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Opinion & Analysis

The grooming of slow play at the college level

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By Greg Moore

GolfWRX Staff

This week, I spent two days at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, a college tournament in Las Vegas with a field that includes some of the best college teams in the nation. I watched some of the world’s elite amateur players, many of whom will be trying to play golf at the next level, and let me tell you – I am concerned!

It’s not because of their talent, of course, but because the coaches of these players appear to be training them to be slow players. Actually, it’s more than that. It seemed to me that they are copying the style of some of the mindless robots who play at a PGA Tour level of slow play.

There were 15 teams of five players, meaning there were 75 players with in the field, plus a few individuals for a total of about 80. They couldn’t get around a golf course of moderate difficulty in what I feel is an acceptable pace of play. I say moderate difficulty because the course was set up very fairly for the first round.

While the host course, Southern Highlands Golf Club does have some challenging greens, the rough was very fair. The greens, while fast and a bit on the firm side, were not U.S. Open fast and firm. The yardage wasn’t even stretched to the max.

So there was no reason that this round should have taken more than 5.5 hours to complete. Why, you ask, did it? Range finders and coaches (including assistant coaches)!  That’s why.

The coaches seem to consult certain players on just about every shot. Then there was the three-to-four looks with the range finder.  They checked the wind, pulled a club, checked the yardage book, went through their pre-shot routine and stood over the shot for what seemed like forever before actually starting their swing.

There were even a few “Furyk balks,” where a few players looked like they were ready to go, but then backed off and started the whole pre-shot routine over again — with no audible or visual distraction to warrant backing off, I might add. Just the uncertainty that comes with not being 100 percent commited to their golf swing.

This didn’t just happen on par 3s holes, but even basic shots from the middle of the fairway.

Oh my God! Give me a break! Just get up to the ball and hit it within a reasonably acceptable timeframe. I’m not talking about rushing your shot but there’s no need for any more Ben Cranes in training to make their way out on Tour!

Be ready when it’s your turn, with your yardage already figured out.  You’ve played a practice round for God’s sake, so it’s not like you’ve never seen the golf course.

Even if the wind has changed directions, you should have some idea on what club you’re going to hit by the time you get to your ball.  Exact yardage should narrow the choice of club down to two clubs.  Wind direction and lie will help you make the final decision.

Then hit the frickin’ ball.

Click here for more discussion in the “Junior/College Golf Talk” forum.

Greg Moore is the man behind the camera most of the time for GolfWRX, but this week he decided to lend us his talents behind the keyboard. Thanks, Greg!

You can follow Greg Moore on Twitter @gdm43pga for more.

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Greg, a member of the PGA of America for 30 years, travels around the U.S. taking photos for GolfWRX.com on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour, Web.com Tour, LPGA Tour and Symetra Tour. He also covers collegiate and amateur golf, and is a contributing writer for GolfWRX.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. tbomb

    Sep 17, 2012 at 9:43 am

    If you can’t play in an acceptable time frame, then you do not have the mental game to take it to the next level. You want to be 200% commited. Hit the range and know your swing. I forget who was asked, it was a modern day tour player/coach and the topic was Ben Hogan and what made Hogan so good. The answer was “Hogan knew his swing better then anyone else knew their swing”. Know your swing, know your game, pull the trigger and accept the results.

  2. Kevin

    Mar 17, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    College Golfer:

    It appears that the brainwashing of your coaches has taken hold, including College Coach who has already posted here. Generations of amateur and professional golfers before you were able to play under no less pressure at a much faster pace and, I dare say. at a much higher level with inferior equipment. Your response pretty much proves the point – young people these days seem to have an entitlement mentality when it comes to quite a lot of activities. You will take as much time as you think you need, and to heck with the rest of the world.

    College athletics used to teach values such as fair play, hard work and sportsmanship. Now, its “I’ll take as long as I damn well please” because I want to “kill the competition”.

    Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, whose 100th birthdays are celebrated this year, and others like them played golf and worked their tails off just to put food on the table. And miraculously they could do it without endless preshot routines, sports psychologists or drivers the size of a Buick. Get over yourselves.

    Greg has it exactly right. Hit the freakin’ ball.

  3. College Golfer

    Mar 12, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    As a college golfer, I agree with College Coach. Many people have not had the opportunity to play college golf, so do not mistake yourselves into thinking that we are out there goofing off and having a good time. We are there to KILL OUR COMPETITION and to WIN. This means that we have to COMMIT TO EVERY SHOT BY 200% because there is absolutely no room for MISTAKES or ERRORS. There is a lot at stake for us, like a chance to play in the next tournament or, even more important, SCHOLARSHIPS. And, as many of you golfers know, golf is more of a mental sport than anything. So add what is at stake to the pressure put upon us by coaches, parents, and ourselves. Can you imagine how stressed we are during the whole tournament? No, I do not suppose you can imagine that. So please do not be so quick to judge us and cast your stones upon us when you probably have never played in a college golf tournament in your life. And if you still do not agree with me then DO NOT WATCH US PLAY or DO NOT SCHEDULE A TEE TIME WHEN YOU KNOW A COLLEGE TOURNAMENT WILL BE OCCURRING. Yes. It really is that simple.

