Slow play needs to be understood

2013 11 Slow Play Problem

Slow play is one of golf's biggest talking points right now and the USGA recently held a special symposium to try and unravel the problems behind the increasing problem of slow play in golf.

According to a Golf Digest article, the ‘day-long’ get-together was called While We’re Young: Golf’s Pursuit of A New Paradigm For Pace of Play and included representatives from the PGA and LPGA Tours, the PGA of America and various golf organisations.

Going by what was revealed on Twitter, it was lengthy, full of opinion and open to anything that would help everyone get a better grip on why the game is taking longer to play.

Many theories on slow play came to the fore. It will come as no surprise that I have my own.

In my mind, it’s largely down to two things; ignorance and bad golfers.

Slow golfers tend to be poor golfers. They are slow because they spend more time looking for their ball. From what I’ve seen on the golf course, that’s a fact. And as Nicoli Koloff once famously said, “It could be a painful one”.

How long did Phil Mickelson take to complete his fourth round at the Open this year? Don’t know? What a surprise. Do you know why you don’t know? Because you don’t care. People pick and choose when PGA Tour players are slow when it suits them.

I recently took great pleasure in putting an on-course marshall in his place when I was accused of holding up the course at one of England’s leading golf resorts. He couldn’t understand why our group – a fourball – was 35 minutes behind the clock by the time we had reached the seventh hole.

A pleasant chap, he asked: “Why the hell are you so slow?”

“Because the two-ball in front of us, particularly the girl, are hitting it all over the place, and they haven’t let us through,” I replied.

“But she’s a pro and a friend of the pro shop. She’s also a member,” he said.

“Well she’s slow, and she’s holding us up. It’s not our fault,” I said.

Three holes later he was at it again.

“You’re still slow,” he snapped, tapping his watch.

“Yep,” I said, pointing down the fairway of the next hole. “Her fault. Not ours.”

Slow play theories not all correct

Despite various slow play theories, she and her partner weren’t on their phones and she wasn’t playing off the back tees. She wasn’t chatting to her playing partner in-between shots instead of playing ‘ready golf’. She wasn’t lagging behind walking from hole to hole. She was doing everything correctly, apart from hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway. She was rubbish at that, and she subsequently took too long to look for her ball. Far too long. And that’s where the ‘ignorance’ part of my detailed theory kicks in.

Golf needs to instill a better understanding in its audience of how poor play disrupts the golf course. There’s nothing wrong with playing bad golf – but how you react to the problems you face on the course has a massive effect on the groups behind you.

Personally, I believe if more people understood that problem, 85% of the content of the aforementioned symposium on slow play would be little more than fluff.

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