After two agonizingly long rounds of golf this week, I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of people don’t realize that they’re slow players. Sure, there are those “who paid their greens fees and will play at whatever pace they damned well want,” but there’s no help for those types. There’s a certain segment of society, within every aspect of life, that is selfish to the very core and have no desire to consider others. They’re not going to change.
There is help, however, for those who genuinely do want to be respectful and mindful of those playing behind them, and it’s that audience that I’m addressing today – those who have the potential to make a difference every weekend wherever they play. Instead of possibly having someone confront you about playing too slowly, I’m simply going to give you a checklist to refer to. Answer the questions truthfully, with an open mind, so that you can give yourself an honest pace-of-play self-assessment.
- Do you play the appropriate tee boxes?
Before answering the first bullet question above, consider that the Professional Golf Association of America encourages the guidelines I’ve listed below when considering which tee box you should play from, which is based on the distance your average tee shot travels. (Note the emphasis on “average” – because we’re not talking about your potential. We’re not just talking about that one solid tee shot that you hit on the screws that flies 25 yards further than all the rest, but all of them… the occasional pop-ups, the wicked slices, the dribblers, the muffs, bunts, glancing blows, or whatever else you prefer to call them.)
Average tee shot distance = length of Course that should be played.
300 yards = 7150 to 7400 yards (like how I removed that one from one of the options? Sorry, you don’t average 300 yards off the tee. Not even with a cart-path assist.) 275 yards = 6700 to 6900 yards (again, 99% of you fail to deliver that much clubhead speed/energy into the ball at impact to obtain that type of average distance. Keep looking down the list, please.)
250 yards = 6200 to 6400 yards (as much as I want to remove this one from the list of options as well, I’ll concede that a fair amount of players might qualify for this option, but it’s still likely not yours.)
225 yards = 5800 to 6000 yards (this, in all my years of experience playing the game, would be the standard for the average once or twice-a-week player. You may qualify.)
200 yards = 5200 to 5400 yards (don’t laugh. If you can play this set of tees at level-par for 18 holes, then (and only then) would I encourage you to move up to the next longest tee box.)
175 yards = 4400 to 4600 yards (I’ll bet half of everything I own that nearly half of the golfing population doesn’t average more than 200 yards off the tee. They’ll never admit that they average less than that.)
- Do you understand the concept of “ready golf?”
Maybe you think you do, but maybe you really don’t. Ready-Golf means being prepared to play the moment it’s your turn to hit. No sooner than your playing who just hit his shot just behind you puts his club in the bag, you should be taking your final look at the target and ready to swing. Don’t worry about the cart two fairways over…. it’s not going to impact how cleanly you strike the ball, trust me.
- How long is your pre-shot routine?
I remember playing with a player several years ago who took so long to go through his routine that I could’ve gotten through an entire episode of Seinfeld before he ever put his club back in the bag. It wasn’t just with the tuft of grass thrown up into the air on the calmest of days, or the 20 practice swings he took before he finally addressed his ball. It was those things combined with the painful amount of time it took him to finally take the club back. Civilizations have evolved in lesser time than he stood motionless over the ball, as though he’d just fallen asleep on the toilet.
- Are you a courteous playing partner?
A lot of players don’t realize this, but it’s not against the rules of golf to rake a sand trap for a playing partner who just duffed his sand shot. It’s okay to hit out-of-turn, especially if a playing partner is looking for his ball and there’s a group waiting on the tee box behind you. In fact – he’d rather you play than to rush needlessly and dribble his shot shortly after he finds it. Fetching a playing partner’s divot, fixing his ball mark on the green, marking his ball on the green if another player is ready to putt and he’s yet to walk up to the green – these are all things that courteous playing partners do while they’re waiting to play, things that can save an additional 60-90 seconds each hole. Do the math – that can shave 20-30 minutes off of each round.
- How is your golf cart management?
Your playing partner is on the left side of the fairway, and you’re on the right. Do you drive the entire 15 yards to his ball, wait for him to pull a club, go through his routine and then hit, then clean and put his club back in the bag before going over to your ball? Or do you do the sensible thing by parking the cart in the middle between the two balls and both of you take the clubs you need to hit your shots? What about a playing partner who’s in a cart by himself and leaves his cart well back of the fairway or green because he’s out of position on the hole, especially during those times when it might be cart-path only? Do you tell him to take whatever clubs he may need and you’ll commandeer his cart so he doesn’t have to waste the time walking back to the cart? Most players don’t understand the concept of cart management, and how that can easily reduce 1-2 minutes spent on some holes.
- How long does it take you to 3 or 4-putt?
Of all the aspects of the game that can eat away time, a majority of the slow-play problems occur on the greens. Joe has to fix every last ball mark that is within a 3-foot breadth of his line on his putt. Harry has to make sure that the line on his ball is aiming precisely at the hole, despite the 2 feet of break that he didn’t pick up in his 4-minute read from every conceivable angle. Jack marks every putt and waits to finish, even the 1-footers, and goes through his entire routine just like the Tour guys that he watches on TV every weekend. No group should spend more than 4-5 minutes on the greens, from the time they get out of their carts to the time they get back in. But where I play, it’s twice that long.
One last thing. Having a reputation as a slow player isn’t that much better than having a reputation as being a cheater…. the end result is the same – no one wants to play with either of those types. We’re not talking about rushing through a round of golf, we’re simply talking about playing at a brisk-but-comfortable pace, a pace where you’re spending more time thinking ahead of time and swinging than you are standing around and waiting. It’s a reputation that gets around very quickly. Also – there’s a difference between having a tough hole and being out of position and being deliberately slow. Everyone experiences a tough hole here and there, but being deliberately slow means that you’re not going to keep pace with the group ahead.
If you’re a skilled player and you enjoy a money match on the side – great. But I’d just remind you that your $2 nassau doesn’t give you the right to make everyone else playing behind you miserable. You’re not playing on Tour, and you never will. Have fun, but play ready golf and be a courteous playing partner. Encourage the slower players in your group to pick up the pace, and you can best do that by setting the example yourself. Contrary to popular belief, a round doesn’t have to consume an entire afternoon.
Check yourself, then set the example.