To Walk or To Ride
By Snyper on 6/7/10
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.
To walk or to ride, that is the question. Well, for most golfers, it really isn't a question at all. Though I could not find an accurate source for the exact percentage of golfers who choose to walk, my experience in working at golf courses for close to 15 years leads me to approximate that fewer than five percent of players choose to walk. In fact, not only is walking not popular, it is almost discouraged by most courses and even by most golfers. Because people consider a golf cart to be faster than walking, those who choose to take advantage of the additional exercise will often provoke several moans and groans from everyone behind them on the first tee. While I understand this reaction and will admit to having it myself from time to time, it is not fair and usually inaccurate. In fact, I think you can go as far as to say that if the group in front of you is walking, you should consider it a blessing.
Think about this for a second, how many times have you seen inexperienced golfers choose to walk? Most players that walk are guys that have been playing for a while and are usually pretty decent players. Now, I know that there are a few guys out there who are good players and also very slow, but for the most part, I think we can all agree that slow play results from golfers who lack experience and the proper know how to keep the game moving. One such example of ignorance that slows down the game is actually the improper use of golf carts. When you’re walking, there are not a whole lot of ways to slow yourself down. However, when you are riding, there are a number of different things that you can do to make the game slower. Whether it is parking the cart in poor locations, riding back and forth searching for balls, walking back and forth to the cart to change clubs, or sitting and watching other people hit their shot instead of preparing to hit their own, riding does not always equal faster play.
All right, now that we have established that walking should not be frowned upon, lets look at some of the reasons that you may want to consider a more physically demanding approach to golf the next time you head out to the links. In 2008, Neil Wolkodoff, director of the Rose Center for Health and Sports Sciences in Denver, did a study about the benefits of walking while playing golf. In his article at PGATour.com, Wolkodoff states that walking 36-holes of golf a week burns almost 3000 calories! Now, it should also be known that even though walking results in an additional two miles or 500% of the distance traversed, the calories burned only increased approximately 75%. Turns out, the act of swinging the golf club actually requires a significant amount of energy and physical output. So, though it is a little obvious, the conclusion is clear that walking is the healthier choice.
Wolkodoff states that walking 36-holes of golf a week burns almost 3000 calories!
While I always assumed that walking was better for me, I have often felt as though I also play better when I walk. For my game, I've always believed that walking helped keep me in a great rhythm. It also provides me plenty of time to think about the shot that I just hit as well as the shot that I’m going to be hitting next. On the other hand, when I’m riding, I hit the ball and then jump in the cart. My focus for the next five minutes is on driving the cart and interacting with whomever I’m riding with instead of thinking about my game and the next shot. The only downside of walking, for me, happens when the physical demand of walking the course gets the best of me on the last couple of holes. In the beginning of the season, when I haven’t been playing or walking a lot, I end up feeling a little tired on the back nine and I can see the consistency in my swing suffer the consequences. In Wolkodoff’s article, he points out that the physical effects of walking come from a build up of lactic acid in your muscles. If you aren’t in good shape, the lactic acid targets your muscles more quickly and that results in a decline in your fine motor skills. So, while walking will help you burn some extra calories, for a while, your game may pay the price for your lack of fitness.
From my own experiences and after reading several columns about walking verses riding, I believe that the answer is ultimately conditional. Some courses will not even allow you to walk during most hours of play, which makes walking all the time virtually impossible. Plus, if you know how to properly use a cart, you can play much more quickly when riding. However, if you are competing and attempting to play your best, you are better off walking. And, if you plan on doing this, you should make sure to walk enough during your practice rounds to avoid the effects of fatigue during competition. Walking is also a great option if you are playing during a busy time for the golf course. Instead of driving your cart to your ball and then sitting there for five minutes, you are better off to be walking from shot to shot to stay in rhythm and spend more time focused on your game as apposed to sitting in the cart. So, next time you head out to the links, at least give walking a thought. It may not be something that you do all of the time, but if you try it, you may just be surprised how much you enjoy it.
... if you are competing and attempting to play your best, you are better off walking.
* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf.
[ comments ]
Good article. If it was my choice I would only walk. The problem that I have noticed is that the nicer courses around my town only allow riding during peak times. This leads me to play mostly our city courses which allow walking at all times.