    • Dan

      Apr 27, 2013 at 8:04 am

      To college golfer,
      I hate to break it to you but college golf and stress shouldn’t be in the same sentence.
      Dan, former college golfer

  4. Marshal

    Mar 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    College Coach, let me just say that when those college kids get out and play on public courses, they will have to speed up their play. As a course marshal, I have to maintain pace of play. If a hole opens up in front of a group, I’ll ask them to pick the pace up. The second time I tell them to pick their ball up and go to the next tee. The third time I kick them off the course! 5-6 hr. rounds costs the courses money in fewer golfers, angry golfers and rounds not enjoyed. It’s simply not fair to the other golfers for people to plumb bob every single putt!! Play ready golf!!!!!!!!!

  5. michael (take your pick)

    Mar 12, 2012 at 1:08 am

    well said! slow golfers are annoying especially when they over do it. not pro yet is the key point here. when you get there then maybe you can act like it, but for most just get your college degree and bounce…

  6. killerbgolfer

    Mar 11, 2012 at 11:43 am

    We can not grow the game with the pace of play the way it is. Most amateurs, especially the young and up and coming, will base what they do off of what they see on tv. Most working people are lucky to play one day per week when they must balance that against all of life’s responsibilities. I am much more likely to enjoy my round if I know I don’t have to write the whole day off because the travel to the course, warm up, playing, and getting home takes 7-8 hours. A 4hr30min round is easy to accomplish if everyone is purposeful in their actions.

  7. GameDayDog

    Mar 10, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    I am not a fan of slow play at my local course, yet I’m not playing under pressure where each stroke can cost me thousands of dollars.

    I don’t think that television is complaining about slow play because it gives them more time to capture advertising dollars.

    Regardless of the level of golf, it would be nice to see people playing ready golf.

    twitter: @GameDayDog

  8. College Coach

    Mar 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Greg,

    Let me first say that I appreciate all of the pictures from the tournaments. You do a great job. In response to your article on the college players and slow play, I had to say this. I am a PGA Professional and College Coach. I am one of the few that doesn’t push that hard against slow play in the competitive amateur/pro game for a few reasons. 1- the game of golf is a slow game, hitting before you are ready goes against what any sports psychologist will tell these players. 2- for the pros, this is their job, it’s not just fun and games for them, it’s their livelihood and their career. Lastly, it’s hard to argue with what the best players in the world do. I understand that 5 hour rounds are not ideal for the local golf course, but I don’t feel like it’s a huge matter that should concern us all that much in the pro game. If they have been that successful playing as they do, why try to speed them up?

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Opinion & Analysis

How Tiger Woods lost the 2009 PGA Championship

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11 years ago, the PGA Championship produced one of the greatest upsets in sporting history.

The all-conquering Tiger Woods arrived at the 2009 PGA Championship as the prohibitive favorite, having won three of his last four events. Woods then backed up that favoritism over the opening two days, picking apart Hazeltine National with extreme precision to build a four-stroke advantage by the halfway point.

It felt like such a formality that here in Ireland, our biggest bookmaker, PaddyPower declared Tiger as the winner and decided to pay out all outright bets on the World Number One after just 36 holes.

It proved to be a big mistake.

Next week will be the 11th anniversary of the monumental upset, and here I’ll take a look at the factors behind Woods’ unthinkable loss that week to Y.E. Yang.

Tiger’s Ultra-Conservative Saturday

On a scoring Saturday, Woods was too content to play it safe. Why not? After all, the ultimate closer had won so many majors by forging a lead, aiming for the middle of the green, two-putting for par and watching his opponents slowly falter one by one.

Only this time was different, and even Tiger with a two-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round as much as admitted he was too conservative during round three, saying after his round:

“They gave us a lot of room on a lot of these pins, six and seven even from the side, so you can be fairly aggressive. I just felt that with my lead, I erred on the side of caution most of the time.

“If I did have a good look at it, a good number at it, I took aim right at it. Otherwise I was just dumping the ball on the green and 2-putting.”

The incessant safety first, lag putting strategy of Saturday even transformed into a tentativeness at the beginning of Sunday’s final round.

On the par-five seventh hole, with Yang in trouble, Woods had 245 yards to the pin for his second with a huge opportunity to make a statement eagle or textbook birdie. He inexplicably layed up, hit a poor wedge and once again lagged for par.

Horrific Sunday Putting

To say Tiger’s trusty Scotty Cameron betrayed him during Sunday’s final round would be underselling it. Putt after putt just refused to drop when he needed it most.

In the end, Woods’ seven-foot birdie effort on the 14th hole is the only putt of any note he managed to make on the day.

Tiger played Sunday’s final round in 75 strokes. Thirty-three of them were putts.

Yang Stood Up To Tiger

Critics of Woods have long claimed that in his prime, Tiger would crowd his opponents as an intimidation tactic, or rush off the green to the next tee leaving his competitors to putt out while the crowd dispersed.

Regardless, nothing was going to faze Yang that Sunday.

