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Equipment Tricks for Faster Play

Apr. 30, 2007     By     Comments (18)

We kick off a weeklong chorus at The Sand Trap to speed up the game with some equipment, gadgets, and tricks that'll help you break the four-hour barrier.

Bag DropSlow play is slowly killing the game I love and I've had just about enough. Five-hour rounds are becoming the norm and six-hour rounds are all too frequent. As a result, even avid golfers are playing less often and enjoying it less when they do.

I'm sure my fellow contributors on the site will weigh in this week with more on the reasons why we're crawling around the course at a snail's pace and what we can do about it. But for now, it's my mission to pass along some observations on equipment that can save time wasted on things other than thinking about the shot and hitting it.

Learn to Use the Damn Cart
You've all seen them… the cart partners who ride between both shots no matter how short the distance. How about dropping off one player and driving to your ball? How about walking from the cart to your next shot if that's faster?

If you are walking to your ball, take two or three likely clubs with you so you have what you need and don't need to wait for room service from your cart mate.

Better Still, Carry or Push
Nothing slows down play like cart-path-only days as players spend more time walking laterally than making progress toward the hole. On days like this, why not consider carrying a very light Sunday bag and getting a little exercise. If this is too strenuous, how about using one of the nifty motorized carts like we reviewed here. Believe me, walking really is faster than riding, and better for you.

Ditch the Cell Phone
OK, carrying one is sometimes essential. And as somebody in the forum pointed out to me some time ago, you'd be very happy to have one in a medical emergency. But for heaven's sake don't be making or taking calls while playing a hole. It's not only rude; you're holding up play and wasting time for everyone on the course with and behind you.

Consider a Yardage Device
There's no question a rangefinder or GPS device is going to help you speed up your game. Instead of driving the cart in circles or roaming aimlessly looking for a yardage marker and then pacing off the distance, get to your ball, grab your gadget and shoot the pin or look at the screen, and draw your club. It really is faster.

A Towel You Actually Use
Forget those towels you clip to a bag. Be your own best caddie and use one you can carry with you to the green to clean your ball, clean your club after a shot, and keep your grips dry when you lay your clubs on the ground. You should never have to spend time at a ball washer on the tee.

Headcovers That Work
I once wrote a Bag Drop devoted to headcovers. What I failed to mention is so many of them today are impossible to put on without a major two-handed struggle. That's ridiculous and another sneaky waste of time. Get some that go on and off easily… or go without.

Organized Pockets
I'm talking pants and bag here. It makes me crazy to watch somebody rooting around in their bag looking for a tee or a ball or whatever. Same thing happens on the green when they frisk themselves trying to come up with a coin to mark the ball. Absolutely maddening.

If you're wearing those fashionably tight pants that don't allow you to get your hand in your pocket, then for goodness sakes consider one of those ball marker clips that fasten to your hat brim.

The Boy Scout Ball
That's what I call the extra ball I carry in a back pocket. I make sure it's numbered or marked differently than the ball I have in play. So when I launch one out of bounds, into the water, or somewhere where it may be lost, I have my reload or provisional ball with me. There's no marching back to the cart to pull another out of the bag. Be prepared.

In the End…
None of these suggestions are earth-shattering revelations and none will save hours of play. But they all save seconds and minutes that can add up and help you and your game get a move on.

Answers to Last Week's Quiz
Based on the resounding lack of response to last week's Bag Drop trivia quiz I'm guessing everybody got them all… or just didn't care. But if you didn't… or do, here are the answers:

1. b. Julius Boros; 2. b. Davis Love III; 3. c. 392; 4. b. 332; 5. a. Fred Ridley; 6. b. Walter Travis; 7. c. Charlie Owens; 8. a. MacGregor; 9. b. Jim Simons; 10. c. Ability to display elevation data; 11. b. Cobra; 12. b. Nike; 13. c. Delta; 14. a. January 1, 2009; 15. b. Napkin ring; 16. c. Callaway and TaylorMade; 17. a. Callaway; 18. b. 2° and 4°; 19. c. Model 5; 20. b. Big, Ugly, Long

Discussion

  1. You forgot one piece of "equipment" that can help people stay on pace: a watch. Either note what time you should be making the turn and finishing on a standard watch (then play to it) or bring an actual stopwatch.

    Set the stopwatch to 15 minutes and strive to beat it on every hole (15 minutes * 18 holes = 4.5 hours, or 30 minutes you've got to shave over the course of those 18 holes). Attach it to your hip - nobody will want the beeper going off while they're putting. ;-)

  2. NM Golf says:

    Headcovers, well I cannot see that having all that much effect on a round. How about people playing the correct tee boxes. I really see it all the time. Nothing slows down a course faster than a 15 handicap at the championship tees.

