One of the hottest topics in the game of golf today is pace of play. Whether at your local club or on the pro circuit, pace of play is becoming an issue. I truly believe golf was intended to be a 4 hour game for 18 holes of play, with no exceptions.
Ok, there may be a few exceptions for tournament golf. There are a few more hurdles to jump when you can’t bend the rules. By bend the rules I don’t mean cheating. I mean when you’re playing with your buddies nobody reasonably expects you to walk all the way back to the tee if you don’t find your tee ball. Take a drop and add 2 strokes, take your max handicap score for that hole, forfiet the hole in match play, whatever. I don’t care, just don’t hold everyone else on the course up because you think your casual game or match is that important. It’s not. They should expect you to hit a provisional if your tee shot lands in a questionable area, or if you’re unsure whether it’s in bounds or not. That’s a reasonable expectation that was put into the rules to enhance pace of play.
In a tournament, you’re walking back to the tee if you don’t find your ball. There’s no shame in being conservative and declaring a provisional ball just in case. Playing partners will sometimes say “you can always find your ball in those trees”, just trying to be positive, but it’s most often something that is said 5 minutes prior to someone walking back to the tee. Trust me I’ve been there and it’s not fun, especially with 2 groups stacked on the tee waiting for you to get your ball in play.
If you feel rushed or stressed during a 4 hour round of golf, you’re doing something wrong. Maybe you’re playing from the wrong tees, maybe you’re looking for lost balls too long, maybe instead of lining up your shot while someone else is playing you’re gazing at the birds, maybe you don’t understand that if you’re a beginner it’s ok to not hit every shot and hole out on every hole. If you’re hitting your 8th shot and not on the green yet, sorry, but that ball should be in your pocket. People will say that everyone has to start somewhere and they paid their green fees just like everyone else. I agree. However, there are better and more relaxed places to learn than on a busy course with a 72.9/140 rating.
I once bought a guitar. I didn’t know how to play guitar. I didn’t even know what a G chord was. I had dreams of playing like Jack Johnson, but just because I bought a guitar didn’t automatically make me a guitar player. I first had to learn what a G chord was, and how to play it. Then E minor. Then D. Even once I knew most of the common chords, I still wasn’t a guitar player. I didn’t know any songs and my playing sounded bad. It was frustrating and not always fun, but I knew I had to get through it if I wanted to become a guitar player. I had to put my time in, learn the chords one by one and then learn how to transition between them before I could consider even calling myself a guitar player. In those early stages I wouldn’t even dream of making anyone listen to me, because it was a slow and painful process and I wasn’t ready for it.
Golf isn’t much different. Buying golf clubs doesn’t make you a golfer. There’s a lot to learn. The skills, the etiquette, the rules, and even the dress code. It’s important to grow the game and get people involved, but we have to grow the game smart. Educate people first and start them out in the right places. Don’t push them to go out in a foursome on a Sunday morning on a busy course if they aren’t ready. Spend some time at the range, go to a pitch and putt, pick golfer’s brains about the rules and etiquette, watch YouTube videos about it. It’s just like learning those guitar chords one at a time before you can finally put them together to make music.
I love to see new people taking up golf, I just hate to see the people teaching them putting them in situations they’re not ready for. They’re not having as much fun learning as they could be, and therefore the people around them won’t have as much fun either.
I also realize that golf to some people is simply a reason to get out with your friends and crush some beers and have some laughs. That’s great. Maybe you even like to linger and hit on the cart girl. You can still do this while being mindful of pace and showing some respect for everyone else on the course. Also keep in mind that if there’s room ahead of you, that letting people play through is a good option if you’re struggling to keep pace, or if there’s an exceptionally fast group or 2-ball behind you.
10 things to remember during a 4 hour round:
1) Playing quicker doesn’t correlate to not trying hard
2) Playing out of turn is ok if someone else isn’t ready, but it doesn’t hurt to say “mind if I go?”
3) If it’s your turn and you’re not ready and someone else appears ready, encourage them to play.
4) Before starting the round suggest “ready golf” from the tees to your playing partners. You’re not in the Ryder Cup.
5) If you’re walking, be mindful of where the next hole is and leave your bag on that side of the green.
6) If you’re in a cart, take a couple extra clubs with you to your ball if you have to walk away from the cart.
7) Line up your putt while others are putting.
8) Mark your score on the next tee while others are teeing off. If you’re hitting first, mark your score after you hit. Hitting one tee shot won’t make you forget what you got on the previous hole. I don’t know what the obsession is with getting that number on the card so quickly.
9) If you hit a bad tee shot, don’t stand there and show everyone what you did wrong 3 times in a row. Nobody cares. Clear the way for the next person to tee off.
10) If you’ve reached your max handicap score for that hole, there’s no shame in picking up in a casual game. Or telling your playing partners to go ahead and putt out if you’re still searching in the bush behind the green for your favorite ball.
11) The rules say you have 5 minutes to find a ball after you start the search. I say you should use 2 minutes in a casual game. If you don’t find it after 2 minutes you probably don’t want to find it.
Ok, that was 11. Remember to be mindful of your pace of play and happy golfing!