Slow play is the second biggest factor making people give up the game
I feel that if something isn’t done about slow play – and fast – the game of golf is really going to suffer.
The R&A recently released a report on the pace of play in world golf. It found that the time it takes to play is the second biggest reason people give up the game (cost is the only greater deterrent). I often talk about golf’s need to modernise to attract new players, but retaining the ones we have is just as important. If slow play is driving people away from the game, it is more than an annoyance – it’s a serious issue that must be addressed.
The golfers themselves are often blamed – sometimes rightly so – but I actually think two of the biggest factors are within the game itself. The first is golf courses that are too difficult, particularly when played off the wrong tees. And the second is the rules, which are far too complicated for the regular club golfer. It may take a while for the game’s governing bodies to come up with a simpler, quicker set of rules, but the first point is something we can all change from the very next time we play.
I recently learned how to find out which set of tees you should play off. Take your average driver carry distance, not including roll, and multiply by 28. In my case, a carry distance of just under 230 yards means I should be playing off tees that make the course around 6,400 yards long, so the yellow tees at my home club, The Wisley. Remember: it’s your average carry distance, not the longest you’ve ever hit. Work out the most suitable tees and you’ll have far more fun playing, I’m sure of it. Obviously in competition you don’t have the choice, but in friendly games, don’t let your ego force you to suffer by playing off the back tees when they’re not right for you. It only serves to make the game harder, less enjoyable, and slower.
I spend a lot of time at Tour events watching the action, and I am astonished that there are no penalties for slow play. There are players who play slowly every single round and yet somehow they get away with it. Everyone knows who they are, it’s no secret. Watch a couple of events and you will spot them yourself. Ben Crane and Keegan Bradley (left) are the most obvious examples, but they are far from alone. Giving that example to the watching masses is not going to help cure the problem of slow play in the amateur game.
The PGA Tour and its officials need to get in and do the dirty work of dishing out one-shot penalties for the worst offenders. That’s the only way to make the professionals change their ways.
There seems to be a belief that playing slower equates to taking more care and, in turn, scoring better. That, in my mind, is a complete fallacy. Clearly, racing round and hitting your shots without a moment’s thought is not going to lead to your best scores, but nor is spending minutes over every shot. As Colin Montgomerie always says: ‘Decide what you’re going to do and do it before doubt creeps in!’ In almost all sports, an unnecessary delay lessens the chance of success.
If the award of a penalty in football is followed by a lengthy furore that gives the penalty taker too much time to think, the result is almost always a failed attempt. You should be able to decide what you’re going to do and go through your pre-shot routine fairly quickly. Spend too long and your chance of a good shot decreases with each passing moment. Ever noticed how you never hit a good shot after waiting five minutes for the green on a par 5 to clear? It’s because you had too much time to think!
If you’ve ever found that you score best when you’re having a relaxed knock with mates, flying round 18 holes in three hours after work, compared to Saturday morning medals when everyone acts as though they’re in the final round of the Masters, you’ll know that taking more time doesn’t always equal taking fewer shots.