I picked up a push-cart at the start of this season. I didn't do it because I wanted to always walk, but to save money. Typical cart rental fees around here a about $15. I usually play about 30 rounds a year. Just this season, I'm going to save about $250 by using my push-cart and walking, instead of renting a cart.
An added benfit I've found is that it gives me a little time to regroup after a bad shot. I'm a pretty quick player, especially when I'm out by myself. I'd hit, hop in the cart and be off. I'd still be muttering and calling myself a number of expetives under my breath while I was standing over my next shot. Walking gives me a few minutes to regroup, and get prepared to make a better shot.
It doesn't take me any longer, overall, to walk vs. ride. The last round I walked was 4.5 hours. The last round I rode took 4.5 hours. Granted I was on a course that prides itself on taking 4.5 hours to play, but still, I was never out of position when walking, or riding.
Great article. I try to walk whenever i can, but they really make it tough -- like you said it's damn near frowned upon at most courses. I would walk every time i played if i could.
I agree with you xris; I'd walk every time I could as well.
@mjaber, cart rentals are just too expensive. It pretty much doubles the price of golf at my local courses.
Correction.. I only play about 20 rounds per season... but the math still works. :)
For me it is all about time. I have two little ones, 2yrs and 9 months, so when i play i ride to get home faster and keep the old lady happy. But i do enjoy the walk occasionally, except when there is like a mile hike in between holes.
Just to add a little about the time factor. I walked, carrying my clubs as a single a couple of weeks ago and finished in a little over 3 hrs. At the turn two groups let me play through. Come to find out that the second groups was the first group off in the morning so I had no one ahead of me. I played the back 9 in just under 1 hour. Don't get me wrong I was flying especially because I started to boogie every hole on the back and wanted to keep it going. I never pulled the flag and the course is pretty short (6200 for the tips where I was playing).
The 2 local courses I play at are $15 for 18 with a cart. (SW Florida in the summer, our off season). In the winter time that price doubles to $30, the course if packed with snow bird walkers and an 18 round can take up to 5 hours or more!
On a wide open course (no one in front of me), riding I can do 18 in 1.5 hours, walking in 2 to 2.5 hours.
The Saturday group I play with (me & 2 other guys) riding we do 18 in 2.5 hours.
When The Saturday group decides to walk (2 guys and myself), 3.5 to 4 hours for 18.
We start at 7am and are the first people out (usually).
Riding is definitely the faster choice, tho not the healthiest one.
All things being equal, I prefer to ride a cart as often as possible. Sure, walking 18 is a good workout, but I run 1-2 miles a day about 5-6 times a week. I don't need the workout.
What I DO need is to save money. So I basically choose whether to walk/ride on the value in it. If it's a peak hour and it's going to be incredibly slow AND the cart adds over a 20% premium, I may walk. If I'm playing 9 holes at twilight, I'll definitely walk as the premium for a $10 cart on a $12 twilight rate is nearly 50%.
But there are other courses that are nice, and that I can play twilight for 18 holes in less than 3.5 hours if I ride in a cart and not have to worry about sore feet afterwards. I'm riding a cart all day, and it's especially useful when I slice my tee shot two fairways over on the 1st hole.
Where I play, there are three courses at the facility. One is super easy to walk, and happens to be the course where a LPGA tournament is played.
Another course is flat enough to walk, you just got a 200ft drop from the first tee to the fairway that you have to climb at the end of the round, and a few holes have some distance between green and tee.
The other course is difficult to walk, especially when you have to steeply climb the 200 ft on the back nine, but the climb happens gradually but steeply, and really seems to affects the legs for some of the shots, if you don't have a cart to hop on for those climbs.
I might add that the 3000 calories mentioned for walking 36 holes is what you would burn if you were carrying your clubs. It goes down if you have a pull-cart. On speeding up play with the carts, may i suggest something. Buy a club caddy. It won the "fore inventors only" on the golf channel a couple years ago (last year even maybe). I bought one this past week and it's probably the best purchase i made so far. We have to ride most of the time for GCAT just because of the distances between holes and the Pace of Play policy, so you end up bringing 3 clubs when it's cart path only or on wet days. That little clothespin is like the simplest no-brainer invention and i'm so pissed i didn't come up with it myself. I easily save 2 minutes a hole just not bending over or picking up my clubs.
