Slow play on the golf course is and has been a hot topic for a long time now and is often seen as one of the main detractors from the participation of the game.
Most of the new Rules of Golf that came into effect on 1 January 2019 were a welcome introduction, some of which created to try and tackle the slow play issue and help us get around the golf course quicker.
People’s time seems to be more precious than ever. Cycling has seen a huge increase in popularity; many believe this is due to the flexibility and freedom to tailor time spent out on the bike to the individual’s needs. Golf is a little less flexible although there have been shorter/quicker versions of the game created. We have seen more success of condensed versions of sports in cricket and rugby with 20/20 cricket and Rugby 7’s proving hugely popular. While these bite-sized formats surely broaden the appeal of the game, the traditional formats of Cricket, Rugby and golf played over a full 18 holes will always be the best and purest format of the game!
But why is there an obsession from many golfers to rush around as fast as possible? Most golfers will have invested in a membership, in the latest equipment, a wardrobe full of the best clothing, sit in their office daydreaming of smashing drives, flushing irons and sinking putts in the monthly medal on a Saturday morning. Then Saturday comes they arrive at the club in their finest clothing, with their prized golfing equipment and try and get around the golf course as fast as possible getting angry and agitated by anyone who gets in their way!
A little like road rage there seems to be a default impatient and sometimes aggressive reaction of some golfers when it comes to pace of play out on the course.
There are of course the dawdlers, the slow play specialist who take 4 or 5 practice swings, toss a wisp of grass into the air, pace out a yardage, a final twitch of the shirt sleeve, a couple of waggles then duff their shot ten yards in front of them only to go through the whole laborious process again. This does need to be addressed. The ‘ready golf’ rule makes a huge difference. New technology, such as range finders and GPS, is giving golfers instant information. The ability to leave the flagstick in while putting helps to keep up the pace – as long as all of your fourball can agree on ‘in’ or ‘out’. I’ve still not decided what my preference is!
The world’s top players need to lead by example also. Many of us will watch on TV the tour professionals spending an insubordinate amount of time over a 10ft putt, looking from all angles, pulling out notebooks and lengthy discussions with their caddy. Now I appreciate they are out there making a living and any information that gives them the edge over their rivals is key, but there is still definitely a balance to be found.
While the majority of us play to a reasonable pace by appropriately utilising technology, adopting the new rules additions and a sprinkling of common sense we should all be able to enjoy a game of golf in a reasonable time. But remember: enjoy your time out there. When play is a little slower, stop and enjoy the moment, enjoy the fresh air, enjoy the game, chat to your friends and appreciate where you are because when Monday morning arrives, you will almost certainly be wishing you were back on the course. And to the dawdlers – small adjustments to your game can make all the difference: maybe just the one practice swing, leave your bag on the correct side of the green and be ready to play. Let common sense kick in if you are struggling and simply step aside to let the group behind you play through.