When dealing with a wide variety of people and experience, you have to set an expectation that seems reasonable to the majority. Setting unreasonable expectations just creates frustration and leads to simply ignoring the policy as unattainable. I see you are from the Denver area, and the course I'm referring to is Foothills. I know from many years of play that 4 hours is not unreasonable as long as everything goes well. 4 hours becomes difficult to impossible when a group experiences a few problems with lost balls or other issues which can cause slower play with casual golfers.
In the Men's Club, we have the added inspiration of the penalty threat to keep us focused on pace of play, but casual players need a different form of reinforcement. Putting out those clocks, and setting them to an achievable goal, is a better, more positive way of getting buy-in from the general public. Nothing says that once players are used to playing to the clock that it can't be gradually adjusted for slightly shorter rounds as time goes on.
I see! That makes a lot of sense. Like you said before, big problem with the implementation. First, the ranger needs to be trained to recognize that just because someone was on pace two holes ago doesn't mean they are now.
Second, par threes are pace killers, both real and perceived. Really the last display clock should be after the last par three. Since they are the only holes with a capacity of one group max, any real delays by the first group are directly passed to the second group. Also, it's very tough to make up time on a par three, especially for a high handicapper.
Finally, I'd be willing to bet that the clocks are set assuming that all the holes take the same time to play. An example would be if the last clock is on 16 tee. I expect a round to take 4:15. Divide that by 18 gives me about 14 minutes per hole. Using that logic, 15 holes should take about 3:30 to play so that's how I set the clock. But we know that some holes take longer than others and if this course starts easy and finishes hard, the last three holes may take an hour to play, not the ~ 45 minutes suggested by averaging. That means my clock on 16 tee is more than 15 minutes off of the actual pace of the course. The averaging is telling people they are on pace when, really, they've lost at least a minute per hole so far.