By George Moore
SafeTees Pouch, Inc.
Slow play has been getting a lot of attention lately, and it deserves a lot more. And maybe, just maybe, the attention will lead to changes that speed up the game and make it more inviting to young new players.
First a disclaimer.
I’m a fast player, faster than most, which is one reason I prefer playing alone. No offense to fellow golfers intended.
When driving the cart, the accelerator is usually floored. When I bag a club, I’m pulling the next club with the other hand. My walk to and from the ball? Brisk.
When I address the ball, there’s one waggle, maybe, but none of this “Hello, Ball. How are you today?” nonsense. My one thought: “Hit the damned ball.”
At the green, I look over the terrain while removing my glove and approaching the ball. No plumb bobbing (a “dark art,” I think), no surveying the lie from 10 angles. About the only thing that gives me pause on the green is a tree limb on my line.
The flagstick stays in, and again, it’s “Hit the damned ball.” If the ball drops, fine. If it comes to rest in the leather, I pick up and move on. Briskly.
The rhythm is set by the end of the second hole … and that’s usually when the trouble starts. I’ve caught up to slowpokes, and it’s no laughing matter.
Just ask Brooks Koepka.
Even Pros Go Slow
At last month’s 148th Open Championship, Koepka, one of the fastest players on tour, was paired with J.B. Holmes, one of the slowest players, and naturally, the issue of slow play bubbled to the surface.
After Sunday’s round, Koepka complained that Holmes didn’t start preparing for his next shot until it was his turn. “That’s what I don’t understand, when it’s your turn to hit, your glove is not on, then you start thinking about it, that’s where the problem lies.”
Referring to Holmes, he added, “It’s not that he takes that long. He doesn’t do anything until his turn. That’s the frustrating part. But he’s not the only one that does it out there.”
On that particular day, Holmes started in third place, shot a 16-over par, and ended tied for 67th. Slow play was not kind to him. Koepka started tied for 4th, shot a 3-over par and ended tied for 4th. Koepka handled frustration well.
The ‘Sins’ of Slow Play
A few days later, Sam Weinman, digital editor at Golf Digest, identified “THE SEVEN SINS OF SLOW PLAY.” Here they are, with suggested solutions:
Sin 1: Idle waiting, or just hanging out waiting for your turn to hit the ball. Solution: Thou shalt play ready golf. When you’re ready to hit, go, even if it’s not your turn.
Sin 2: Bag mismanagement (walking). Basically, this is the sin of putting down your bag in the wrong spot and having to do a lot of extra walking to and from the bag. Solution: Thou shalt use the sense God gave you.
Sin 3: Cart mismanagement (riding). Weinman says this is parking the cart, grabbing the wrong club, walking to the ball, then having to return to the cart for the correct club. Solution: Thou shalt pull several clubs to ensure you have the right one when you reach the ball.
Sin 4: “Did I ever tell you about the time . . .” This is basically the sin of too much socializing, and it’s especially common in golf course women’s leagues. Solution: Thou shalt save the story-telling and gossip for later.
Sin 5: Game delusion: It’s when you think you’re better than you are, so you play from the championship tees instead of, say, the senior tees. Or you try impossible shots that wind up wasting time for you and other players. Solution: Thou shalt be realistic about your skill level.
Sin 6: Cellphone abuse. Self-explanatory. Solution: Thou shalt leave the cellphone in the car.
Sin 7: Not . . . hitting . . . the . . . ball: This is the sin of spending too much time over the ball with practice swings, waggling or just thinking. Somebody studied this and found that the average amateur wastes 12 minutes per round over the ball. For a foursome, that’s 48 wasted minutes. Solution: Thou shalt hit the damned ball. Now!
More ‘Sins’ of Slow Play
Weinman’s list is pretty good, but he overlooked two of the biggest sins: Ball mismanagement and people mismanagement.
A couple of ball mismanagement examples come to mind.
One is carrying only one ball in your pocket and having to return to your cart for a second ball when you declare a mulligan or when you need to hit a provisional ball. Solution: Thou shalt carry at least two balls at all times.
(A corollary: Thou shalt carry extra tees, preferably in a SafeTees Pocket Tee Pouch, at all times.)
A second example of ball mismanagement is losing a ball and spending an hour looking for it. Solution: Thou shalt spend no more than three minutes searching for your ball.
(It should be noted that the USGA tightened the search time this year to three minutes from five. Good. But then the USGA said that if a ball is declared lost, the golfer must return to where they hit the prior shot, take a penalty stroke and then hit again from that spot. Talk about a waste of time! A better rule would have been: Drop in the vicinity of where the ball was last seen, take a two-shot penalty, and continue playing.)
That brings us to people mismanagement.
This typically occurs when fast players come up behind four slowpokes. The four should allow the faster golfers to play through, of course, but that often doesn’t happen, either because the slowpokes haven’t been properly schooled on golf etiquette or because they just don’t care. Solution: Golf courses shall encourage “playing through.”
But It’s Not a Perfect World
All that said, if we lived in a perfect world, all golfers would go forth and sin no more. But that’s not likely, so how do we speed up the game?
One way is to do a better job of policing with marshals and GPS cart tracking. There are a couple of downsides to that approach, however. One is cost to the course, and a second is that it has a “Big Brother” feel to it, which may be off-putting to some golfers, me included.
So a better approach, maybe, is to begin by tinkering with the game’s rules on order of play and make “ready golf” mandatory. The USGA now allows and encourages it, but the rule-making body should go a step further and make “ready golf” the law of the land. There’s no reason not to.
And, finally, the game can be speeded up by appealing to golfers’ better angels, reminding them to use common sense and asking them to be respectful of other players. Include “The Golden Rules of Golf” on scorecards and post them on carts.
Golf doesn’t have to be an old man’s slow game. and it shouldn’t be if we hope to attract younger players. We just have to make a few adjustments and then play by the “Golden Rules.”
Taking some of the pain out of the game: If you carry your tees loose in your pocket while playing, you’ve probably stabbed yourself a time or two when reaching into your pocket. And maybe you have tee holes in your golf pants or shorts. If so, try using a SafeTees pocket tee pouch. It holds five tees of various lengths and styles, making tee selection a snap. Simply pull the pouch out of your pocket, pick the correct tee and swing away. No danger of poking yourself with the sharp point of a tee, and best of all, no more annoying trips back to your cart for the “right” tee. You can purchase a pouch by clicking on the “Buy Now” button at safeteespouch.com.
LET US HEAR FROM YOU: Nobody has all the answers. If you have a question or comment regarding anything golf-related, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line “Comment.” Our goal is to encourage a conversation about the world’s greatest game.