There is so much discussion today about why the participation numbers in golf are declining. The reasons for this are probably numerous, but if you really think about it golf was never going to become a sport played by half of America. It is a niche sport and probably always will be. The current decline is hopefully only a market correction to the normal level of players. To me there is nothing wrong with these facts.
However, it would be nice to keep people playing and I think golf can do a better job of being more inclusive to all players. That is a discussion for another post. I think the initiative that would make the biggest difference to people is decreasing the time it takes to play a round. I don’t care how many holes you are playing, golf currently takes too long. I have some theories on why the pace is so slow, in no particular order:
- Copying the tour pros people see on TV
- Lack of understanding the ways to increase pace
- Incorrect spacing of tee times/overcrowding the course
So how do these get fixed? The tee time issue is course management’s responsibility. If you send a group out five minutes behind another one they will inevitably be nose to nose all day. I can’t help with that, but we can explore the ways players can increase their pace.
Play ready golf: When you get on the tee, whoever is ready should hit. I don’t care who just made birdie, if he is in the cart or cleaning his club go ahead and hit. The same goes for the fairway. Help search for lost balls when necessary, but otherwise once you get to your ball hit it. On the green, be ready to putt when it is your turn. Have your line picked out and ready. There is really no reason to look at a putt from four angles when playing a weekend match with your buddies.
Cart procedure: If you are riding, pay attention to where you leave the cart. A good rule of thumb is to always keep it in front of you. When you have a 20 yard pitch shot short of the green, don’t leave the cart there. Go ahead and drive it up to the green, the bonus will be you can survey the shot as you are walking back.
Cart procedure Part II: When your driver drops you off, take multiple clubs. This allows for any changes you might need to make. If you are pitching the ball, go ahead and grab your putter and walk up.
Clubs: When leaving clubs on the green to putt, keep them between you and the cart or next tee. This way you don’t have to walk back to the other side of the green away from the next hole.
Copying the tour pros: Some people may not like this, but I think it has to be said. You are not playing for millions of dollars. All the information the pros get may help, but more often than not it just gives you too much to think about. Unless you are low single-digit handicapper (and even then) aiming to the middle of the green is a good strategy. The process should be yardage, pre-shot routine, and shot, no more no less. The pre-shot routine should be short and sweet which keeps your thoughts clear and your body free of tension.
How you play casual rounds: Remember the equitable stroke control for handicaps. For instance, certain handicaps are not supposed to put in more than a double per hole. Use this as a guide. If you get to your maximum strokes, pick up. There is no shame in this and it will keep the pace moving. If you are a beginner, I think double the par of the hole is a good upper stroke limit.
Rule changes: These are my own opinions and I’m sure the USGA doesn’t want my input, but here we go. Stroke and distance should be eliminated for non-tournament play. This is a fairness issue that would also help with the pace of play. Too many times people hit it OB, look for the ball, and then go back to the tee. If you want to keep stroke and distance, always remember to hit a provisional from the tee!
Whew! I got it all out there. I hope I haven’t gotten you too riled up with my radical ideas!
There are many ways to increase pace of play and I hope the ideas discussed here can help. You can play quickly without feeling rushed. Trust me, no one wants to feel rushed. This is your time for relaxation and enjoyment, but a five-hour round probably causes more stress than it resolves.
If you have any suggestions or comments, please leave them below.