Does your Saturday round go at a snail’s pace? If you and your golf clubs can carry off this quintet of simple measures they will soon quicken up
Golf takes time. 18 holes, a six-mile walk, and, for some of us anyway, plenty of shots means we’re never going to be winning any sprint records in our sport.
But slow play still seriously ticks off the average golfer. Countless surveys have shown it impacts our enjoyment and, whether it’s on tour or at our own clubs, it’s had some of golf’s best minds trying to tackle it.
The R&A’s Pace of Play manual is an interesting read – looking at everything from speed of greens to even cutting back rough if time is really proving a problem.
But we can play our part too. There are some straightforward things we can all do to grab back a few precious minutes and end our golf slow play misery. It involves nothing more than a bit of good judgement.
Bear this quintet of tips in mind next time you’re out and things might just start getting a little less congested…
Golf slow play problems: Five easy ways to banish this on the course
Tee off at your allotted time
The group in front are barely addressing their approaches and you’ve already got the driver out, the ball on a tee, and are ready to swing. But you’ve got a specific tee time for a reason. When you start pinching a minute or two on a busy competition day, you’re already encroaching on those up ahead. It’s a recipe for a traffic jam.
It’s also breaking the Rules of Golf. Did you know you get a two-shot penalty if you go off ahead of your tee time? If it’s more than five minutes, it’s disqualification! Check out Rule 5.3a the next time you’re tempted to beat the clock.
Have appropriate gaps between tee times
All the above is irrelevant, though, if your club are trying to cram tee times in. It doesn’t much matter what you do on the course if fourballs are being sent off at eight-minute intervals.
The R&A’s Pace of Play Manual suggests 11 or 12 minutes is appropriate for a quartet, with at least 10 for three-balls and eight only when you get down to a pair. That, of course, may grate for some facilities who are trying to maximise revenue, or are trying to satisfy demand on a busy competition day. But there’s no point in having lots of people on the course if they’re all so frustrated they can’t wait to get off.
Don’t take an eternity to hit a shot
Yes, the pros sometimes set a bad example. But you are not a pro. Walking round the green three times, pacing out every possible angle, is no help if you’re a perennial stabber.
The Rules of Golf recommend you play a shot in “no more than 40 seconds” after being free to do so – check out Rule 5.6b – and they argue you “should usually be able to play more quickly than that”.
While it’s unlikely anyone is going to be standing over you with a stopwatch in your weekly medal, your committee are encouraged to adopt a Local Rule that sets a Pace of Play policy.
Within that, they can set a maximum time to complete a round, a hole, or a series of holes, or even a stroke, and they can hand out penalties for those who don’t follow the policy.
Play Ready Golf
Lots of clubs would like you to do it, the Rules of Golf positively encourage it, but at a number of places I’ve played, Ready Golf has yet to catch on.
Players fumble about on the tee waiting for the one with the honour to get their act into gear, they shuffle on the fairway trying to work out which ball is marginally closer, and they’ll leave their own ball to walk 100 yards to try and help their playing partner who’s searching for a ball in the rough only to have to trot back to play it.
There are some players who get themselves in a twizzle if they’ve got the ‘honour’ on the tee and anyone even thinks about stepping onto it before them (I personally couldn’t care less who goes when).
But taken collectively, all these little things add up. When you’re messing around on the tee, hunting for a ball before hitting yours first, and playing a pointless game of who’s putt is fractionally further away on the green, you’re adding minutes to your round that just don’t need to be there.
If you’re ready to go, and you can do it in a safe and responsible way, what does it matter whose turn it is? Just hit it.
Just be considerate
The last one, but arguably the most important and the easiest to do – because these etiquette tips are just common sense.
When you’re on the green, leave your bag – or your trolley – on the correct side of the green. There’s nothing worse for the group hanging around behind having to wait even more as you putt out and realise your stuff is on the wrong side.
You know you’ve messed up too as you’re now half running to get there and shift everything out of the way.
This one goes without saying, but you won’t believe how many people do it. Don’t mark your scorecards on the green. Do it on the next tee, and let everyone else get on with the game.
So there you are. Five easy things that will help a round go smoother. No one is saying you’ve got to rush. Some players are naturally quicker than others. But if you keep these things in mind as you’re going round, the game may not be quite as pedestrian, and we can all enjoy our golf just a little more.
Now have your say on golf slow play problems
What do you think, and what does your club do try and and end golf slow play moans? Let me know with a comment on X.