Pace of Play
By bkuehn1952 on 6/8/12
The man needs no introduction by now, but at oob we believe those who deserve to be recognized should be recognized. Therefore, it's is my greatest pleasure to share with you Brian "bkuehn1952" Kuehn's latest submission. And in case you missed any of his 32 previous posts, I've linked them out here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Enjoy!

One of the most commented upon recent posts was one related to pace of play. My fellow Oobers offered up many valid and thoughtful ideas on speeding up the game. Educating players on how to improve pace of play is a noble idea. Unfortunately, most slow players are completely unaware of their problem. The tortoise strolls through life with his or her head in a cloud while the other players in the tortoise’s group work overtime to make up for the dawdling of their companion. Even when the tortoise recognizes his or her glacial pace of play, they frequently have rationalized why slow play is acceptable (“Golf is a slow game”, “I paid my money and want to enjoy myself”, “If I rush, I will play worse and take more strokes and take even longer”, “The course is packed, where are we going to go if we play faster?”, etc.).

My thought is that in large part slow play can be best addressed by the courses themselves. Too often public-access clubs follow the traditional model of cramming as many people on to the course as possible and then let everyone fend for themselves. That may have worked when golf was a growing sport. In today’s climate of a shrinking golf population and reduced rounds, the smart course operator will take on the nagging issue of pace of play. Here are some things that I have seen work.
  • 10 Minute Splits Enforced: Courses like to pack in the groups and will utilize 6 or 7 minute splits in starting times. Additionally, often there are no starters or ineffective starters. Ideally, the starter sends off the first group at 7:00 AM (or whenever the course opens). The next group is not allowed to start until 7:10 AM, even if the first group is already teeing off on the 2nd hole. By evenly spacing out the groups, many log jams are avoided. Further, it is easier to identify when a group is out of position.

  • First Tee Interview: Hopefully, we have all had the experience of playing a course with good starters. They welcome you to the course and then proceed to explain how the course is set-up (red flag is front, yardage markers are measured to the middle, 90 degree rule with carts, sand buckets are located in each cart, etc.). Once all the niceties are dispensed with, a good starter will figuratively look each group in the eye and ask what their current indexes or average scores are and how often each plays. Based on that information, the starter should recommend the appropriate tee. If the players decline to play the suggested tee, have a ranger monitor their progress. If they fall behind, request that they move up a tee or refund their fees and ask them to leave.

  • Create 4-Somes: On a slow day, allowing the occasional 2-some or single is not a problem. However, filling the course with a mix of 4-somes, 2-somes and singles is a recipe for trouble. The foursomes will constantly be overtaken by smaller groups and are forced to either frequently allow groups to play through or create a log jam of singles and pairs. Both options create some unhappy golfers. Instead, courses need to actively pair-up the singles and 2-somes to create a more even pace of play. Most players have no objection to this practice in my experience.

  • Proper Signage: Directing cart traffic to the proper side or rear of the green (“Park carts here!”) allows faster exits from the greens and reduces the times players leave carts on the wrong side or in front of the green. It is particularly frustrating to stand over your approach shot while the players in the preceding group walk across the green to retrieve their cart(s) that is (are) parked on the wrong side. Signage won’t prevent the truly dense individuals from parking in the wrong spot but in most cases it should help.

  • Clear, Accurate & Visible Yardage Markers: Many of us could dispense with laser or GPS readings if courses would adopt clear, accurate and visible distance markers. So-called PING style yardage markers (143 to front edge, 150 to middle, 157 to back edge) are particularly helpful. Small marker rods in the middle of the fairway for 100, 150, 200 and 250 yards allow most of us to eyeball the yardage. It is also helpful to post signs with a yardage to reach and clear cross hazards.

  • Helpful Rangers With Some Spine: We have all seen the guy who sleeps in the shade or experienced the harpy-like dude that circles and harasses your group, reminding you every 60 seconds that you need to stay in position. Rangers need to actively move around the course and evaluate which groups have the potential to create a log jam. Anyone who has played for a few years can pretty accurately judge which groups could be a problem based on the first tee. Course owners need to empower their rangers to take progressive measures to fix pace of play issues (Nice suggestion, warning, 2nd warning, pickup and move or take a refund and leave).

  • Proper Course Set-Up: There is something seriously wrong when your average public course creates US Open conditions on a regular basis. We have all played courses where a ball in the rough requires an all out search by the entire foursome. That sort of set-up is fine for the occasional tournament but otherwise, keep the rough to a manageable length. The same with pin positions - placing holes in impossible locations seriously slows down play. It takes a long time for everyone in a foursome to 4-putt! Course set-ups should reflect the ability of the patrons, not serve as a source of frustration to them.
We all need to be proactive and offer positive suggestions to the management of the courses we play. Implementing even a few of these ideas will get us that much closer to an average round of 4 hours or less.