  3. HouTexan says:

    One thing I have noticed that can help speed up play is to take your head cover off on the tee, not at the cart. You would be suprised how much time it takes for 4 golfers to leave the box, walk back to the cart, then stand there fishing their headcover out of the basket and wedging onto their drivers. Take it with you and put it back on as soon as you hit.

  4. David Baker says:

    Let me start off good article, individuals starting to play golf should read this.

    "Better Still, Carry or Push" - I would like to see course go to carry or push only like Chamber Bay (http://www.chambersbaygolf.com/layout10.asp?id=173&page=3342). I know this really unreasonable in terms of golf course making enough money, but it would better for society since society as a whole is getting bigger. I can say for myself and the guys I play with, we play better golf when we walk as well.

    "Consider a Yardage Device" - Yes I agree it does speed up the game, although I believe it takes away from the game as well, walking off the distance and adding or subtracting 5,7,10 yards for the location of the flag as well. I would much rather see the USGA take a look at getting rid of yardage devices and capping the club design rather than reforming club design.

    Good article, keep it up!

  5. Mallard T. Drake says:

    Don't count your strokes on the green, do it on the next tee while you are waiting to tee off.

    After teeing off, everybody to their balls and meet again on the green. The only time one should wait for another player to hit before advancing to your ball is if your ball in is in line with the other player. Otherwise, get to your ball and be ready when it is your turn.

    Play ready golf, and don't be offended if someone hits before you do.

    Putt out, and don' t mark that 3 footer, unless there is no way to avoid standing in another's line.

    If you need to read the green from several sides, do it while others are putting so you are ready to go when it is your turn.

    Don't wait for some one to rake the trap, if they are away. Go ahead and play until they are ready.

    Visit the cart girl after you hit. One person can handle all the orders rather than all four waiting in the middle of the fairway.

    Pay attention. If you are more than a shot behind the group ahead, you are not playing fast enough. If you have to slow down to look for a ball, then realize you will have to make that time up somewhere along the way.

    If you are ready, tee off, although, it is nice to let a birdie have the honors. Otherwise, grip it and go.

    If you are drinking so much that you can't keep up, then proceed to the 19th hole. You are more interested in that activity anyway.

    Keep your preshot routine to a minimum. If you have a "complex" one (guilty), walk briskly in between shots to make up for the time.

    If you don't know the rules or there is a dispute and the outcome really matters, play a provisional and sort it out later rather than debate the issue in the fairway.

    If someone points out to you that you are play slowly, accept it with good grace and move on. Don't stand and "debate" the point with them.

  6. Mallard T. Drake says:

    Here's a few more:

    If you hit a bad shot or miss the putt, do not drop another ball and try it again. Suck it up and move on. Only on a slow day should you even contemplate that.

    If you play mulligans, you better limit them to one to a side and be quick about it.

    If you get really steamed and need to vent, throw the club down the fairway, so at least you are moving forward as you go to retreive it.

    If someone has to stop at the Sani-can, don't wait for them. Let them catch up and tee off last.

    Don't play scrambles on a busy day. (Yes I have seen this happen!)

    I don't care how much you have on the line. Unless you are giving a cut to me, just hit the ball and keep moving.

    If you are with a beginner, don't give lessons in the fairway. Share tips at the tee, if at all during a round.

    Walk and talk, walk and talk. Don't stand there and have a discussion.

    If you have to walk to/from a cart, or off the green, move briskly. Nothing is more annoying than watching someone lope out of the way.

  7. Eric M says:

    Amen to ready golf. It should be an absolute requirement when games do not require that honors be strictly observed, I'd guess that amounts to les than 1% of all rounds played in a given year overall.

  8. OrvisOrvis says:

    All good points, I think. I see a lot of stupid and inconsiderate stuff on the course. Here's two more I'd like to add. One of my biggest pet peeves is poorly marked or laid out courses. You can play faster on one of the old Ross courses with the tee box next to the green plus there's some real incentive to get the hell out of the way of incoming approach shots. Ever find a 150 yd bush or 100 yd marker that was good two redesigns ago but now puts you in the ever so popular protecting bunkers? Second point may be technology related. I can hit the occasional 260 yd drive and 235 yd 3W so I tend to wait longer before I hit. These same shots also are harder to find if they're off course by not very much. Often times, you can't see them land. The grip it and rip it approach to golf is so very popular these days. I wonder if folks 20 or 30 years ago ran into this same dilema.

    And finally, I carry a GPS unit and follow most if not all of the tips above including simply picking up when it gets stupid silly but I ain't out on the course for the sake of speed of play for 0-10 handicappers. I also ain't out here to work myself into a tizzy over the poor guy ahead going everywhere but straight. I start out with 6 hours scheduled (on a busy day) and I'm just that much more satisfied if I get in under 5 hours.

