Pace of Play – Play at Good Pace and Keep Up

Pace of Play

Play at Good Pace and Keep Up

Etiquette seems to be something that is no longer being observed throughout the golf world. According to the USGA in the front of their current rulebook within the Etiquette section:  “Players should play at a good pace. The Committee may establish pace of play guidelines that all players should follow.

It is a group’s responsibility to keep up with the group in front. If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind, it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group. Where a group has not lost a clear hole, but it is apparent that the group behind can play faster, it should invite the faster moving group to play through.”

On a number of occasions on the road (and at my local muni’s) I have found my round derailed by slow play. Sometimes by members of my own group! Pace of play seems to be on everyone’s mind lately, yet no one seems to understand how to improve pace of play. Just look at the ridiculous attempts by the USGA to increase pace of play – “Yo! While we’re Young!” Sure everyone in the golf world loves Caddyshack! and Rodney Dangerfield, even if he does get no respect.  But….seriously??? Is this going to increase pace of play on the course? Does yelling at the foursome in front of you truly have a positive effect on their pace of play? Whomever came up with this series of PSA’s has never been on the course when a group in front (or behind) you is dealing with slow play. There are numerous recent examples of rage on the golf course, with people being attacked and/or seriously injured bacause of impatient golfers waiting on slow players. Texas slow play or Etiquette be damned are two such examples. There are plenty more. What a great idea USGA. Let’s just add fuel to this fire!

What happens when you are out at a resort and slow play becomes an issue (as it often does) ?  Recently, I was enjoying a round in Costa Rica, approaching the final few finishing holes.  Much to my amazement, I turned the corner in my cart and noticed about 12-16 people in the midst of the next hole.  My first reaction was “Where did these people come from?”  After standing on the tee for awhile, a cart came buzzing back to me and explained that this was a charity outing for a number of blind, yes BLIND glfers who get to play 3 or 4 holes on the course once or twice a year.  Well, I had no problem with that.  They did let us play through, and the group behind us played through as well.  In fact we played through three such groups on the final few holes.  My issue is with the club itself.  They knew this was going to happen, and yet gave me no prior warning that something such as this might occur.  They knew they had golfers on the course, yet placed large numbers of groups in front of us, about 2 1/2 hours into our round?  What was wrong with the holes BEHIND us?  Courses need to understand their clientele, and understand how pace of play issues, regardless of the reasons behind them might conjure up bad feelings. In this case, I did not see this as a negative pace of play issue, because I was allowed to play through.  But I did have a negative feeling about the staff at this course as a result of being uninformed as to the possibility of such an event.

I like to partake of the MasterCard member-for-a-day series at the the private TPC courses.  If you want to go to some nicely maintained courses, this is a great way to get on courses you typically cannot get access to.  Perhaps I am mistaken, but I would hope these clubs put their best foot forward on these days.  One thing I have noticed at a number of these clubs is the lack of rangers on the course.  More about rangering a course later in this article. At one of these recent days, I teed off around my tee time (without a starter in site…perhaps this is a benefit of your Private membership) and headed down the first hole,  As I approached my drive, I noticed a group in front of us finishing out the hole. Excellent.  They were teeing off on the tee box near the green as I drove up to my approach shot to the green.  When, I finished the hole, I recognized that this tee box was not actually the second hole.  Oh boy, now I am able to move to the second tee box unencumbered by a group in front of me!  Having been at the course for a few hours before my tee time, I noticed very few groups on the course.  This was a godsend to move past one of the few groups on the course.

Crossing the road to the actual 2nd tee box, I noticed a group in the early stages of playing this par 5.  Hmmm.  I didn’t expect this.  Perhaps the original group in front of us changed their routing of the course to avoid this new, extremely slow group.  As I sat in my cart recording my score for the first hole, the group in front of me, waved us through!  Incredible.  This was the first time in about 4 years that a regular foursome had actually waved through another group while I was one the course!  It was smooth sailing after that.  Nothing stopped our group until about the 17th hole.  Score one for understanding the concept set forth by the USGA at the start of this article! 

Sadly, as I stated, these instances are few and far between.  I go out as a twosome on numerous occasions with my girlfriend on vacation resort courses.  I also have been part of large and not so large buddies trips, which consist of multiple foursomes on the course at one time.  The problems arise when the buddies groups are on the course at the same time as couples out golfing.  Or when ‘regulars’ at a course think they are ‘entitled.’ Courses don’t seem to understand how to manage these situations, and usually do this poorly.

