• The price of slow play

    Slow play is a big issue
    Is slow play affecting your club?

    When was the last time you played a round in under four and a half hours? Asks WADE PRETORIUS in Compleat Golfer’s new ‘Big Issue’ segment.

    For the life of me, I cannot remember a weekend round played in what should now be called a ‘guideline time’ – as it’s nothing more than that.

    I’m not talking only about the rounds at the course where I play most of my golf, because this problem has been festering throughout the country for far too long, and little is being done to stamp it out.

    The long-term future of golf is under threat as it struggles to deal with harsh economic times and a host of other factors. One of those factors – as overheard in 19th holes around the country – is the time taken to complete a round. It is utterly unacceptable for a fourball to spend nearly five hours playing their round, let alone going past that.

    There is nothing more infuriating than wasting your morning or afternoon, waiting on every shot when the group ahead of you loses sight of the group in front of them after two holes.

    The rules are simple: pick up when you can no longer score, walk fast to your ball and always be ready to play when it’s your turn. Remember, your place in the field is just behind the group in front of you, not just in front of the group behind you.

    Still, you regularly see the same type of culprits on the course. Those who wait for the green to clear ‘just in case’ they hit their 3-wood 260m (and straight) into a par five; people who insist on waiting for everyone to be on the green before putting, instead of making the player the furthest away play first. There are far too many who take several looks at the hole from all angles before their regulation three-putt, and those who waste minutes on every tee box deliberating on what club to take.

    There are many ways to improve the pace of play, but it should not be left to clubs and their marshals to enforce the rules – although they do have a large role to play in shifting the balance back to a 4hr 30min round. Many club officials seem reluctant to get involved and keep the field moving swiftly along, and instead focus on the 1st and 10th holes – when the real damage is being done on holes out of sight from the starters.

    Another stumbling block to increasing the efficiency of a round is the halfway house. Some work like clockwork, but many are not in sync with the needs of the players. One reason most corporate golf days seem to work better, and faster, is the ‘grab and go’ breaks.

    By all means, enjoy a great breakfast Monday to Friday, but on weekends when the marshal is already getting bogged down with late arrivals and reloads on the 1st tee, limit the time spent choosing between the eggs benedict and the full English and the inevitable wait that follows.

    New members should be required to attend an induction, where pace of play, course etiquette and issues such as how to leave the bunkers and repairing pitch marks are highlighted. Experienced golfers should encourage members of their fourball to adhere to the rules and provide tips on how to enjoy the game within the stipulated time zone.

    Before greenkeepers are forced to put tees back on par fives and forward on par threes to cut time spent waiting for the green to clear, golfers at all skill levels should work towards restoring normality. Remember, you are not Jason Day; you are just like all those around you.

    The golf industry is under threat due to the ever-rising costs and can ill afford players, disgruntled with having to spend five and a half hours on the course, leaving the game and moving to faster sports like mountain biking or trail running.

    Clubs should take a firm approach on the topic of slow play. After all, how many players excel when they are forced to wait on every tee box or approach to the green? Who has ever enjoyed forking out hundreds of rands on a six-hour round – sometimes in blazing heat or a howling wind – and then stuck around keeping the club’s post-round facilities afloat?

    The price of not dealing with the slow-play epidemic will take its toll sooner or later.

    – This article first appeared in the October issue of Compleat Golfer

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