Golf’s Four-Letter Words: Slow Play
It’s perhaps the bane of golf’s exis-
tence: its dreadful pace of play. One of
the reasons that newcomers leave the
game is that golf simply takes too long.
To devote five hours — or more — to a
game that can be as frustrating as golf
is more than many people can bear. By
the time you get to the course early and
perhaps stay for a drink or two afterward,
you’ve burned up the better part of a day
with a single round.
Little wonder that the greatest game
in the world is not growing at all. And
the people we look most to for guidance
— the touring professionals — are the
worst culprits. On the PGA Tour, week-
end rounds regularly take more than five
hours to play — and the players are usu-
ally paired in twosomes.
In the final round of the Farmers In-
surance Open, the last group went off the
first tee at 1: 20 p.m. Eastern. It finished
at about 6:45 p.m. — with no identifiable
delays — nearly five-and-a-half hours
after it started. In that threesome was Ben
Crane, widely known as perhaps the slow-
est player on the PGA Tour. So it wasn’t
During the Solheim Cup last year,
four-ball matches took six hours to com-
plete — and match play is supposed to be
faster than stroke play. And, we’re told
that college players are the slowest of all,
routinely taking six hours to play a tourna-
That’s unconscionable and a terrible
example for the rest of us. How are we
supposed to know how fast to play if the
experts can’t finish a round in a reason-
able length of time? The tours are sup-
posed to impose fines and penalty shots
for slow play offenders, but little or noth-
ing is done.
Tour officials look to the groups to see
if any are “out of position,” which means
they look for a gap between groups before
they start timing players. If no one is out
of position, they don’t really care how
long the round takes. If everyone is slow,
there’s nothing they can do.
delay. Why can’t everyone do that? What
takes them so long?
Here are a few reasons why the best in
the world are so confoundingly slow:
TOO MUCH INFORMATION.
take way too long trying to determine only
two pieces of data — yardage and wind.
They have what can be interminable dis-
cussions with their caddies while preparing
to play a shot. It really doesn’t take too long
to determine the yardage and wind direc-
tion. They could do it in a few seconds, but
it sometimes takes a couple of minutes.
During the Solheim
Cup last year, four-ball
matches took six hours
to complete — and match
play is supposed to be
faster than stroke play.
TOO MUCH PREPARATION.
Having a pre-
shot routine is a good thing and can help
immensely in your mental approach for
each shot. But tour players take too many
practice swings, especially on short shots
around the greens. And God forbid that
something interrupts their routines be-
cause they will abandon their preparation
and start all over.
Lanny Wadkins would be driven crazy
if he had to play in the modern PGA Tour
environment. He was the king of quick
and had no time for dawdlers — and
wasn’t afraid to tell the offenders. On to-
day’s PGA Tour, Brandt Snedeker is a re-
freshing change. He processes informa-
tion quickly and pulls the trigger without
TOO MUCH ANALYSIS.
Reading greens is
not as difficult as tour pros make it seem.
They circle the green and read the putt
from every conceivable angle. And then
they miss. It just shouldn’t take that long.
That’s why my advice is to ignore the
pros and let’s all play a different game. In
a word, I’m advocating “ready” golf. Yes,
the Rules of Golf dictate an order of play
in which the player with the lowest score
from the previous hole has the honor on
the tee and the player farthest from the
hole plays first in all subsequent shots. I
would never advocate violating the Rules,
but in this case, order of play in casual
rounds should be determined by who is
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