Example A.  Starter notices a female in a twosome, and knows he has just sent out two foursomes on the front nine of his 27 hole golf course.  Instead of trusting these groups to ranger themesleves when pace becomes an issue, or better yet having a ranger help those two foursomes understand the guidelines the USGA has set out and finding appropriate times on the course for those groups to let us play through the starter decides to send us off a different nine.  The problem with that you ask?  I had specifically decided when I made the tee time that I wanted to avoid the third 9 at this 27 hole facility.  Now I was being directed to just that nine.  Not only did that starter make my enjoyment of the day that much less, he had me fuming throughout those 9 holes, and made sure that I would not be making any additional purchases at the clubhouse and/or food & beverage service that day.  As I slammed my trunk closed I could not shake the dust from that resort quick enough, and I never intend to return.

Example B.  At one of the top courses in the state of Michigan I was excited to play and spend the night in one of the rooms on the upper floor of the clubhouse.  Things went awry almost immediately when I arrived at the first hole starter shack about 10 minutes prior to my tee time and could not find the starter in site.  About a minute later, I saw a cart racing back from the middle of the first fairway toward the tee.  It was the starter, and he said he was sorry, but he would be with us shortly.  He had to go get a sleeve of balls for the group in front of us because they didn’t like the balls they were currently playing (or something to that affect).  Since when does a starter at a course act as a mobile pro shop while neglecting his primary duty?  I said no problem because we were not due to tee off of a few more minutes anyway.  And I decidedly did not want to catch up to such an arrogant group of buddies too quickly.  Once we did tee off, we enjoyed the course at leisurely pace for about the first 5 holes.  After that we were stuck behind a group of 8 terribly intoxicated golfers, which lead to the question “How do you play through a group of 8 golfers without course rangers?” The short answer is, you don’t. On the ninth/tenth hole we witnessed the lead group standing on the tenth tee, waiting for the group behind them to play and finish the par 3 ninth hole, while they razz’ed them. All in direct sight of the clubhouse. Only once all eight were at the tenth tee box did the first group finally tee off the tenth. In about 8 minutes we had completed the 9th hole ourselves and spent the rest of the day waiting for this group of 8 golfers to let us play through. On the 12th hole we came upon the second group leaving the tee box as we waited in our carts. As they slooshed their way back to the cart, one of the group had the nerve to say, “Hey we aren’t going to let you play through, it is the group in front of us that is slow!” Since they were obviously together that ticked off my girlfriend to no end, and I thought for a moment she was going to beat them over the head with her driver.  Sadly, she only sat and simmered throughout the round. What could have been an enjoyable day, turned into a nightmare.

So what is to be done in those cases?  And how do you really deal with pace of play issues?  I think we can safely say yelling at the group in front of you as the USGA suggests in their PSA’s is NOT the answer!  I will leave thoughts on what may really help to my next blog entry, which I will write in the upcoming day or two.

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Originally uploaded by CLAW Golf

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Originally uploaded by CLAW Golf

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Total Knee Replacement

A few of you have noted with interest my latest Flickr photos are not of some exotic golf course I recently played.  Pictures such as this have graced my recent uploads.  No doubt this is in stark contrast to the spectacular scenery of some of the top courses of our country.
Surgical photo of CLAW's knee

While it is true that this images can be a little tough to bear, think about this…it is MY knee, and I am currently “bearing” it as best I can.  In fact, my knee is actually shiny and new as seen in this xray photo.

Xray of total knee replacement

Left Total Knee Replacement

How does a Total Knee Replacement affect a golfer’s traveling schedule?  Or his desire to golf again?  Will his itinerary change for future trips?  If so, how?  Does golf become even more of a passion?  Or is golf now a part of more wide ranging and diverse vacation adventure?

Some of these questions can be answered immediately, as I listen to my healthcare staff, and take cues from those around me.

In the past, when attending medical appointments, any time I spoke of golf as a form of exercise, I was practically looked on with contempt by the physician community.  Instead they suggested leisurely walks as a form of exercise.  WTF?  Isn’t golf a good walk spoiled?  Why then should my golf addiction be frowned upon by the medical community?

