Cartboy

Pace Problem

386 posts in this topic

Although we have tried a lot of things, I will leave this open-ended.

I am in charge of Player Services at a very popular, very challenging course in a tourist area.  We get a lot of senior golfers, but they are not always the pace probblem. It can be the flatbellies who just have to play the tips!!!

We have shortened our tees, stress Tee it Forward, thinned the OB to speed up ball-hunting, have pace clocks on the first and tenth tees, have notices in the signholders on each cart,etc.

I'm looking for ideas on how to handle the groups we know are on a 5-hour-plus pace.  You know the ones . . . who never do anything wrong, so it can't be them!!!

We stress customer service and diplomacy

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Although we have tried a lot of things, I will leave this open-ended.

I am in charge of Player Services at a very popular, very challenging course in a tourist area.  We get a lot of senior golfers, but they are not always the pace probblem. It can be the flatbellies who just have to play the tips!!!

We have shortened our tees, stress Tee it Forward, thinned the OB to speed up ball-hunting, have pace clocks on the first and tenth tees, have notices in the signholders on each cart,etc.

I'm looking for ideas on how to handle the groups we know are on a 5-hour-plus pace.  You know the ones . . . who never do anything wrong, so it can't be them!!!

We stress customer service and diplomacy

Sometimes you have to make a hard decision about which customers deserve the best service, and sometimes diplomacy can only be achieved when there is a threat to back it up.  I worked as a starter for 5 years on a very busy course, and we had the same issues.  Since the course was a recreational district facility, we had to cater to the taxpayers, even though the course was self-supporting, and returned a profit to the district, thus reducing the tax burden.  You reach a point where you have to work for the greater good, and that means setting a policy, providing education on how the players can keep to the policy, and gentle but firm enforcement of the policy.  When the players know what to expect and what the penalties are for noncompliance, then they are less likely to be put out (or at least they have no defense) when they are approached by a players assistant and told that they need to pick up the pace.  On rare occasions we even escorted players off the course when they refused to conform to the policy.

It's a difficult job to balance good customer service with the needs of properly managing the golf course.

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Instead of having the pace of pay clocks on the 1st and 10th holes. They should be on the 6th and 14th holes.

Better chance of speeding up if they know they are behind pace in the middle of each 9.

Set the clocks so that they are showing the group's tee time as they pass the clock.

Having a pace of play clock on the first and tenth hole makes no sense. It is the starter's job to get people on the tee box on time, and most every golfer knows that they should make the turn in 2 hours.

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Being a challenging course, and being realistic, on a busy day our Pace is naturally 4 1/2 hours.  Our course is set up with one Par 3, two Par 4s, and one Par 5 on each of the first four sets of four holes, with Par 3s paced at 12 minutes, Par 4s paced at 15 and Par 5s paced at 18.  So each of the first four sets of four holes in one hour each.

From the clubhouse, there are shortcuts to the fifth tee and the ninth tee (nine does not come back to the clubhouse).

My plan is to have a staff member check the lead group at one hour and two hours, and marshal back checking for gaps.  Slow groups would politely be told exactly where they stand, such as, "You're 8 minutes behind pace."

We also have water stations at 4 and 8, so that's another duty to be done on those trips.

Problem groups would be given polite warnings, and be reported to the GM or Pro, who would make the third visit.

Most do, but, now, what do you do with the group that does not respond?

I have been doing what I'm doing for a long time, know many guys who bring their groups to our course from out of town, and speak to me very frankly about this.

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Player Services can be very influential to the golfing experience of your customers.

When I worked at the Raven at Three Peaks, our employee hand book opening statement was  "Help provide the best experience for our customers while playing at a Raven Club."

Suggestions listed in the handbook were to attend to each and every customer by approaching the customer with friendliness and offering to rake bunkers, tend the flag, pick up and clean the club, give walkers a ride to the next tee, etc.

Sometimes just suggesting to allow a group to play through will help situations.

Having a Player Assistant who can recognize repetitive situations and handle them in a proper means, like certain holes which create bottlenecks, or areas where spotting tee shots will help.

When I around to helped look for a lost ball, the group generally would spend less time looking for the ball and move on.

My experience and getting to know the players, often helped just by saying hello and indicate that you are doing your best to keep players moving along usually went a long way with those that are sometimes disgruntle.

Club Rat

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Problem groups would be given polite warnings, and be reported to the GM or Pro, who would make the third visit.

Most do, but, now, what do you do with the group that does not respond?

