Slow play has been an issue on the PGA Tour for years and for golf in general. Many people are saying that it just takes too dam long to play. A reasonable time to play a round is about four hours. Less is always better. Recently, my golf club has decided that the maximum allowable time to play a round is 3 hours 45 minutes or 225 minutes. Now, the average handicap at our club is 14 or a score of 85. If a player takes 40 seconds to hit a shot from the time they arrive at the ball until they put the club back in the bag the amount of time would be 3,400 seconds or 57 minutes. That leaves 168 minutes or 9 minutes 20 seconds per hole to walk to your ball to hit your next shot, walk to the green, decide if want the pin in or out or walk to the next tee. Not really a lot of time when you come to think of it. BTW, you have not stopped for a dog or a beer or went in to restroom to take care of business. So what is the answer?
The answer lies in educating the golfer, both old and new on how to play the game and increase the enjoyabilty factor. Most golfers let their ego dictate what tees they play. In recent years there was a program put out by golf’s governing bodies based on driving distance. The example cited from a 2011 article states that if a player drives the ball 225 yards they should be playing a golf course that measures 6000 yards. Yet we have players who drive it less than 225 yards playing golf courses that measure 6600 yards and wonder why it takes 5 hours to play. On top of that, we have course Marshalls telling us to speed up because we have fallen behind the group ahead of us. That increases the stress level in an already stressful game. It just compounds the situation of slow play and players being hostile toward Marshalls. Not a combination for success.
The second part of problem is that golfers do not know how to manage their game. If you are playing a hole that measures 390 yards into the wind from an elevated tee to an elevated green landing on soft fairways, that hole is actually playing 425 yards. The Math tells you that your second shot is a 200 yard carry. Yes, you may have a 20% chance of getting there, but an 80% chance of not. So, why not hit something 150 yards, leaving you a 50 yard pitch, which you get within 20 feet from the hole. Easy two putt, so you walk off with a bogey at worst. However, golfers pull out their 3 wood and try to hit it off a tight lie and end up spraying the ball all over hells half acre. Short irons and Putters are the easiest clubs to hit, yet we go for the home run and end up making 6, 7, or 8 and ruining their round. The problem as I see it is we want to hit it like Dustin Johnson, but we hit like Don Johnson. Golf broadcasts constantly tell us how far these guys hit, but they do not tell us how to get the ball into the hole. Their audience is the club golfer and the trunk slammers. The PGA Tour, PGA, USGA, and The Royal and Ancient have an obligation to teach golfers a course management strategy on these broadcasts so that the game is more enjoyable and improve the pace of play. They are failing miserably! Golf courses also have an opportunity to educate their membership and improve pace of play, but they are addressing the symptom (pace of play) not the problem. The Club cannot tell the membership what tees to play but based on the driving distance you can strongly suggest the appropriate tees. If the group is out of position count the maximum allowable strokes and go to the next tee. It has to be a total club buy in and is part of the membership contract. It becomes the culture of your club. Just like course conditions.
So the next time you are caught in a five hour golf course haze, think about some the stuff mentioned above. You will have the time!