No matter.  When my golf prowess, or lack thereof was discussed with my surgeon, he was actually excited to hear I was a golfer.  Not so he could take my money in a $5 nassau on his day off, but as he put it, because golfers have a greater success rate of becoming fully functional after a Total Knee Replacement.  A golfer actually has an endpoint in mind, and will work his butt off to get there.  Alright!  Isn’t it about time that my tireless devotion to this sport was recognized?!

Looking upon other golfers out there, Peter Jacobsen has just become my new favorite golfer.  Read his media guide and it reads like he is a one man MASH unit.  More importantly, he had a right total knee replacement in 2008, and still plays professionally on the Champions Tour (when his other ailments don’t get in the way).  I have had a left total knee replacement, so the stresses my new knee will see are different than his.  On the other hand, I am not playing professionally so who actually is stressing the knee more?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to become one of those old guys that hit it straight down the middle, never more than about 150 yards.  That is one type of golf I have never been a fan of, and just because my arthritic knee has finally been replaced, doesn’t mean I will be looking to change my game in that way.  In fact, I hope to hit it consistently longer and straighter, with the new found flexibility I should get as a result of this operation.

Let’s see what the next few months bring.  In the meantime, hop over to my Flickr page and take a look at the rest of the pictures related to my left total knee replacement.  If you have the stomach for it, you will not be disappointed!

#2 Bandon Dunes Resort vs. #1 Sea Island Resort

Resort golf means different things to different golfers.  Some only go for the golf.  Some enjoy the amenities.  Others need room to spread out and live life in a variety of ways.  Comparing Bandon Dunes to Sea Island is a difficult task.

For those of you interested in the golf only, I have to admit up front I was not a fan of links golf, as represented by many courses throughout the country.  However, I can honestly say, I never really played true links golf until going to Bandon Dunes.  I am here to tell you that nothing throughout the rest of the United States even approximates “links golf.”

Describing the difference between the ocean setting, with shifting sands beneathyour feet, the consistent, usually cool breeze, and the rough fortified with impenetrable gorse, versus the typical treeless setting others try to market as links golf proves  elusive to divulge.  At Bandon, specifically Bandon Dunes, and Pacific Dunes course, as well as the Old MacDonald course scheduled to open in Spring of 2010 (which I was able to play ten of 18 holes in a preview), when you step on the tee and gaze upon the expansive hole laid out before you, you immediately are transported to Scotland, the home of golf.  It is not hard to believe that the flight and drive to the resort has somehow magically whisked you away to the land of single malt scotch and haggis.

Somehow, Pacific Dunes is ranked highest of the 4 courses at Bandon Resort.  No doubt because of the spectacular views of the ocean, and the number of holes that border the ocean.  If Old MacDonald had even one hole that bordered the ocean, it would surely surpass Pacific as the top course at BandonResort.  I enjoyed the way the greens were treated as an extension of the fairway, with no grass changes at all.  The only difference between the greens and the fairways are about a quarter of an inch in height.  It truly invites you to learn the techniques of links golf, including putting from 60-70 YARDS away, or a punch and run shot some 150 yards from the pin.

Walking BandonDunes with a caddie at your side invites the golfer to dream of a more peaceful time in the past.  Since carts are not allowed at Bandon Resort, it is best to use a caddie.  In fact, a caddie is nearly a necessity as you make the loop just to find your way from green to tee.  At times BandonResort employs over 400 caddies.  With so many available, you may not get a knowledgeable caddie.  However, during my stay, I was treated to an 8 year veteran at Bandon who definitely knew the game of golf as played on the Oregon coast.

Bandon does things right, by assigning you one caddie during your entire stay.  This allows the caddie to get comfortable with the players game, and the golfer to trust the caddie’s advice.  Upon arriving at the course the second day, I was pleased to see “my” caddie Jim waiting at the first tee.

By day three, I was excited to play links golf, which surprised me.  As a tried and true mountain golfer from New England, links golf always seemed too flat and open.  However, links golf at Bandon Resort is anything but flat and open.  By contrast the Seaside course at Sea Island Resort has a few interesting holes, on the water.  The Sea Island courses are challenging and sometimes even exciting to play, but do not compare to the Bandon courses.  Score one for Bandon Dunes.

