Handling Slow Play
By Snyper on 5/3/10
Matt Snyder is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.
With spring in full bloom, the local courses are starting to fill up with golfers, especially on those sunny and 75-degree weekends. With beautiful weather and cabin fever come busy golf courses that do their best to find room for each and every golfer that comes through the door. Packed courses, of course, means that slow play is going to be unavoidable. We all know that it only takes one group to bring the pace of play to a crawl on a day with average levels of play, let alone when the course fills every tee time. So, the sooner we accept that it is going to happen, the better we can handle the situation when it occurs.
Handling slow play is a skill that every golfer should work to master as it can often mean the difference between someone enjoying their round or selling their clubs to the first person they see in the parking lot. Perhaps the biggest key to dealing with this certainty of golf is simply realizing that it is exactly that, certain to happen. I know, I know. Golf doesn’t have to be slow and there are things that everybody can do to make sure that play moves along, but there are always going to be slow groups and slow players. So, tip number one, just accept that it is going to happen from time to time. It is annoying and can be frustrating, but just remind yourself that you are fortunate enough to be spending time on the golf course instead of stuck at work, home doing chores, or in a hospital bed somewhere. Remember, it could be worse.
Now, once you have come to terms with the reality of the situation, lets talk about some of the things that you can do to help make a slow round still an enjoyable round. First of all, take your time. Listen, time passes more quickly when you are involved in making a shot, reading a green, or taking a couple extra practice swings. So, instead of waiting for ten minutes on the next tee, slow your game down a little. The idea is to maintain a rhythm of play. If you can spend a little extra time playing each hole, that will reduce the amount of time you have to sit and wait on the group in front of you. That time of waiting is what ruins your rhythm. If that means driving the cart a little slower to your ball, taking a few more practice swings, studying the green a little longer before you hit your putt, then do it. A slower routine may not be natural and may take a little adjusting, but it will help you keep your rhythm and reduce the amount of time that you spend watching the group in front of you play instead of playing yourself.
So, instead of waiting for ten minutes on the next tee, slow your game down a little. The idea is to maintain a rhythm of play.
Next, lets look at what you can do during that time of waiting on the tee for your turn to swing. There are several games that many of us play in order to stay entertained while we wait on the tee box. For example, there’s tee box croquet, which is probably the most popular way to pass the time. This game involves challenging your playing partner/partners in a match to see who can hit the tee markers with their ball. You start beside one marker and take turns trying to hit the other. Once that has been accomplished, you must go back across the tee box and hit the marker beside which you started. When both markers have been hit, you finish the game by hitting your opponent’s ball, which eliminates them. Another one of my favorite games is challenging your partner to see who can bounce their ball on the face of their wedge for the longest amount of time. A simple chipping contest using the tee markers as your target can also help to provide a little competition to pass the time. No matter the game you choose, it will always be more interesting if you add some wagering to the activity. In my case, my partner and I will often keep score of the tee box games as a separate competition. Because I’m poor, we’ll play for stakes like whoever wins the most points on the tee box’s gets their choice of a ball from their opponents bag. If you’re a high roller, you may up the ante a little to keep things interesting. Regardless, if you put a little meaning behind an enjoyable tee box game, the time spent waiting for the slow group ahead can pass much more quickly and help make the round much more enjoyable.
The last aspect of slow play that I would like to address is how to handle making a shot when it is finally your turn. I mentioned this earlier, but it is especially important when you are teeing off. You absolutely must take several more practice swings than you are used to. If you are standing around for several minutes before you tee off, you need to take numerous swings to help remind your body of the proper tempo and feel of your swing. Waiting for ten minutes and then just stepping up and swinging away is only going to lead to bad shots, which are guaranteed to add to your frustration level. Take your time and take two or three times the number of normal practice swings in your pre-shot routine. Loosen up your arms and shoulders and find your rhythm. This tip will pay huge dividends and is sure to help your game during those five and a half hour rounds.
Remember, slow play stinks, but it sure beats being stuck in the house, stuck in traffic, or stuck at work.
So, to wrap it up, I know slow play is never something that a golfer looks forward to dealing with. But, each time it happens, you have a choice to make. You can sit around and complain about it and let it ruin your day, or you can make the best of it. If you choose to complain, I can’t help you. But, if you choose to make the best of it, I think you will find my suggestions to greatly improve not only how you play, but also how much fun you are still able to have during a slow round. Remember, slow play stinks, but it sure beats being stuck in the house, stuck in traffic, or stuck at work. Count your blessings and make the best of the situation.
* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf.