I am sure all you Oobers out there have some additional ideas. Let’s hear them!


This was written by Brian Kuehn, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

Image via Flickr, InAweofGod'sCreation


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[ comments ]
woobwoob says:
The biggest problem I face regularly is the 6-7 minute splits. The entire course is packed, and you play a 6 hour round. Any type of rhythm is impossible.
6/8/12
 
fausty111 says:
I wish courses on the weekends would shorten up some of the holes. Almost like the winter time settings !! I don't think 410+ yard par 4's, 500+ yard par 5's and 180 yard + par 3's will ever help speed up play anywhere ever. As long as courses are set up for these distances from the amateur white tee boxes, you will be in for a long day. But since everyone hits it 300 yards I guess well just deal with it.
6/8/12
 
joe jones says:
Brian. Well said. I have little to add. As usual you have hit the nail on the head especially about the ranger program. I was involved as a ranger for 4 years in Las Vegas and without our strong ranger program it would have been chaos.Visitors in particular feel they have the right to behave badly.If a course provides a good beverage program it compounds the problem. After 3 or 4 drinks every lard ass thinks he is a romeo and has to hit on the beverage girl. Nothing slows up a golf course more. The revenue from beverage sales plays a huge part in the profit margin of most courses but I sometimes wonder what the trade off is.
Good job my friend.
6/8/12
 
DoubleDingo says:
Fortunately the club I play at has good pace of play, but there a few that can slow it down. The group of 7 playing for money that take forever to read their putts and to play their putts that they inevitably miss. Those groups should be outlawed period! And the others that slow it down are just the all out "tortoise" and think everything is hunky-dory. The guys I typically play golf with all play at the correct pace. As a single or foursome we can play 18 in 3.5 to 4 hours and that is walking. Riding is no different.
6/8/12
 
Scott Shields says:
I've mentioned this before. Money...make it about money. Charge a forseome the cost of the round, plus a deposit. Offer an incentive, say at the end of the round if you come in early, you get your deposit back plus some of your green fee, (say 10%). If you come in late, then that deposit is pro-rated based on some scale.

The way to do this is have the starter 'estimate' and assign a time to your group when he lets you off the first tee, he'll have knowledge of how busy the course is playing that day and how long a round should take. Say he quotes you 4:15 minutes. Well, there you go, come in at 415 you break even. Come in at 4, you get your deposit back and a couple bucks, or money towards another round, come in at 430 or so, then you start losing your deposit.

It would work by either, speeding people up, or weeding out the scrubs that know they're too slow, and wouldn't risk a 10-20 deposit.
6/8/12
 
GBogey says:
A helpful thing I have seen is having 4-5 clocks around the course as time checks. The clocks are set to correspond with your tee time - if you went off at 10 past, the clock should say 10 minutes past if you are right on schedule - helps. Also really believe that courses/ranges should play a stronger role in getting people to the right tee - put suggestions on the scorecard - not that hard! Finally, since many public courses tend to be a little more wide open, the course set-up should prevent balls from running into parallel fairways - big slow downs.
6/8/12
 
Bryan K says:
You know, even when I occasionally challenge myself when I play from the tips on a course that such play is beyond my handicap, and even when I park my cart on the wrong side of the green because I got lost in the woods over there, I still don't hold up play. Slow playing is, in my opinion, a mental condition. Yes, there are a lot of things a course can do to speed up play. But if there is a slow group, they are going to hold others up no matter what you do.
6/8/12
 
gpickin says:
Maybe we should have prettier women in the bar afterwards. It seems all the slow guys are the ones not wanting to go home to their wives, or their home where their wives left them :)
Thats why they chat up the cart girl so much.

