By Stuart McLean, Editor
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.