I have been doing what I'm doing for a long time, know many guys who bring their groups to our course from out of town, and speak to me very frankly about this.

Our policy states right up front that a group which has fallen behind will be approached by the player's assistant and will:

1) be asked to catch up to the required pace.  Failing that they will:

2) be asked to pick up and move directly to their proper place on the course.  If they refuse, or otherwise act in an uncooperative manner they will:

3) be removed from the course by the head pro, and if they show a threatening posture, the sheriff will be called in.

It is necessary to develop a no tolerance attitude.  If that pisses off some players, then so be it, but more will applaud the policy than will denigrate it.

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Player Services can be very influential to the golfing experience of your customers.

When I worked at the Raven at Three Peaks, our employee hand book opening statement was  "Help provide the best experience for our customers while playing at a Raven Club."

Suggestions listed in the handbook were to attend to each and every customer by approaching the customer with friendliness and offering to rake bunkers, tend the flag, pick up and clean the club, give walkers a ride to the next tee, etc.

Sometimes just suggesting to allow a group to play through will help situations.

Having a Player Assistant who can recognize repetitive situations and handle them in a proper means, like certain holes which create bottlenecks, or areas where spotting tee shots will help.

When I around to helped look for a lost ball, the group generally would spend less time looking for the ball and move on.

My experience and getting to know the players, often helped just by saying hello and indicate that you are doing your best to keep players moving along usually went a long way with those that are sometimes disgruntle.

Club Rat

That was pretty much our year-one approach, when we had a fulltime Starter, fulltime marshal and a half-dozen other Player Services staff on duty.  We did all those things and forecaddied for the problem groups.  Still had 6-hour rounds.

Granted, if we don't commit another, well-qualified, diplomatic, knowledgeable, entertaining, accomodating, yet forceful and effective, fulltime person to be out on the course, we don't deserve to solve this problem, but let's assume that's not gonna happen, that budget constraints mean we have to do with what we have.

That means occasional visits from a Ranger, with the golfers doing as instructed.  Sticking with a group, coddling them, assisting them is not an option.

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Our policy states right up front that a group which has fallen behind will be approached by the player's assistant and will:

1) be asked to catch up to the required pace.  Failing that they will:

2) be asked to pick up and move directly to their proper place on the course.  If they refuse, or otherwise act in an uncooperative manner they will:

3) be removed from the course by the head pro, and if they show a threatening posture, the sheriff will be called in.

It is necessary to develop a no tolerance attitude.  If that pisses off some players, then so be it, but more will applaud the policy than will denigrate it.

This is not far from my position, assuming that every contact with the problem group is friendly and diplomatic, such as, "Guys, we really need your help today.  We've got a full tee sheet behind you and we need you to set the pace.  So far, you're playing about a 5-hour round.  You wouldn't want to be playing behind a group like that, would you?"

We do not want to have the attitude that we are looking for golfers to reprimand, but, rather, to assist, so that everyone enjoys their time at our course.  Every group can catch up to pace if they will play ready golf, quit looking for balls in the woods (theirs and others), have their next shot in mind, and not think they need to analyze every putt because they're gonna be on the tour next week.

But, yes, this is what I'm looking to put together, a stated policy that says, "This what is how we deal with slow play. First warning, second warning, third warning, etc."

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It's never as simple in practice as it is on paper.

Yesterday I went out at the 1-hour mark to check on a group I had had a problem getting to the first tee.  It was Cart Path only, but, sure enough, they were on the fairway with their carts, hitting their third shots on a Par 5, and they had an open hole ahead of them.  They were on 5-hour pace and we had a national tournament that was immediately behind them.

So, there I was waiting for them to come back to the cart path . . . and one of them holed his wedge from 130!!!!

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If they refuse to speed up I would just kick them off the course.  Post signs everywhere so it cannot be missed that timely play is strictly enforced and violators will be told to leave.  People know when they're playing slow and know they deserve to be booted so they really can't complain, especially if they've already been warned in person.  Also, if you want to create less drama when punting someone you could try giving the them a raincheck, maybe for a weekday round or something when it's less busy.  They might whine less if they see they've been given a refund of sorts and if they're tourists they might not be around long enough to come back and clog up the course anyway.