I play super early, and we get around a golf done in 2 hours. If not, its because someone got in front of us, somehow. I think I'm going to take a stop watch and clock how many minutes I spent "waiting" on the group in front of us.
Some people are just slow. Multitask people. Think ahead, find your ball, plan your shot, so when its your turn, step up, waggle practice swing and go.
When I walk, lose a few balls, and still get around the course quickly, it shows there are more than a few reasons for slow players.
6/8/12
 
sepfeiff says:
@Scott Shields - that is the best suggestion I have heard in a long time. I would suggest a free sleeve or free drink, whatever it takes instead of taking/holding a deposit though.
6/8/12
 
GreggScott says:
All the suggestions in the world will not help. A group will play slow either from ignorance or stubbornness. If you want to speed them up you have to make them want to play on time. Golfers of all levels want to believe they know how to play. We have to make playing on time a "badge of honor". You may not be able to break 80 but you sure know how to play on time and you are proud of it. If we can't accomplish that the only other thing you have left is enforcement. How about a system where once you are identified as a "slow" player.......you only get tee times after 1 or 2 pm in the afternoon. Then prove to the course management that you have learned how to play on time before you are allowed to tee off in the morning. My $0.02. ?
6/8/12
 
bkuehn1952 says:
@gpickin: good to hear from you again. Don't become a "lost boy"! ;)
6/8/12
 
clevelandstever says:
I said it before and will say it again, golf carts are the biggest reason for slow play. People get tethered to the cart, and instead of splitting up and going to their ball, they both ride together from ball to ball. When you walk, you go direct to your ball. When guys ride, if one hits way right into the woods, and the other goes left into the rough, instead of splitting up, they both drive to the first, hit it, and both drive to the second. It slows play incredibly. Too many courses require you to ride, supposedly to speed up play, but in reality it is just a money grab. Offer a walking fee that is lower than riding. I will take it EVERY time, and play faster as a result. Ready golf guys. Split up, go to your ball and hit. You don't need all four guys connected at the hip the entire round.
6/8/12
 
tcjonny says:
As a recent pro about to enter the PGM program I'll chip in from a management standpoint:
@Joe Jones - Food and beverage sales have a surprisingly low impact on the budget line of any course, in fact , in almost every case, it is a huge loss for the club or course. What plays a major role is customer service. While attractive beverage girls do add a certain element to patrons perception of customer service at the >$50DPR level, you are correct in thinking that ranger management is the biggest issue. I second that wholeheartedly.
@Scott Shields - I see almost NO WAY for any course to charge a deposit. From either a fiscal standpoint or marketing standpoint. The last thing any course needs to do in order to grow the game of golf is increase the cost of play. Offering a dividend or meal in the clubhouse to those who finish fast enough may be a better way logistically to approach that. Innovative thought though for sure!
6/9/12
 
srogers13 says:
Here is my question about the deposit/reward system: You reward groups if they finish in a certain time, but what happens to the groups who play a round in a longer amount of time, but they were having to wait on the slow group in front of them every shot? I.E. they would have probably played the round in the allotted time, but they did not because of slow play in front of them. Does that mean they get punished for someone else's slow play?
6/9/12
 
kennygreen1722 says:
Field Personnel is key: Starters and Rangers. That said I have to criticize players too. There is a real lack of etiquette these days. Entitlement seems to rule and most course managers are intimidated by their patrons. Respect for the game is lost when it comes to respecting the fellow golfing population. Public Green fees are not initiation fees and don't buy the VIP treatment, simply a few hours to tread lightly and respectfully with others who enjoy the game. It seems very few seem to know how to graciously let a faster group play through after holding them back a couple holes. There seems to be a mentality that if tee shots can be hit before the approaching group gets a shoelace on the tee box then position need not be yielded. BTW playing through can be done in the fairway too. Extended clubhouse visits at the turn (don't you dare pass while we pee and try on a new pair of shoes). I believe we have the responsibility to try to make the experience of other golfers as enjoyable as our own.
6/9/12
 
joe jones says:
tcjonny. I lived in a 55+ community where the residents had their own carts and BYOB in coolers was common place. It was in Vegas where our course was very popular with outside play because the rates were low in comparison to the rest of the valley. $5 beers and $8 booze went a long way toward paying the bills for the homeowners association. It was not uncommon to have 2 full shotguns a day on at least one of our courses.Most of the time it felt like half of the field had never seen a golf course before and therefore a very, very strong ranger program was required to keep the course moving. As you enter the management side of golf you will face all of these problems. Good luck in your chosen profession,
6/9/12
 
Werepuppie says:
Is this really that huge of a problem that we are talking about?A round of golf should take 4-5hrs depending on skill level.People payed their money to play the tees they choose.I really think trying to enforce what tees people HAVE to play from will go a long way towards shrinking the number of players.

Has everyone forgotten when they began the game and shot 140? That takes some time.Golf is not a race to finish first.In my experience most groups will let you play thru,but if it is a packed weekend on the course how does that help?

