I recently attended the USGA Pace and Innovation Symposium - the annual conference where golf industry leaders discuss new and innovative ways to help address Pace of Play issues. We have all heard the proper place to be on the golf course is directly behind the group in front of you and not to worry about the group behind you. There are some things we as golfers can control to help with pace of play and some things that are out of our control.
The things on the golf course that affect Pace of Play that we can't control include course design, course set-up, maintenance practices and tee time intervals. If a course has a par 3 hole early in the round, this is where bottlenecks and slow play tend to occur. Add in a few hazards - water or bunkers - and this leads to extra shots on the hole and more time. It would be great for the course set-up to include forward tees and hole locations in the center of flat greens - but we all know this is more of a dream than reality. Many courses also have small landing areas in fairways for tee shots and longer grass in the rough, which makes looking for golf balls a bit harder. Maintenance practices such as mowing the rough three times a week lead to longer roughs. Also hard and fast greens add more approach shots and more putts to a round and therefore also add time to a round for the average golfer.
With golf courses wanting as much revenue as possible, they have reduced their tee time intervals to six or seven minutes. Think of a funnel with water - if you pour too much water in at one time, the water backs-up and doesn't flow out the bottom of the funnel properly. This is a prime example of tee time intervals that are too close. Many courses have gone to nine, ten or 11-minute intervals to better control the flow of golfers on the course. When you do incur a backup on the course, golfers many times blame it on what they see - the group directly in front of them - when it can actually be a number of outside factors we can't control.
Here are some things you can control...your group pace, being ready to hit when it's your turn, by having your glove on (if you wear one), taking one practice swing then hitting your shot. If you are walking and it is safe, walk directly to your ball. If you are riding, walk to your ball rather than riding to your cart-mates ball, then waiting for a ride to your golf ball.
You can also keep the head cover off your driver or 3-wood until the last hole. It helps save 15-20 seconds per person per hole, which ends up saving a minute per hole or 15 to 20 minutes per round.
On the putting green, be ready when it’s your turn by lining up your putt when others are putting. Also putt-out whenever possible to avoid having to mark and re-position your golf ball.
Try the "one in - one out" idea suggested by PGA Professional and host of Golf Channel "Golf Fix" Michael Breed. When riding, every time you put a club in your golf bag, take out the club you plan to use for your next shot. This saves time as you aren't going to your bag for every shot.
Next week we’ll explore additional ways to help with Pace of Play, including the new flag stick technology being introduced by the USGA.