t be squandered by slow play.

Racking my brain, trying to figure out what can be done to improve pace of play a few tenable ideas have bubbled to the surface. When you are sitting on tee box waiting for the fairway to clear, you have time to ponder different scenarios, perhaps even complex algorithms aimed at fixing the problem. One idea bandied about in golf circles, should courses assign tee times using flights based on handicap? Hardly seems equitable in the scheme of things, especially if you are on a budget as those early times at most courses can get pricey. Economics aside, some guys, even scratch players, prefer playing in the afternoon or can only play in the afternoon. The theory is based on bunching players together with similar playing ability providing premium morning tee times to players who meet certain handicap thresholds. This system is not too dissimilar to what goes on at some of the great old courses in Scotland. They use a lottery of sorts and your tee times are awarded 48 hours in advance. Players provide a ballot, essentially applying for the privilege to play, containing home club and handicap information as well as those of your playing companions. While on the surface it seems manageable, I believe it will only work at destination locations, not your average muni or semi private tract trying to stay afloat during a prolonged downturn in overall play.

Could a flighted scheduling system impact the horrors seen on any given weekend? We’ve all waited at some point on a par 5 wishing, pleading, hell, cursing the moron sitting 250 yards out to just pull a 7 iron and layup so you can hit your tee shot. Only to watch him pull the 3 wood, stalking the fairway, waiting for the green to clear. The green clears, he takes his stance, taking the club 60 degrees passed parallel before uncoiling a vicious swing topping the ball a meager 52 yards down the fairway into the creek all the while begging for his fresh Pro V1 to stay up. Tempers usually flare when he unconsciously( because he lacks a soul) drops another from that very spot….cut to a scene from Tin Cup. He rears back with all his might hitting a 200 yard hook slice (similar to the albatross when it comes to scoring, it’s rare) that finds it’s home in the woods some 148 yards from the center of the green. The 200 yards is the distance traveled, not necessarily up the fairway, regardless he’s snookered behind a tree. Of course, he’ll try then to use his extended ball retriever to extract the Pro V1 from the creek to no avail, because it’s deep in it, never coming back….though he will pick up 4 other balls within arms reach. Just think, he has 3 playing partners, shots are multiplying like spring bunnies. Wrapped in the latest performance wicking materials you stew hacked off at the nerve of these guys. Theoretically, the system should work to keep you playing with similar skilled players. The guy that plays 3 times a year, wouldn’t be bogging your Saturday down. Practically, just doesn’t mesh with how the business of golf operates in America.

How could hole monitors (The Rangers) speed play? Waiting on the tee at the long par 3 (anything over 150 yards in most cases), you watch as member of the group in front of yours paces off his 75 yard approach shot, coincidentally he’s the same cat who attempted the 250 yard hero shot on the previous hole. More swearing amongst your group. Someone invariably points out “where are the Rangers? These guys are killing my mojo”. Another magical idea, maybe they should have a pace of play monitor on every hole, similar to what they do at DisneyWorld to accurately portray wait times for Space Mountain. That way, the guys running mission control in the clubhouse could do something with these clowns in front of us. Sounds great on paper, but unless you are pretty good or use to playing in competition, this idea may backfire. We’ve all fallen victim to the ranger sitting in his cart watching you tee off. Sometimes he’ll be a ways back from your tee box creeping to a stop as you address the ball, but we know he’s there. We can feel his stare critiquing the flaws in our game. Or maybe he’s poorly camouflaged on the cart path just out of harms reach deep down the fairway, but you know he’s watching your shot. He’s judging your golf ability solely on you hitting it deep out in the middle. It doesn’t matter you are playing smart and pulled a 3 wood, you’ve got to hit it deep. Wamo, Shanksville, mortified you pick up your tee like a dog that wet the carpet…..”He thinks I’m no good, but I’m a player, a 10 cap with x-stiff shafts, what the hell just happened? The bastard was watching me, the pressure got to me.” What the hell indeed, he missed the Beyonce (Bootylicious for your edification) you hit on the previous hole leaving you a little 8 iron into the green. How do the tour guys do it with everyone watching….it’s like being in a porn, I can’t do it with people watching…you know, people you don’t know! The idiots in your foursome don’t count. The inner dialogue quiets as you continue to stew. Here comes the ranger with his golf wave and the smug grin, the grin that says, “man you suck”, you smile and give a wave. At least the bastard didn’t say “hit ‘em straight”. Your round is ruined for the next 3 holes at least.