[ comments ]
Good post, Matt! If I'm behind a slow group (with no on in front of them), I try to play faster hoping, often in vain, that they will realize they are holding me/us up... like tailgating the driver holding up the left lane in traffic. This, as you said, breaks your rhythm even worse by more sitting around. Maybe I'll try a different tactic.
Bryan K says:
If the group in front of me isn't keeping up with the group in front of them, I will ask them to let me play through if they are holding me up.
That said, if the group in front of me is keeping up with the group in front of them, and the play is slow, I like to just relax and enjoy a beautiful day. It's the days that aren't so beautiful where it starts to suck.
A not so wise person told me when I first picked up golf, "no one cares how bad u play...just how fast u play." I am a 30 handicapper:( (just started last year.) I really think in all my vast experience that the majority of time is spent looking for wayward shots. I can't tell u how many minutes I have lost in my life due to ball searches. If we all stick to the two minute search rule, life would b fantastic!!! I may be wrong but that's just what the rookie sees. P.s. I played a round yesterday in 3:45! Only lost 2 balls and had a blast.
Isn't the best course of action hitting your drive into the group ahead until they let you pass, or someone is seriously injured?
@carv712- that's always served me well.
I'm half serious; but, when its been three hours, your group has just made the turn, the group ahead has no one in front of them, and they refuse to offer to let you pass, I'm inclined to "accidentally" send a tee shot over their heads.
I got stuck behind a foursome yesterday, one of which was a woman (who clearly has never swung a golf club before). Look, I'm all for bringing your wives or girlfriends to the course. (In fact, I encourage it if they wear a little skort...) After all, we all started somewhere, right? But that's my point... most of us AT LEAST tried out the range a couple of times first. PLEASE, if you're going to bring somebody to the course, take them to the range a couple of times first so they can at least learn to actually.. you know... hit the ball. 10 minutes on the tee box for a foursome is ridiculous.
Kurt the Knife says:
Be careful with that. A fella was charged with negligent manslaughter back when I was a kid. Depressed skull fracture, subdural hemmorhage, way out on the links, was dead by the time the ambulance tore up the front nine to get to him.
Witnesses testified perp "was getting madder at each hole about how slow play was going". Spent many a year in the pen.
Over their heads can easily go into their heads.
Kurt the Knife says:
grr. no spell checker.
The thing that kills me about courses filling up all the tee times and telling you before you go out "it's slow out there today" is that they won't let you walk during these obviously slow times. I think if you have an index and you're a 10 (maybe 12) or lower, you should be able to walk the course any time of day. Carts are good to keep play moving but it's kinda useless when you're not going anywhere anyway. just a little walker frustration.
The only problem with slowing down your own game to not be right on top of the people in front of you is you leave yourself open to being yelled at by the foursome behind you. I know that on a sunny Saturday afternoon on a public course it is going to be packed. I just wish everyone realized the same...
I rarely play on the weekends, that's when all the slow players and clueless come out.
I shouldn't be so harsh on the weekend players, at least they are working for a living and doing the recreation thing on the weekends, thanks for having a job and doing what it takes to make this a great country.
funny hearing you all talking about tee times... ive never had to deal with such a thing
Why is it that the course should play to the pace of the slowest group. If it is a game that is timed, after a certain elapsed time don't they come get ya and let you know your time has expired? Britain gets very little correct except tea and fish and chips but golf they got right. At the "real" British clubs (not the tourist traps", you maintain your distance from the group in back of you or they play through. No permission asked it is just done. The fastest group can play at their pace and finish as the pub opens while the slowest better bring cucumber and tomato sandwiches for the long day ahead. You very quickly weed out the slow as no one really likes 6 hour rounds. Slow play is the course's fault and if dealt with the game would be better for all.
I still think slow play is primarily caused by those hitting from the longer tee boxes that can barely hit past the ladies tees. I played today. There were 3 of us playing, 1 in a cart and myself and another walking. We were stuck behind a 4some that were playing from the blues and hitting 100 yard drives. Another thing is that I don't think course marshalls are doing their jobs anymore.
I don't like your advise to slow down if play is slow - That just compounds the whole situation for the rest of the day. I always believe you should play as efficiently as possible - Slow play is Slow play & is inconsiderate to the groups behind you in any situation. You should clear the fairway/green as soon as possible - whether you will be waiting on your next shot or not.
I've had partners call the club house on slow groups before. Couple of younger guys, seemed to be drinking more than hitting, falling down after a shot, etc. I know many players hate cell phones on the course but they worked for us in this situation. The marshal came out and the slow players disappeared.
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