I’m saddened to report that Golf Czar has relinquished his title. It seems that when reading the fine print I didn’t understand that wearing the uniform was mandatory at all golf functions, including playing! Let me tell you, in the Texas summer heat it was just no fun. Fortunately, I was able to negotiate a 27-year severance with benefits!
Future columns will relate to posted comments and yes I have read all of them. The two main issues are pace of play and cost. This installment will cover pace of play.
I see no value in discussing pace of play at a private club. Before anyone joins there should be a question of what’s expected and how is it managed. If you are told “It’s the Pro’s job,” I suggest you make haste slowly. The golf professional cannot regulate folks who essentially pay his salary. It’s a club function and they should have a system in place.
Since 90 percent of all golf is played on public courses, and there are several variations from local municipal to deluxe resorts, how can we come up with one standard that fits all of them? I made many calls to public courses and asked what their policy was on pace of play. Basically, they told me they “encouraged ” moving along and employed rangers to monitor. I say that is inadequate.
Think of it this way; playing any public course is a contract. You give them money for access, and in return you agree to play by their clearly expressed rules. Featured in those rules is speed of play, defined as the total time for a round monitored by intervals.
Say you are allotted 1 hour and 20 minutes for the first six holes and you are on a 1-hour and 40-minute pace. You will be given a chance to speed up or be escorted from the course. I can already hear the comments, “That will never work where I play.” Yes, I know some rangers are ineffective, as are some pro shop employees. We can all point to operations that aren’t well run, but this proposal is conceptual. If golfers respond positively, it will get refined and go a long way to solving the pace of play issue. It works for resorts; it works everywhere.
Let’s say the 6-hole time is 1:20 and your group is playing at a 1:10 pace and waiting. Slow down! The groups in front of you are living up to the contract and you cannot play through everyone.
One of my contacts for this article called this a phone app in the making. It may be inevitable, but I somewhat naively like to think of a round of golf time away from phones. Playing the game requires concentration and the 4 or so hours away from everything else is usually a good thing.
Let me give you an example of this concept working. In La Quinta, Calif., is a course called The Palms. It’s private, but very reasonable as private courses go (no social events, it’s a place to play golf). When you join you are informed that it’s a 3:45 course (and it’s no pushover). They are very strict about 3:45. You get monitored and failure to adhere is a warning with more penalties for repeat offenders. This applies to walkers and riders, all ages, genders and it makes a point. Much has been written about how to speed up play, and while some comments have merit, it’s the cart before the horse. Pace of play is a culture; establish the ground rules and golfers will adjust.
Imagine a future conversation along these lines.
“Let’s play Goat Hills,” Golfer 1 says.
“Remember we were there and it’s a 4:20 with all those forced carries and deep bunkers?” Golfer 2 says.
“How about that one course … Sloping Fairways? It’s a 3:50 and a lot more fun,” Golfer 1 says.
Guess who gets the business? Some readers live in densely populated areas that don’t have a “Sloping Fairways.” I understand, it will never be an equal playing field, but if we spotlight the pace issue and courses are identified as 3:40, 3:50, 4:00 or 5:00 courses, then the marketplace will dictate.
I know some of you will say cost is a relative factor and that analysis is coming; one issue at a time!
The 19th Hole Episode 170: Grassroots golf and Darius Rucker
Host Michael Williams talks about the benefits of grassroots golf programs in growing the game. Also features a reboot of his exclusive interview with Hootie and the Blowfish.
The Wedge Guy: Have a ‘Plan B’
One of the things that I think is very interesting and fun about this game is that there are a number of ways to play every hole you encounter. And sometimes a hole offers “better” ways to play it than you might think. Let me explain with a couple of experiences from my own golf life.
ONE. In my thirties and forties, I played at a club outside of San Antonio – Fair Oaks Ranch. The 18th hole was a tough par 4 with a very small landing area and a gaping bunker at about 175 out. The skinny fairway left of that bunker wasn’t more than 15 yards wide, and there was a little mott of trees on the green side of the bunker that you would have to carry with your mid-iron bunker approach. Tough, to say the least.
That hole drove most of us nuts, and double bogeys were more common than birdies, for sure. Par was always a great score and bogey wasn’t “bad” at all.
So, one day it hit me that if I hit 4-wood off the tee, I would have an elevated fairway look at the green from about 200-210, giving me another soft 4-wood or 3-iron to the green, and the fairway was about 40 yards wide back there. Being a good long club player, I began to play the hole that way. Doubles disappeared entirely, pars became the norm and I even made the occasional birdie. Hmm.
TWO. At my recent club, the ninth hole just didn’t fit my eye or my game. I play a fade off the tee most of the time and turning over a draw was just not reliable for me at the time. That ninth is a dogleg left, with a bunker on the right side of the fairway that runs from about 160-125 from the green, right where the prime driving area is. What makes this hole so tough for me is that the prevailing wind is left to right, and trees just 60-100 yards off the tee keep me from starting the ball out left and letting it ride the breeze. This is another one where birdies are rare for me there, and bogies and doubles way too frequent. So, it dawned on me one day, finally, that I could hit 4-wood right at that bunker and not get to it, leaving me a 5- or 6-iron into the green, rather than the short iron the rare proper drive would leave me. So, that became my new strategy on that hole. I’m a good mid-iron player, so I’m fine with that, and that damn fairway bunker never caught me again.
THREE. My new club puts a premium on accurate wedge play. Most of the shorter holes have the smallest greens I’ve ever seen, so distance control with your wedge approaches is critical. And I find that reasonably full-swing wedges are easier to control distance than those awkward 60- to 80-yard partial swings. So, I’ve learned to put a premium on club selection off the tee on those holes to leave my approach shots in the 85-115 range, so that I can “dial in” my approach shotmaking.
My point in all this is that sometimes a hole gets under your skin or just doesn’t set up well for your game. When that happens, design yourself a Plan ‘B,’ and change the way you play it, at least for a while. Quite often you will find a solution to a problem and your scores and attitude will improve.
Club Junkie: Mizuno T-22 wedge and Cuater Moneymaker shoes review!
Mizuno’s new T-22 wedges are forged from the same 1025 carbon steel with boron as the irons, giving them an extremely soft feel. Very versatile, the sole grinds allow for hitting any shot your heart desires.
The Cuater Moneymaker shoes might be some of the most comfortable I have worn in years. Tons of cushioning, exceptional traction all over the course, and they are even waterproof!
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WITB Time Machine: Justin Thomas’ winning WITB 2017 CJ Cup
Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana BF 60TX (tipped 1.5 inches) 3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (15 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK...
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