A lot of good posts here today. I made a decision to walk more than I ride this year. I upgraded my shoes and bag to make the experience more enjoyable. Once I got past the convenience of riding, I really enjoy walking. I agree with many on here in regards to focus and the mental aspects vs shoot, jump on find the ball shoot again. When I walk I feel like I get a better view of the approach and feel better prepared.
Maybe it's just me, but an added benefit - I seem to find my ball much easier when I'm off the fairway, when I walk.
Andrew/Kevin: for those addicts that track walking vs. riding, can you let us know what % of the rounds were walked?
All: I agree that most courses encourage carts because it's a great source of revenue. I'm glad that there are some courses that are walking-only (Bandon Dunes, Chambers Bay in Seattle, etc.).
I think it's a farce that requiring carts in peak hours speeds play. It's usually those same courses that send groups off in short intervals (say 7 min), thereby packing the course. Great for revenue but invariably creates 5 hour rounds.
At my course most of the regulars walk (even with a hilly course) and finish in 4 hours or less. If you pay attention you can walk and have a speedy round.
I like walking because it not only saves me money and provides exercise but because I always have my clubs at hand -- never have to walk back to the cart to get a different club, new ball, etc. For me, taking 3 clubs with me when I exit the cart increases my chance of losing a club. :(
I have never seen anybody, with a passenger, use a golf cart in a timely manner. The only way I've seen people in a cart catch a group that is walking is if there is long distances between the holes. The sole reason that people in a cart are always slower is because they don't play ready golf and they don't prepare their shot while the other person is hitting. If you want to move in a cart faster than somebody walking, you have to stop the cart at the first ball, both get out, the person whose ball it is prepares and hits while the other person grabs some clubs and goes to his ball prepares while the other person hits his shot, then hit immediately after the first person, while the other person then drives to pick him up. Most people wait, then talk about the shot, replace the divot, then go to the second ball, get the yardage, grab a club, etc. In this amount of time the people walking have long since hit and passed you. Walking feels better, helps your focus, is healthier, and yes, its faster.
I try to walk when I can but it depends on the course and who I play with. Some courses around here in AZ do not have walking rates while at others I see more people walking than riding. Walking saves me money and I won't deny that I need to lose a few (many) pounds.
I'm originally from Sweden where it is strictly walking only, you'll need a doctor's note to ride.
I like to walk in matches and tournaments because I get time to calm down after a bad shot, and really just to work on a strategy and start thinking about my next shot or shots. What do I have to do to get it here or here to be able to hit this for a par. I will ride in some practice rounds or so, but walking is a great way to learn a new course. Take your time and learn all the bumps and elevation changes.
I'm sorry, but walking is not faster than using a cart unless the people are mismanaging the cart.
Bryan K says:
I almost always walk. So does my partner. We tend to catch up to the group in front of us more often than not, and those groups are usually riding.
People who know how to correctly manage a cart are rare, even among well seasoned golfers. On the rare occasions when I do ride, I get the "where are you going?" question a lot when I pack up a few clubs to go walk from the cart to my ball.
There has been one time where I was walking when I was paired up with a very good (about a 5 handicap) player who was riding. I was able to keep up with him, though I wore myself out doing it, and I hopped on the cart on about the thirteenth hole.
If it's cart path only rules, then yes, walking is faster. I would prefer to walk but as most have noted, a lot of course demand that you take a cart. It's all about revenue for them, nothing more.
I prefer to save the money and walk, but when a course does have alot of elevation schanges like elvated tee boxes, it can knock the wind out of you just walking up to a tee box. I once read you play better by riding by up to 5 strokes.
Guilt-free apre-golf cheeseburgers and beer are major incentives for walking and carrying my bag. I agree that riding may help your score, stamina-wise. I struggle to finish strong on a hot day when I am lugging my stuff.
I can attest that carts can slow us all down. Imagine playing a round of golf with a set of siamese twins, attached at the hip and each playing his own ball. Naturally only one twin can play his ball at a time and anywhere on the course they have to go, they must go together.
This is what it's like playing with most pairs in a cart. Cart riding for some reason makes people feel attached to one another. I guess they also get attached to the cart and feel weird about venturing too far from it.