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I am all for a zero tolerance policy. Kick 'em off and gain a reputation as a no nonsense course. Tell everyone as they're paying "you will be kicked off the course if you are behind".
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Again, we would be opposed to creating a negative atmosphere prior to a round by over-emphasizing something that may not be a problem that day, as if we were acknowledging that it often is a problem on our course.  I've seen starters beat groups over the head with all kinds of rules and negative stuff, that they don't even want to go out on the course.  I like to keep it upbeat, while getting the message in.  "I know you've heard how challenging our course is, and you're gonna love it, but . . . "

At the same time, I agree we need to have a policy, communicate it without over-communicating it, and then back it up.  If we have a policy, train our staff to handle it the same way every time, and have the Pro or GM do the heavy lifting, the third warning, word will get around.

Like I said, I'd like to call it the Pacemaker.

Any other specific suggestions on how to deal with slow groups positively, how to get them to speed up?

- - - - -

I meant to mention earlier that if you ask them to pick up and move to where they should be on the course, but they do not change how they are playing, all you've done is postponed the problem for 15 or 20 or 30 minutes, when the pack catches back up to them.

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I've always found that rattling the ball up to their ankles while they're putting is most effective. Followed by a cheery apology of course.

That works in Scotland where golf is a working-class/blue-collar game. I'm not sure how it would work in a posh English or US country club where the secretary is a retired Colonel!

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One thing which speeds up rounds is the use of Stableford rules.

If you can influence people to play those rules it stops the excessive searching for balls and slow finishing off of holes. If someone is having a nightmare their opponents can give them a gimme for an 8 rather than have them putt out.

This is a big help with groups of visitors.

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Again, we would be opposed to creating a negative atmosphere prior to a round by over-emphasizing something that may not be a problem that day, as if we were acknowledging that it often is a problem on our course.  I've seen starters beat groups over the head with all kinds of rules and negative stuff, that they don't even want to go out on the course.  I like to keep it upbeat, while getting the message in.  "I know you've heard how challenging our course is, and you're gonna love it, but . . . "

At the same time, I agree we need to have a policy, communicate it without over-communicating it, and then back it up.  If we have a policy, train our staff to handle it the same way every time, and have the Pro or GM do the heavy lifting, the third warning, word will get around.

Like I said, I'd like to call it the Pacemaker.

Any other specific suggestions on how to deal with slow groups positively, how to get them to speed up?

- - - - -

I meant to mention earlier that if you ask them to pick up and move to where they should be on the course, but they do not change how they are playing, all you've done is postponed the problem for 15 or 20 or 30 minutes, when the pack catches back up to them.

Dude, trying to pretend slow play doesn't exist isn't going to fool anyone.  On any course.  Ever.

Faster players certainly aren't going to be offended by a strict policy and the slower ones will know what to expect.  The only way it can possibly backfire is if you post it and then fail to enforce it imo.

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Dude, trying to pretend slow play doesn't exist isn't going to fool anyone.  On any course.  Ever. Faster players certainly aren't going to be offended by a strict policy and the slower ones will know what to expect.  The only way it can possibly backfire is if you post it and then fail to enforce it imo.

I agree. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

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I am all for a zero tolerance policy. Kick 'em off and gain a reputation as a no nonsense course. Tell everyone as they're paying "you will be kicked off the course if you are behind".


as good as that sounds the reality is the course would have the reputation of a douche bag and people would not come play. Public courses make money by putting players on the course. most run tee times close together and leave little or no margin for a slow group.

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Again, we would be opposed to creating a negative atmosphere prior to a round by over-emphasizing something that may not be a problem that day, as if we were acknowledging that it often is a problem on our course.  I've seen starters beat groups over the head with all kinds of rules and negative stuff, that they don't even want to go out on the course.  I like to keep it upbeat, while getting the message in.  "I know you've heard how challenging our course is, and you're gonna love it, but . . . "

At the same time, I agree we need to have a policy, communicate it without over-communicating it, and then back it up.  If we have a policy, train our staff to handle it the same way every time, and have the Pro or GM do the heavy lifting, the third warning, word will get around.

Like I said, I'd like to call it the Pacemaker.

Any other specific suggestions on how to deal with slow groups positively, how to get them to speed up?

- - - - -

I meant to mention earlier that if you ask them to pick up and move to where they should be on the course, but they do not change how they are playing, all you've done is postponed the problem for 15 or 20 or 30 minutes, when the pack catches back up to them.

I know a lot of courses in tourist areas put GPS on the carts, and they have pace of play timers on them as well. So, if your willing to invest in a high tech solution, that might help out. One it gives everyone GPS. Two the pace of play is always in view on the cart.

You probably could keep a list of names and times, just keep some stats for a while, see if you can figure out some trends. If one group is causing you problems, black list them if you want to go that way.

When it comes to dealing customers, you might have to deal with the fact you are going to piss people off.

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