It’s all the same, you might get to play twice a month because of work and family. When you do, it’s 5 hours of getting pissed off and embarrassed, not too dissimilar from the high school experience. Why would you pay for this kind of “relaxation”? If you love the game, you put up with it, you have to….you can’t help yourself. You hit balls every chance you get. Putt on the carpets at home while watching the Golf Channel. When you haven’t had your fix in a while you pine to get out on the links, shoot that personal best you have worked so hard to accomplish. Punch drunk with your lust for fairways and greens, you convince yourself and your 3 buddies that this new course you heard about is different. A friend of a friend played there last month and turned a three and half hour round. Book the time, the weather is perfect. Promises are made to the wife that it can’t possibly take as long as last time. “Our tee time is at 10….I’m thinking, I should be home by 3, 3:30 the latest”. Here you are, waiting to tee off on the 17th. Another longish par 3, island green to boot, a real beauty of a diabolical signature hole. If only you were actually on the tee box waiting! No, the group in front of you is still waiting to tee off, you are in the cart texting your wife……it’s 3:25, ugh. Unfortunately, we’ve all been there and it stings thinking about those rounds going so well before the log jam. Who can possibly hit a good shot after waiting 17 minutes to tee off and watching 3 of the last 4 balls fall short of the green finding the deep pristine waters? We have to find the answer…it’s out there. I heard Scully and Mulder are getting the band back together again to figure it all out.

Again, I wish I had answers, solutions, a panacea for the cursed. The USGA has investigated the issue from top to bottom. They’ve come up with some possible solutions that seem to work when implemented correctly. Ideas like the USGA Pace Rating System and the TEE IT FORWARD campaign may help at some facilities, but implementation will never be universal. How can you tell a guy who just dropped $80 bucks to play, that he can’t play from the blue tees, he needs to tee them up from the white tees based on his skill level? I’ve played with guys that look at the score card and won’t play from anything less than 6000 yards, “I’m a man dammit”! They might break 100 6 times a year legitimately, but even that is dubious with some of the favorable rulings that take place out there on the back nine when no one is watching. “It’s too short, how can I play from up there?” So we tee it up from the blues in the attempt to mollify a potentially dented ego. My great grandfather was 95 years old when I took him out to play with my son several years ago (He’s 102 now). We get to the tee box, I ask him if he’s playing from the reds which so happen to be a combo ladies/seniors tee box. His response….deadpan, as if he’d morphed into Vito Corleone….”I ain’t no lady, I can play from back here”. How do you tell a guy who is that old what to do? It’s a struggle no matter how you cut it. We see the pros playing from a million miles on tour hitting these towering shots and we all want to believe that we can do it to….”at least like that one time at the range when I hit the back net repeatedly and it was like 320 full carry”. That’s the crack golfers continue to smoke.

So while I don’t have answers, here’s a couple of suggestions. If you are a seasoned golfer ,mid cap, maybe even a single digit, get out there with the people and grow the game. You know guys that play golf and you never ask them to play with you, we all do. Sure, they are fine chaps to drink a beer with or play cards, but they are terrible golfers that will just slow you down. You’ve heard them talk of that unbelievable 95 they shot at the neighborhood gathering and you cringe when you realize it was on a par 61 executive offering. These are the guys you need to take out and play with, teach them about pace of play and proper etiquette. I don’t mean instruction like you are a high and mighty pro, I mean by example. How to pick your club and walk on over to your ball getting ready to hit after your partner hits his shot. How many times have you seen the guy just sitting in the cart waiting to be driven to his ball? They want to learn, they honestly do, we all do. You remember when you weren’t very good, but loved to play? You remember being intimidated by the good player or the early tee times because only the “players” were out before 8am? What I’m saying is we’ve all been there, but some of us never leave that vortex and those people contribute to miserable Saturday rounds. Just imagine if you played with a tour caliber player? I bet you’d feel pretty puny with that 10 handicap, maybe a little nervous, scared to make a mistake. If you find yourself playing in a group with newbies or guys just not that skilled at the game, play a best ball match on the back 9. I’ve been involved in some very fun matches where guys that aren’t very good, have a lot more fun when they don’t have to write down an 8 on a par 3 because it’s a best ball affair. The game is so much quicker too. It’s a lot easier picking up a bad shot and playing from the best position out of two tee shots. You will be amazed at how often guys will put the ball in the fairway when you play using this format. Psychologically, it’s like having a mulligan with every shot, guys just play better. Also, it becomes a team sport which makes the game that much more enjoyable. Most important, keep the game about having fun. If you carry a 2, odds are you aren’t shooting a career best playing with these cats anyway. It’s not possible, you will never find your rhythm, because you can’t with 25+ players. So have a beer and play for fun, make it more about the joy of golf and less about shooting another 71. Moving on.




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