At Sea Island you can use a fore caddie, which is helpful, but does not even come close to having a personal caddie.  Also, the fore caddies I used at Sea Island seemed to be uninspired by their jobs.  Perhaps this was colored by the fact I was at Sea Island during off season.  The occupancy rate at The Cloister and The Lodge during my stay was 7%.  This left the courses wide open for play.  I only saw other golfers on the course when I wasn’t on it!  If you want to feel like you have the entire course to yourself, Sea Island gives you that chance, in relatively nice weather during the off season.

One thing I found great at both resorts were the practice areas.  The Sea Island Resort practice area has a wonderful chipping area.  The short game is often neglected, or treated as an afterthought at a majority of practice areas.  Since the short game is where the scoring happens, more time should be spent practicing these shots instead of on the driving range.  Sea Island has the nicest bunker complex of the two resorts, by far.  However, Bandon likes to tell you they make up for it, by allowing you access to Shorty’s, their 9 hole par 3 course within the practice area.  Holes 1 & 2 are always available, but the rest of the course is sometimes closed (most of the time while I was there).  I would call these part’s of the resorts a wash, but if pressed I would probably lean more toward Sea Island’s practice area, since it is more conveniently located than Bandon’s practice area, which is a bus ride away from all of the courses.

Each of Bandon’s courses has a separate clubhouse.  This is nice in some ways, especially if you are running late for your tee time.  However, none of the clubhouses are spectacular in any way.  By contrast, Sea Island’s clubhouse and locker room facilities are a wonder to behold.  Entering the men’s locker room at Sea Island let’s you see how the other half lives!  With fine wood paneling, post and beam construction, hanging crystal chandeliers and what undoubtedly is over 100 lockers, this is only the start of the refinements.  A fully stocked and staffed bar, multiple fireplaces, a separate cigar room overlooking the course, as well as linen covered dining tables are in the main portion of the locker room.  Delve further back and you will find showers, whirlpools, and more.  Stay after the round, and have lunch served to you in the locker room.  It may not sound appealing at first, but it rivals the men’s clubs in days past as a way to pass the time and relax.  Sea Island is definitely the winner in this category.

Fine dining can be found at both sites.  Since I enjoy fine dining, I partook  of these opportunities at both sites.  Sea Island does have formal dining at Colt & Allison’s, requiring a jacket.  At Bandon casual attire is still OK at all of their restaurants. 

The wine list at Bandon is filled with wines from the Willamette Valley, as well as other regions of the world.  The Oregon wines are definitely fine wines, especially when ordering something of the Pinot variety.  Or go into the town of Bandon and experience the local flavors.  Coastal seafood can be had very cheaply.

Sea Island has better food overall, with Colt & Allison’s delivering strong with dry-aged beef on the menu.  Steak lovers rejoice.  The ambiance at Sea Island gives them an edge, with a bagpiper playing in the distance as the sun sets.  You can head to the outdoor deck and have a drink as you watch the bagpiper in his kilt and who knows what else, while waiting for your dinner reservation.

Sea Island also scores mightilyon the accommodations.  At The Lodge you are treated to your own personal butler on call 24 hours a day.  Cookies and milk are delivered to your door nightly.  If you take your sweetheart, the butler will even draw up a rose petal bath for her to enjoy.  The rooms all overlook some part of the golf course, and are extremely spacious.

At Bandon, we stayed at the Lily Pond, which are some of the cheaper accommodations there.  Still they were adequate and somewhat spacious.  They were warm in the prime season, offering a small portable fan to cool you down.  Each ro0m had a fireplace, which undoubtedly would take the chill off in cooler, wetter months.  Deer sometimes greeted me at the door upon my return home.  In fact deer were plentiful throughout the resort and especially on the golf courses.

Nightlife in the surrounding areas is practically non-existent.  Be prepared to entertain yourself with a game of cards, a few stories at the 19th hole, or with simple walks on the surrounding grounds.  Those of you looking for something else to do, are better off in other resorts throughout the country.

Both resorts offer unlimited golf, with multiple courses available.  Sea Island has an unlimited golf package which is very reasonable during the off season.  I believe Bandon has a policy of first round full price, second round half price, all other rounds free in a day.  If you want to play 54 a day, have at it!

If you are into total golf immersion, with some of the nicest courses you can ever play, Bandon is the top choice.  If you want more from your golf vacation, with lasting memories, Sea Island earns it’s #1 ranking.