I know some people in their country club golf world might find this hard to believe, but there are many muni courses where cart riding definitely slows up and ultimately cheapens the experience. Trust me on this, you look out at any given fairway and you are likely to see something resembling Benny Hill, a kind of golf cart derby with carts zig-zagging every which way, often going the wrong direction, (i.e. back towards the tee) driving up alongside greens, hopping off curbs, etc.
walking early round no one on the course but me = 3 hours.
riding " " = 2 hours
i feel more relaxed and can eat breakfast in the cart store my drink and cigs and phone out... like a little home away from home.
I prefer the push cart/walking. I do find that when I walk that I need to consider nutrition much more so than if riding. Otherwise, I tend to really fade down the stretch. A small bag of trail mix, some fruit, and a bottle of water every three holes (I live in Texas) works for me.
I'm fortunate enough to play a course that is very walker friendly, only requiring carts if you have a fivesome. Do courses that "frown on walking" do so because of pace of play? I ask that because some courses are simply not setup well for walkers and wondered if that could be a reason.
Riding add 3-4 stroke to my game, i walk even when they say i cant, i will catch a ride when there are long distances between holes. but i become more focused when i walk.
Sunday walk 2:45 18 holes 3nd "group" off we passed both groups in front of us by the third hole, they were riding.
sorry 5th hole
I putt better when I walk. Maybe it is I have time to check out my line as I approach the green. I don't know, but riding throws off my rhythm
Just walk its more healthy for you it takes the same amount of time unless you like a 2 handicap
plus you save money and do not always have to go back and forth to get clubs because you saw the lie in a different way
I don't care how good you are, if you aren't walking, I don't give a shat. Get your lazy ace out of the cart, strap on your bag and play the game the way it was meant to be played. I bet you would be surprised at how much better you play when you walk b/n shots.
I will ride when playing with three other riders or when playing in scramble tournaments but I never really feel like I actually played a round. I don't even feel like I should post my scores to when I use a cart cuz it's barely golf.
As for speed, all things equal, I would have to agree that carts are a bit faster. However, there is NOTHING slower than riders on cart path only days. I guarantee I could walk backwards faster than people at my local courses play cart path only.
I enjoy walking - The wifey gave me a nice Sun Mountain push cart last year for the B-day. I feel more lose and relaxed when I am walking and stay "warm" for the round. I have also tricked out my push cart to make it more accessable during the round, speaker holder for my tunes, cubby for my phone, beer holder... you know.. the basics
My handicap has also dropped since I started walking. went from 12-13 down to under 10.
Im not saying - Im just saying
Bryan K says:
@shankapotamus: I totally agree. When I get done playing a round from the cart, I barely feel like I played a round at all. In fact, whenever I play a round from a cart, I will go find another 9-hole course to play just to feel like I've accomplished something.
Matt Otskey says:
Didn't have time to read all the comments... sorry if I'm repeating... Matt said in the article that when he walks, he has time after his shot to think about the shot he just hit, and how he will play his next one. That is an invaluable piece of the puzzle which IS lost when using a cart. However, I feel that walking does take a toll on your mental focus and exhaustion levels because it can be strenuous. Walking up hills, down hills, and across hills tends to make me more tired than usual, and therefore, causing my swing to be affected.
*disclaimer* I live in northern New Jersey where there isn't such a thing as a flat course. So I will always have to be walking up and down hills if I decide to walk a round. If I lived in a place where flatter courses were more common, I might have a different viewpoint. *disclaimer*
The last time I used a cart, the damn thing felt like a ball-and-chain.
Re: the comment "will often provoke several moans and groans from everyone behind them"; A couple months ago we played a new course and were second off (2 walking) following a group in carts. We were never out of position and often waiting on them, though they never offered to let us play through. The group behind us (in carts) seemed to want to make the point that they were right-on-our-ass. We finished in 3h 15m and decided to play another 9. The starter commented on our fast first round and when we asked him about the group following us, he said that they were regulars, were a-holes, and didn't like walkers. Whatever!
with how obese most of the country is, they should ban golf carts all together (unless someone's got a REAL disability)
I enjoy walking the course. Other than the aforementioned benefits of health and swing rhythm, I really think it's much easier to appreciate the design of the course. When I walk and play a course for the first time, I can recall almost every hole that evening. When I ride, I'm too busy focusing on the cart path or making sure I drive to the right place. I'm a fan of golf architecture, and it's always easier to soak it all in when the bag is on my back (I don't believe in pull/push carts either). Of the 693 rounds posted here on Oob (and tons more that I couldn't post), I'm guessing 600 of them were walked.