In fact, during the early stretch of the final round, Tiger’s indecision and tentativeness led to the pairing being behind the pace of play. It forced on-course officials to remind the two that they needed to speed it up—and of course, they only stressed that Yang needed to do so.

How did the Korean respond? By pointing at Tiger and saying “Not me. Him.”

The Pivotal Two-Shot Swing

Many look back on Yang’s chip-in eagle to take the lead at the 14th hole on Sunday as the significant turning point of the Championship. However, Yang was always likely to make birdie on the short par-four hole, and the previous hole may well have been the tipping point for the upset.

On the par-three 13th hole, Yang found the bunker, while Woods hit a beauty to eight feet. The two-shot swing in Tiger’s favor looked even more likely when Yang failed to get his bunker shot inside Woods’ ball.

But when Yang buried his par effort, and Woods let yet another putt slip by, the two remained all square.

Woods’ reaction following his putt was telling; his frustration poured out despite him still being in a share of the lead. It was a show of exasperation that may have given the Korean all the encouragement he needed to turn Tiger’s 54 hole major lead record of 14-0 into 14-1.

Asked following his round when he felt his control on the tournament beginning to loosen, Woods said:

“But as far as the tournament switching, 13, I stuffed it in there. He made a mistake, hit it in the left bunker. He blasted out. I missed my putt. He made his. And then he chipped in on the next hole.

“So that two-hole stretch turned — if I make my putt, he doesn’t chip in, you know, he doesn’t make his putt on 13.”

The 2009 PGA Championship preceded a ten-year barren spell for Tiger at the majors before he claimed his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters. He is still yet to appear in the final twosome on a Sunday at a major since the 2009 PGA.

As for Y.E Yang, the 48-year-old now spends most of his time competing in Japan and his native Korea. He has played in all 10 PGA Championships since his remarkable victory. He has missed the cut seven times.

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The Gear Dive

The Gear Dive: Brandel Chamblee is back!

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In this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny goes in on the distance debate with a friend of the podcast, Brandel Chamblee. Also picks for the WGC, filling a hole in the bag and why the LPGA is the best place to learn how to play.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

How to warm up like a PGA Tour pro

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@skysportsgolf

One of the keys to playing a great round of golf stems from how you prepare for your round. When you go to the range, you’ll often see amateur golfers hitting shots quickly and sporadically without much rhyme or reason. On the other hand, when you take a look at players on the PGA Tour, each of them has a well structured and methodical approach to how they warm-up.

From watching the pros, there are a few key takeaways that you can implement in your game to improve the quality of your warm-ups.

Arrive Early

Give yourself enough time to warm up before your round. Showing up 10 minutes before you’re due to tee off is a recipe for disaster and a double bogey waiting to happen on the first hole. Allowing yourself 30 minutes to an hour should be plenty of time to get through an awesome warm-up, leaving you confident when you step onto the first tee box.

Spend More Time Putting

Whether you watch Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas or any other pro, one thing is consistent: they all spend a lot of their warm-up practicing putting, accounting for well over half their practice strokes. And why wouldn’t they? If you 2 putt every hole, you’ll be hitting 36 shots, literally half of all your strokes during the course of your round.

Practicing both long and short putts will give you more confidence standing over your first birdie putt of the day.

Loosen Up

A little bit of stretching before you start hitting shots on the range can go a long way. Stretching before you start will activate your muscles for the day ahead. Spend some time doing bending toe touches, shoulder stretches, lateral twists, and a standing forward bend stretch to maximize your range session.

Work Your Way Up The Bag

When you watch a pro like Jason Day warm-up, you’ll notice when he gets to the range that he’ll start out by hitting shots with a wedge, working up the bag. This is how most pros structure their warm-up for the most part, and they do so to establish rhythm and tempo as they move into their longer irons and woods.

Try this out yourself by hitting some wedges, and then move up your bag using all even or all odd irons. Place emphasis on your short game as you move through your bag; the shots you hit inside 100 yards will lead you to the most scoring opportunities.

Hit Fewer Drives on the Range

It’s fun to hit the driver, but it’s one of the most taxing swings you can make. Plenty of amateur golfers spend way too much time hitting their driver on the range, and wearing themselves out before they get to the first tee. By doing so, not only do you tire yourself out, but you risk throwing off the swing tempo that you’ve worked so hard on during your warm-up.

Definitely still practice hitting drives, but make them count. Try only hitting 5-10 drives, but treating them as if they were on the course.

Hit Practice Shots With Purpose

It’s really easy to get onto the range and start hitting shot after shot in quick succession, trying to get the right swing out as quickly as possible. Not only does this use up a lot of your energy, but it’s not too realistic compared to how you’ll approach your shots on the course.

Instead, take the methodical approach and try to make each shot count. Take the time to set up correctly, paying attention to alignment and ball positioning. Hitting more shots with real intention on the range sets you up for success when you hit the course.

Wrap Up

Implementing some of this structure into your pre-round routine will put you into a position to score. Practicing more putts and placing emphasis on your short game will help you save strokes where they count. These tips will help you take a better approach to golf.

 

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