Overland Park’s Deer Creek

Kansas City.  Home of real barbeque, the Blues, and the Negro Baseball League Hall of Fame.  I had the pleasure of visiting Kansas City for  the wedding of my niece and goddaughter.  She was marrying a nice Jewish man, assuring that the wedding and reception would be eclectic and memorable.

This also allowed me an opportunity to get in a round of golf in Kansas.  The midwest does not get it’s due regarding the quality of the golf courses they have to offer.  One thing I find is these courses are usually better maintained, partially due to the fact they get less play than their counterparts on the east or west coast.

Certainly, Deer Creek was meticulously maintained.  I saw more maintenance personnel than I did golfers on the Monday I played there.  The greens were soft and receptive, with only a few unrepaired ball marks.  The rough was lush, and the fairways were firm and fast.  This would typically be the type of course I would enjoy immensely.

However, I did not find this round as enjoyable as I expected.  The starter shack was empty, which I expected on a Monday.  Inside the pro shop, my money was processed, and I was left on my own.  There was no mention made of teaming up with anyone else, so Tracy and I thought we might enjoy the day as a twosome.  At 8:20 there was a threesome on the tee, and we hung back to give them room on the tee.  As we waited for them to finish teeing off, a cart flew by us with two golfers in it, and approached the tee.  Obviously, they were regulars.  After a minute or two, Tracy and I slowly crept to the tee, expecting the twosome in front of us to introduce themselves as part of the 8:30 foursome.  Instead the two ignored us and teed off without even directing a glance our way.

This is something we noticed was a trait of people throughout the Kansas City area.  I would not use the term “friendly” to describe the citizens of Kansas City. which surprises me.  Having stayed in the area for 4 days, I doubt I heard more than 6 or 8 words out of any native of Kansas City.

While golfing, our twosome waited often for the threesome two groups ahead of us.  Occasionally, I wondered why the twosome in front of us had not played through them yet.  Apparently, it takes awhile for conversation to take place, even on the golf course, in Kansas City.  On one particularly slow hole, I wondered aloud if the twosome in front of us would even hit their second shots.  Since it was a par 4 and the twosome in front of us could not even “Drive” the ball halfway up the fairway, they could easily have hit a second shot without sniffing the green.  However, as with any male ego, this twosome’s belief in their abilities was much greater than their actual ability.  When they finally did hit, I teed my ball up and let it fly.

Apparently, the firm and fast fairways were a detriment to my ball, rather than an asset.  Having pulled my ball to the left edge of the fairway, I watched it as it disappeared over a knoll in the fairway.  A few minutes later after Tracy had teed off from the forward tees, I saw a cart emerging from the area beyond the knoll in the fairway.  The twosome in front of us, apparently had had a pair of poor shots, including second shots which were nowhere near the green!

When I finally did pass over the knoll, my ball was nowhere to be seen.  Since the area was wide open, it was apparent the twosome had retrieved my ball while hitting their second shots.  Another case of Kansas City hospitality.  I am sure they enjoyed my Pinehurst logoed Pro V1.

Deer Creek is a community development, and as such has houses throughout the course.  Additionally, there are vast amounts of space between green and tee making a cart a near necessity.  The weather was humid, having reached a heat index of 101 during the day, and there was only one set of water jugs on the entire golf course.  This could be vastly improved.

However, it surprised me to find that the houses within the development did not encroach upon the fairways/rough.  The landing areas were substantial, and the rough was wide and deep.  Balls landing in the rough were eaten up, and on more than one occasion, I found it difficult to locate balls just off the fairway.

Overall I enjoyed the golf course, but not the twosome in front of us!  Tracy did reach one of her goals for the year, by breaking 100, with a fine 95.  Her 13 putts on the front side were a testament to the true nature of the greens.  Having 28 putts myself, I found the greens extremely easy to putt.  More than once, I had a 6-10 foot second putt, and yet was able to drain the second putt straight into the heart of the cup.  My final score of 88 could easily have been better, with a few dropped penalty strokes, and a little better understanding of the layout.  I actually dropped more strokes on the short holes, than the low handicap/lengthy holes, since I did not know exactly where to layup to.

Give it a try if you are in the area, but make sure you ask the pro shop when you tee off, and assert yourself.  You will enjoy the experience much more.

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