@hp-regarding your comment "I don't believe in pull/push carts either". I would be interested to know why? I had also been a "purist" carry your bag on your back type, because I didn't think the push/pull cart thing was "cool". A recent knee issue motivated me to get a Clik-Gear push cart. Bottom-line is, its pretty great. The quality of my walk is better with less stress on the body. I can understand the debate that separates riders from walkers, but am interested in the mind-set of walkers who carry vs those that use a push/pull cart. I've been on both sides and have my own ideas and opinions, I'd be interested in hearing yours.
@Swingem - It just boils down to a bit more simplicity and freedom. My arms are free. Actions are a just bit easier, like switching directions on the fly, looking around the course, cutting through walk ways through thick patches of grass, drinking a beer in one hand while telling a story and gesticulating wildly with other, etc, etc.
I prefer to carry my bag vs. a push cart because it's slight faster than with a push cart... can walk across the green, mark my ball and then drop my bag at the other side. Can step over the ropes without looking for an opening, etc. Don't have to fuss with taking the cart in & out of my trunk, etc. I have a super light bag (<4 lbs)... Ogio Vaporlight and only carry 13 clubs, six balls, & a handful of tees (oh, and my laser range finder). Never carry an umbrella. Either it's raining too hard to play or I get wet a little bit.
I'm guessing when I'm 60 or older I'll probably go with a push cart. :o)
Regarding the excuse that folks take a cart because the course is too hilly. My answer is that by walking the hills you get great exercise. If you're exhausted after walking a hilly course (with a push cart even), then you definitely need the exercise and should definitely not use a cart. I also agree that true golf is played on two feet, not four wheels.
p.s. one study shows that you'll score lower (on average) with a push cart vs. riding.
9 hole score average was 40 for push carts, 42 for with caddies, 43 for riding and 45 for carrying.
Bryan K says:
SingleDigits: Do I still need excercise if I get tired after playing 36 holes on a hilly course in a day? Or after 99 holes in a weekend?
Don't get me wrong. I agree with you in that I walk to get excercise. However, I use a pull cart because carrying hardly burns any more calories than walking. But I do draw the line when I have to walk a mile or more uphill between holes. The goal is to fit as many holes into a day as possible, and when I have to stop after 18 because I'm fatigued when I have time to get in 36, that's almost as frustrating as missing the two-foot eagle putt I waited all summer for.
For the record, I've played two courses in my life that I would consider unwalkable. I learned that by walking them.
I can only wish for a day when my wife/family would let me play 36 holes in a single day or 99 in a weekend!
Matt Otskey says:
Carrying a heavy bag on your back takes a toll on your shoulders and back and that affects your swing. That's why I ride when I can. I'll walk the muni courses.
And @ whoever says walking the hills gives you great exercise. Try walking Crystal Springs or Wild Turkey or The Club at Morgan Hill. Good luck. You'll never make it.
These courses aren't just hilly, these are mountain courses. Some with .5-.75 miles in between holes. That is golf in Northern NJ and Eastern PA.
Maybe it's the former caddy in me, but I absolutely hate seeing golf carts on a course. Currently working at a country club that strongly encourages walking and use of the caddy program also furthers this disdain. Heck, we tell people "no you can't take a cart" half the time.
The only reason some courses require you to take a cart is so they can make more money. A new golf cart costs about $5,000. 5 years of life out of one cart (conservative estimate), and roughly $100 of maintenance a year. $1,100 a year. Cart fees at some of my local tracks? $15-25. One cart has to be used 55 times to break even. I'm guessing most carts get a good 100-150 rounds in them a season. One cart is making between $1000 and $2000 in profit a year.
That's why courses encourage riding.
I've always done a cart until this year when my friends and I decided that as long as the temperature was under 90 degrees we would walk. We are actually waiting behind guys in carts now so we believe it's faster to walk than ride.
