Questionable Play is GolfWRX’s version of a mailbag from the perspective of a millennial who also happens to be a purist, which is to say, I’m a twenty-something who often practices with a persimmon driver and walks most of the time. For the first edition, we will pull a question from the forum that seems to spark serious debate, and I’m going to riff for a few paragraphs.
As with any other piece on this site, we highly encourage comments, but would also like you to email us with questions and comments about this feature at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s do this!
Today’s Question: Is the pace of play argument hurting our sport?
We’ve heard the debate on the pace of play for what seems like ages now. It’s been around since the game was invented. In the early days, courses were designed as 12 holes, or at least that’s what they played in the first iterations of the Open Championship. The argument has always gone toward the side of speeding up the game. People shout, “There’s no reason a round of golf should take more than four hours! The snail’s pace of the game is driving people away!”
I want to share a quick story with you.
A GolfWRXer from the forum (we’ll call him, Tim) described a situation with him and a buddy (whom we’ll call, Bob). Bob had never played golf before and wanted to try it out. So Tim took Bob to the range and Bob really enjoyed the challenge of making that little white ball go where he wanted it to go. So Bob went out and bought a set of clubs and continued to go to the range. After a few times, Tim took Bob out on the course.
Bob and Tim teed off as a twosome behind a threesome and in front of another group. For the first nine holes or so, Bob was really enjoying his time, but somewhere on the early part of the back nine things started to slow down. Bob and Tim had to wait a couple holes on the group in front and it was starting to get backed up. When they came to a par-3, the group in front was still on the green. By the time Bob and Tim were able to tee off on the par-3, the group behind them was driving up. Bob (who’d never played before) hit a poor tee shot and lost his ball. So he hit another. When Bob and Tim were walking off the green of the par-3, they could hear grumblings from the group behind them as they got in the cart. Bob immediately felt demoralized and embarrassed. Tim, as any good friend would, tried to let Bob know that it wasn’t his fault and that they had to wait on the group in front of them.
On the next hole, the grumbling continued. The group was visibly frustrated and it made Bob feel like he was unwelcome. Tim described Bob’s change of mood as going from a 10 to a one. It’s been several weeks since they went out, and Tim says that Bob has no interest in playing the game.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the fact that one group being rude on a golf course shouldn’t deter the entire argument about the pace of play. It should make you think a little bit about how we go about enforcing it, however, and the truth is that it’s really hard to do. I think a lot of it burden should be on golf coursea and how they schedule tee times. Eight minutes between tee times probably isn’t enough for your typical muni. I understand why they do it (they’re trying to get more play throughout the day), but it hurts the experience when groups get bunched up, especially for beginning golfers.
It’s sort of a paradox. We want people to play the game, but many won’t because it’s so slow. But many times beginners are slow because (NEWSFLASH!) golf is hard. So we try and pick up the pace, but then ridicule people who are slow (who are often beginners) and then they don’t want to play again.
There are many proposed solutions. “Tee it Forward” was a huge campaign a few years ago, and many clubs play the “double par pick-up” as a rule. I think the solution is much simpler; don’t be a jerk.
Golf is a leisure sport. Yes, we could all probably pick up the pace a bit, but this ain’t racing, and if you’re playing on a Saturday morning then the people in front of you probably worked all week and don’t need you complaining behind them. It’s just rude.