The pace of play was very much in the news the past couple of weeks, and it’s a topic that gets lots of dialog, but little action to change things. The time it takes to play a round of golf has steadily increased for decades. What used to be a 3 to 3-1/2 hour entertainment has turned into 5 hours in way too many cases.
On the professional tours recently, Kevin Na’s false starts and endless waggles drew lots of attention and criticism, but no penalty at all. On the LPGA, however Morgan Pressel’s seemingly one-time delay cost her a loss of hole, which was followed by loss of focus, and loss of match. The PGA Tour hasn’t penalized a stroke for pace of play in 17 years! Which was right?
To me, the pace of play problem all started with the professional tours, and then that snail-like approach to playing a round of golf crept across the game to contaminate the entire spectrum of recreational golf. I say it starts on the tours, because that is the most visible example to us all of how the game should be played. We watch, unwittingly learn and copy all too often.
We all know it’s an issue, so why can’t something be done? I hear all arguments, one even being that “I’ve paid to spend my afternoon on the golf course; I’m in no hurry to see it end.” Valid, but if you want to spend 5 hours out there, why not play 27 holes and have even more fun? How about if the entire fee structure for golf changed from a green fee for 18 holes to a green fee for an allotted time? If you buy 4 hours and can’t finish the round, tough . . . your time is up and you have to leave the course.
Better yet, what if they did that on the pro tours? The first starting time in the morning has 3-1/2 hours to finish their round. If they don’t . . . DQ. Sheesh, they play threesomes with caddies, for Pete’s sake. We play four and fivesomes, shooting 75 to 85, lots of bets on the line and never take more than four hours at our club. We have a walking group on Wednesday afternoons, 4-5 of us over 50 years old, carrying our own bags and playing for money, and never take anywhere close to 2 hours for our nine holes.
You can play fast without hurrying. There’s a big difference. Being ready when it’s your turn to play. Looking over your putt while others are putting. Lining up the putt from only behind the ball, instead of stalking it from all sides.
It’s said that cost, time and difficulty are the three things that make people leave the game. It would seem to me the time thing would be the easiest to fix . . . if we/they really wanted to do that.