KVS, same here. I'll walk if it's under 90. Otherwise I take a cart. The SM pushcart has been great for me because my back isn't that great. It is the difference between being able to walk 18 and having to ride.
They way I look at it is that walking is good exercise and playing golf is something I love. Combining the two is a no-brainer: doing something you love while getting a decent workout.
Living in the Myrtle Beach area, there are only about 5 "less popular" courses that will let you walk. I have only been allowed to walk one time after a torrential rain fall that sent all the people actively playing into the clubhouse for rain checks. The pro told us it would be CPO "cart path only" which almost guarantees a 5 hour round. So we asked to walk and he said to have at it. It was a real treat to carry our clubs for the round considering that in the area we have roughly 115 courses within 50 miles of us. We played 18 in 3hrs 45mins with a beer stop at the turn. It was a blast.
Lots of good stuff on walking the course, I always walk whenever possible. A point I didn't see mentioned is how all common sense leaves these people who drive carts. When the Starter gives a group of golfers the rules of the day it goes in one ear and out the other. Stay on the cart paths when told to, don't drive thru standing water, they know what a 30ft putt is but not 30ft from the green. I have seen alot of damage done to golf courses from nitwits in golf carts and then they bitch that the course is bad shape.If your to lazy to walk, please think when driving,
The new push carts make walking so much easier. Walking 9 holes with a push cart is fun unless you have someone in a cart behind you. I encourage them to play through. League nights are for riding. Drinking a couple of beers and yapping between shots.
I am 63 years old and love to walk. When I'm at a very hilly course or an outing and ride in a cart I hate it. I always play better when I walk. I'm a 9 handicap so I'm not terribly horrible.
Bryan K says:
I have to wonder aloud for a moment. Since I play a lot of municipal courses, and since I like to play every day, I get paired up with a lot of teenagers who play for their schools. Around these parts, pushing, pulling, or riding is prohibited in competitive play unless one has a handicap that requires such a benefit. I have to wonder if these rules are the same everywhere around the country. If they are, I also have to wonder what high school kids do in areas where carrying is prohibited. I'll be the first to acknowledge that walking and carrying while playing up to one's ability for an entire round takes some conditioning. If one is only allowed to ride while practicing and then suddenly has to carry for a tourney, it seems obvious that his/her game will taper off at the end of the back nine.
Bryan K says:
I'll be honest and say that I'd have a really big problem playing if all of the local courses adhered to "ride only" rules. The reason I took up this game was to get some excercise. Having to ride all the time would defeat the purpose.
I play courses here in Germany... you don't know tough course walking till you have to walk the "undulating mountains" as we call them! Some of these almost make me wish I had a pair of Jack Wolfskin Golf Boots!
We need to pick and choose the walking courses especially as we get older. I am 56 and mostly play with younger guy's who like to ride. I would prefer to walk but don't because the majority rides.
nothing I hate more than seeing a bunch of golf carts all lined up on a course. come on, this is golf...playing outdoors, getting away from things...golf carts just seem very artificial. plus, with golf carts, this is the typical scenario:
1. player #1 drives to player #2's ball
2. player #2 does his 5 minute pre-shot routine before finally hitting
3. player #2 hops back into the cart
4. player #1 drives to his ball
5. player #1 does his 5 minute pre-shot routine before finally hitting
this is why the course gets backed up!
On my homecourse, we walk. Unless there's a serious handicap that keeps one from walking...
Question though to all other walkers out there: do you carry a standbag or push a trolley?
To add to "shift" and "eventHorizon's" comments - riders spend excessive time in their bags. It doesn't occur to them that putting a club back in the bag before driving off is absurd - they'll have to change clubs at the next shot. It's not that complicated but adds a ridiculous amount of time - multiply that by four and imagine the total extra time taken by riders. Walkers can take shortcuts and go to their respective balls and riders can't do either (two people go to one ball). Walkers generally hit and go; riders, as above, do not. I worked at a course for a few years, and walkers (foursomes) can play in under three hours; riders? Much longer. I've had to warn more riders to pick up the pace and rarely ever warned walkers. The worst offenders are lazy 20-something male groups who think they've rented the course for the entire day to drive, smoke cigars, and drink beer (and are oblivious to divots). Many private courses require Dr.'s notes to ride - pace is always faster. And walking = more fun.
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