Trying to pair up golfers also can be a big negative for the single player.I usually play alone and on courses where this was done I have waited nearly an hour to start while waiting on a group with a spot open?Why should I wait an hour after I was there first?
6/10/12
 
Werepuppie says:
Try to look at it like this:
When you have cable,you get boring programming.
When you get boring programming,you go play golf.
When you play golf,you get stuck behind a slow fivesome.
When you get stuck behind a fivesome,you get angry.
When you get angry,you hit into their group off the next tee.
When you hit into their group,you end up with a 7iron up the wazoo.
Don't end up with a 7iron up the wazoo.Ditch cable and get direct TV.:)
6/10/12
 
legitimatebeef says:
Brian you put forth some great ideas. However I wonder if all is lost at this point. It seems like golf used to be something of a tradition, where the rules and etiquette were passed on to new players by older experienced players. But now you get a lot of people getting into the game without any kind of proper initiation and hence all the bad golf, inconsiderate behavior and disregard for pace out on the course.
6/10/12
 
legitimatebeef says:
@werepuppie: I laughed.
6/10/12
 
bkuehn1952 says:
Definitely do not want to have a 7 iron up the wazoo! ;)
6/10/12
 
Aborys says:
I think a "morning players card" is in order. You can only book morning tee times if you are certified that you play in 4 hours or less (ok, 4:15). The bozo that gets the 8.00am tee time and takes 5.5 hours to complete the round, backs up the course for the whole day.
6/10/12
 
Werepuppie says:
Perhaps this is a bigger problem than I think it is.I never play mornings,always afternoons because the course is less crowded,it cost less,and the grass is dry.
6/10/12
 
joe jones says:
Werepuppie. Come to Phoenix where the grass is always dry in the afternoon and the courses are usually empty. Like the old saying says. Mad dogs and Englishman go out in the noon day sun.104 by noon everyday.
6/10/12
 
DoubleDingo says:
Yesterday our walking twosome came upon a riding foursome on hole 7. They were just about to walk off the green when I was approaching my ball in the fairway. We hit onto the green, putted out and they hadn't finished teeing off yet on 8. Thought they would let us go through since we were walking towards 8 tee and they just hit. Nope. Each one would hit crappy shots, finally get on the putting surface, read their putts from all angles, stood over the ball forever, miss, do it all over again for each 4 or 5 putt. Saw them in the bar when I was getting some water. One of them walked out to the carts. I asked if they were going to be a while going to 10. He said "yes". I said "Good. We're jumping in front of you. You play way too slow." He said "We play slow"?
6/11/12
 
Kurt the Knife says:
To be a pilot, you must first pass a ground school that teaches the basic rules, regs, expectations and responsibilities n stuff. I would like to see something similar for golf. I'm still finding there are things to do that can smooth pace of play for everyone.
6/11/12
 
stedar says:
The idea of experience passed on and passing ground school that teaches basic rules, are the direction needed. Tee times should be based upon experience gained. Combining colored Tees with Tee times based upon experience (H/cap) would certainly help avoid slow groups in front. To get the early time, you need to put in the hours of practice that go with experience. There is a "just" logic in that thinking.

Can't see it working though, as you would need course management understanding the need for golf (course) etiquette - hehehe
6/12/12
 
Werepuppie says:
Guys,we are going off the deep end here.Ground school has NO relation to golf.Flying an airplane unqualified can result in the death of people.That is why there are strict regulations.
Golf is a LEISURE activity played for FUN.People would leave the game in droves if you told them they could not play the back tees because they sucked.Most people that play golf do not even have a handicap,so how would you enforce it then?

Just enjoy the day out on the course and quit worrying about getting done in less than 3hrs.
6/12/12
 
srogers13 says:
Just like Werepuppie just said, what are you rushing for, to go to work? To go home to do honey-dos?
6/12/12
 
srogers13 says:
By the way, I am a usually a single that usually gets paired up with people from out of town playing my courses. About 60% of the rounds played at my course are from out of towners, and a lot of time, the slow play coming from them is basically lack of knowledge of the courses they are playing (routing, hazards.) Then one of the most annoying things to me is when the rangers try saying something about our time, when there is like a whole hole empty behind us.
6/12/12
 
Bryan K says:
What am I rushing for? To get in another round, of course.
6/12/12
 
DoubleDingo says:
Slow play is exhausting. I would rather run or walk at a good pace between shots than have to wait 5 minutes to hit again. When I play a round that is 3.5 to 4 hours, I feel energetic and ready to do more. When I am forced to play 5 to 6 hours because getting stuck behind slow group(s) my body is exhausted and I am ready for bed immediately after.
6/12/12
 
Bryan K says:
I agree DoubleDingo. If I have to wait 5 minutes in between strokes, I feel like I need to do all of my warmups and stretches again.
6/13/12
 
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