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.