We were waiting on a group ahead of us last weekend and I apologized to the group behind us that we weren’t making more progress. They said it was OK, they didn’t have to be anywhere.
American golfers spend far too long waiting around to hit shots these days. While there are a few die-hards who don’t have to be anywhere soon, slow play is an inconvenience for just about everyone.
What are we going to do about it? I believe that if we as individuals start to do what we can we’ll find that others pick up what we’re doing. Don’t be afraid to gently (or not so gently if necessary) teach your foursome how to play an efficient round of golf. So, what will make a difference?
Number Five: Meaningful Enforcement
Rarely does one hear, “Speed up or ship out,” from a course ranger these days. As Erik J. Barzeski pointed out in the latest Thrash Talk, Slow Play, modern rangers are largely powerless. That tee time intervals have shrunk to a money-raking rate hasn’t made a ranger’s job any easier.
Last weekend my group and I were poking along behind a group of young and slow golfers when I said, “We’d be delighted to play through,” to the ranger. He smiled and drove off toward the group ahead. When we reached the next tee the group was already off. He had told the youngest two inexperienced golfers to walk the next hole. It worked perfectly. We could hardly keep up.
If incidents like that were the exception instead of the rule golf would be much easier here in the States. We don’t need more rules, we just need meaningful enforcement. Courses and rangers should take a proactive stance toward speed of play and enforce well known rules.
Number Four: Know Thy Game
One of my good friends related a good story. A partner asked him what the yardage was into a par five green. My friend looked down and said, “This sprinkler-head says, ‘You’re dreaming.'” Good advice…
How many times have you or someone you’ve watched waited for the green to clear thinking they were going to reach the green with their second shot? The only thing they didn’t realize is that the longest they could hit it is 215 yards off the deck and the green was 300 yards away.
Make sure you know your game. If you can’t hit your five-iron 190 yards, hit a four-iron. Be realistic about your chances and don’t gamble unnecessarily. As a result you’ll play faster (and lose less balls and take less strokes).
Number Three: Just Hit the Ball
Wiggle. Waggle. Check the breeze. Practice swing. Grip. Wiggle. Re-grip. Waggle. Arrrggh! Stop re-gripping Sergio! Hit the ball! I would drive my buddies crazy when I first took up the game. They’d roll their eyes and wait impatiently for me to hit the ball.
Sometimes you take so long because you’re too afraid of hitting a bad shot. Too many wiggles is the result of indecision and ultimately fear. Have a positive outlook on every shot. Instill confidence in yourself and play like it. I play better (without exception) when I choose a club, pick a line, and go. Better players don’t have room for fussing over the ball.
This will require some self-discipline and training on your part but developing a faster pre-shot routine is going to help you and I in the long run. I have worked hard at developing a simple but repeatable pre-shot routine and it is paying dividends in my mental outlook.
When you man up and hit the ball the time it takes to play a round is significantly decreased.
Number Two: Think Ahead
Don’t wait until you’re standing over the ball to begin your thinking process. Watch where your ball lands and begin to calculate your next yardage. Look at your lie and position on the course or green as you get to your ball. Observe yardage markers on the way to your next shot and you’ll have a much better idea of what the shot will entail.
While we all need a little mental break between shots it is easy to be subconsciously assessing the situation as you relax.
Look at your scorecard on the way to the next hole. It will tell you what the par and yardage are. You can begin the process of selecting a club. It is also useful to examine a scorecard or yardage book prior to arriving at a course. This is particularly true if you’ve never played it. Plan ahead a little and you’ll have an advantage.
Number One: Go to School
It surprises me, as I look back at my own learning curve, how little people understand golf. It is the responsibility of golf course employees, rangers, and playing partners to educate new golfers on etiquette and speed of play.
While educating yourself is the best way to learn, we must realize that the golfing public needs to be educated. If someone doesn’t tell golfers what they should and shouldn’t be doing on the course we can’t expect them to know.
There should be a sign next to the cash register telling players how to speed up their round and pro shops could hand out a simple card with receipts that explains how to play efficiently. Reviewing the card with the customer wouldn’t have to take more than 30 seconds.
There are clearly things we all can do to prevent five-hour rounds. Join us in making a difference!