  9. Brian D says:

    I picked up an older palm pilot with a GPS attachment for $130.

    First time out I marked the center of the greens, I just set it down while the group was putting, and picked it up when we were done, and now I have the course marked forever.

    They do save time, I never have to pace off yardages anymore.

  10. Tyler says:

    You forgot one piece of "equipment" that can help people stay on pace: a watch. Either note what time you should be making the turn and finishing on a standard watch (then play to it) or bring an actual stopwatch.

    Set the stopwatch to 15 minutes and strive to beat it on every hole (15 minutes * 18 holes = 4.5 hours, or 30 minutes you've got to shave over the course of those 18 holes). Attach it to your hip - nobody will want the beeper going off while they're putting. ;-)

    Very good point - too simple of an idea that most golfer forget about it.

    All carts should have them front and center that start after you tee off by the marshal.

  11. mike says:

    I love your "Boyscout Ball" idea.

    I always have a second ball on me.. i get so pissed if I have to go back to my bag for another ball in general, not to mention the time saving aspect of it.

  12. teeitup says:

    The most obvious is "know your game." I am amazed how everyone on the course can drive the ball 325 yards. I hear time and time again how the guy I'm with "could" reach the group ahead. Only to see him hit it 100 yards short.

    The most egregious representation of that lack of personal awareness is on the green. I'm amazed at how the weekend hack spends 4-5 minutes lining up a put he leaves 8 feet short. Unless you are playing for a thousand dollars a put, waiting longer is out of line. Line up your put while the others are putting and then you put. Frankly, the longer one takes the poorer the result. Ledbetter says to put the 2 footers without hesitation, no spend the most time on those as the hacks do.

    The folks who are beginners are fine with me as they know how they play. I play often, by chance, with a women who is eighty. Her pace of play is faster than mine simply because she knows her game - she's quite good by the way. It's the folks that have been playing for some time that overestimate their skill that really make the game slow and annoying.

  13. B-rad says:

    The most obvious is "know your game." I am amazed how everyone on the course can drive the ball 325 yards. I hear time and time again how the guy I'm with "could" reach the group ahead. Only to see him hit it 100 yards short.

    The most egregious representation of that lack of personal awareness is on the green. I'm amazed at how the weekend hack spends 4-5 minutes lining up a put he leaves 8 feet short. Unless you are playing for a thousand dollars a put, waiting longer is out of line. Line up your put while the others are putting and then you put. Frankly, the longer one takes the poorer the result. Ledbetter says to put the 2 footers without hesitation, no spend the most time on those as the hacks do.

    You forget, some people are out trying to learn their game. You don't automatically know how you play when starting this game, nor do you know how you might play round to round. Give 'em a break.

  14. You forget, some people are out trying to learn their game. You don't automatically know how you play when starting this game, nor do you know how you might play round to round. Give 'em a break.

    I think almost everything "teeitup" said still applies to people learning the game. They too don't need to spend 4-5 minutes lining up putts and they too should realize they're not going to hit the ball 300 yards. They need to "learn" to play quickly as one of the first and most important things about the game of golf, because slow play habits and patterns are hard to break later on.

  15. flyer says:

    You forget, some people are out trying to learn their game. You don't automatically know how you play when starting this game, nor do you know how you might play round to round. Give 'em a break.

    B-rad: You should learn your game on the range or at off peak times. Certainly not on Sat. or Sun. morning. And unfortunately these people are the ones who refuse to let faster player play through.

  16. Joe says:

    Answer/Question #1 is incorrect:

    The first PGA Tour victory while using a PING club came in 1962 at the Tours Cajun Classic by John Barnum not Boros

  17. Jack Waddell says:

    Joe,

    Until I hear otherwise, I'll take your word for it and award you 50 bonus points in the quiz, to boot. Thanks for the correction!

    Are we sure it was a putter? And do we know if it was an Anser? If it was a putter other than an Anser I would guess that's where I went wrong. Boros may have been the first to win using an Anser.

  18. D Tom says:

    I think all the suggestions given are really good. Unfortunately, based on the answers given, the people that have replied aren't the ones that are slow. It's the ones that don't know and / or simply don't care that tend to be slow. The key is how to get golfers to comply.

    I would suggest that the golf course print out a flyer stating what their rules are governing pace of play and hand them out when golfers check in. It doesn't have to be a novel, just some general guidelines. From there, the new golfers become educated.

    As far as the golfers that don't care, this gets tricky. While you hope they have an individual in their group that would know better or show some courtesy by either asking the others to pick up their pace or let the group behind play through, you cannot count on it. So, this is where I think it's probably one the few times having a cell phone on the golf course would be a good idea.

    Prior to the round, store the phone number to the golf course in your cell phone. If you run into a slow group, call the course and ask them to send a marshall over. Let the golf course handle the situation.

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