By Stu­art McLean, Editor

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Behind The Scene -

y hap­pi­est mo­ments in golf have al­ways been when play rolls along at a good pace. This was how golf was meant to be played, vir­tu­ally at a can­ter, not a slow mea­sured walk. It isn’t a game that has to take for­ever to play 18 holes, and that’s why e orts to rid golf of the scourge of slow play are in­creas­ing.

Rather than be­liev­ing that the so­lu­tion to golf’s de­cline in pop­u­lar­ity is to re­duce the num­ber of holes,The R&A con­tend that the time taken to play 18 holes is one of the bar­ri­ers pre­vent­ing more peo­ple get­ting into the game.

The R&A’s Pace of Play global sur­vey was based on 56 000 re­sponses from 122 coun­tries, and 60 per­cent said that play­ing in less time would im­prove their en­joy­ment of golf. If they could shave two min­utes on ev­ery hole dur­ing a round, they would play more of­ten. I found it en­cour­ag­ing that the over­whelm­ing pref­er­ence of vir­tu­ally all the golfers who took part in the sur­vey was for 18hole golf.

Based on my ex­pe­ri­ence, there are cour­ses where a four­ball can nish 18 in four hours or less, so it can be done. The trou­ble is that pace of play varies from one course to an­other. If a club does noth­ing to dis­cour­age slow play, it can be­come the norm to have holdups on ev­ery tee. I switched golf clubs some years ago, and to my sur­prise found that a round at my new club shaved al­most an hour o a round at the old one.

Play­ing fast at my home club has made me less tol­er­ant of slow play. Ar­riv­ing on the tee of a par 3, nd­ing it al­ready oc­cu­pied by two four­balls, I can un­der­stand why such a de­lay could put new golfers o the game al­to­gether.And the ab­sence of mar­shalls try­ing to do some­thing about it is ev­i­dence that some golf clubs don’t seem to care.

MWhere golf is es­sen­tially slow most of the time is on the pro tours.Tour play­ers have liveli­hoods to think about, but the habits which make them slow are be­ing copied by the recre­ational golfer. And it’s not habits like spend­ing sev­eral min­utes over a putt, or pac­ing dis­tances on the fair­way; it’s also wait­ing on par 5s to go for the green from 250 me­tres out. At Pin­na­cle Point the other day I played be­hind three vis­i­tors who didn’t strike me as com­pe­tent.Yet they spent most of the round wait­ing to at­tempt out­ra­geous shots which only some­one like Louis Oosthuizen, a home­owner at the es­tate, would con­tem­plate.

Tour pros, in­ter­est­ingly, are not im­mune to slow play. Scot­tish Ry­der Cup player Stephen Gal­lacher spoke at The R&A’s Time for Golf con­fer­ence, and said he had had to seek help in deal­ing with the frus­tra­tions of be­ing drawn with slow play­ers.The an­swer he was given: Don’t be ready to play.That sounds con­tra­dic­tory, but he was told to “tune out” while oth­ers in his group went through pre-shot rou­tines. Only when they had played was he ad­vised to start do­ing his. Gal­lacher also said that he viewed slow play as “cheat­ing,” es­pe­cially when the cul­prits speeded up at the sight of a ref­eree. I’m sure Rory Sab­ba­tini had sim­i­lar thoughts of Ben Crane dur­ing their “in­ci­dent” on the PGA Tour.

Player be­hav­iour is not the only cause of slow play though, as The R&A sur­vey re­vealed. Man­age­ment is­sues (short start­ing in­ter­vals; four­balls through­out the day) and course is­sues (di culty of holes, over­all length, thick rough, lots of haz­ards) can also have an im­pact.

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