How to combat slow play on the golf course

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu August 25, 2018 11:26 Updated

A number of golf clubs have brought in measures to speed up the pace of play on the golf course. The Golf Business explores how they work.

The issue of golfers causing problems by playing too slowly has impacted every area of the game’s administration in recent years.

This year for instance, Stephen Gallacher, commenting after the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, said he was unhappy about having to wait before every shot he took.

“It took ages – four hours and 10 minutes for a two-ball is not good,” he said. “We waited on every shot and the guys in front were on the clock the whole time. Officials need to introduce penalty shots.”

The issue is equally controversial at the amateur level where clubs have brought in a raft of measures to speed up the pace of play.

Westerwood Hotel & Golf Resort, near Glasgow, for example, reintroduced its ‘Evening Eights’ competition this summer. It is an eight-hole Stableford competition in which anybody who completes their round in under an hour-and-a-half is rewarded with a bonus Stableford point. Members can play this for £6 at any time (visitors for £10 in the early evening) and it comes with a free post-round beer or soft drink, plus weekly prizes.

Daryn Cochrane, golf operations manager, explained: “Last year we introduced the ‘Evening Eights’ because of the prevalence of time pressure on golfers – and it proved popular beyond our expectations.”

Another initiative facilities such as Sonning Golf Club in Berkshire and King James VI Golf Club in Scotland have introduced, is ‘Ready Golf’, a set of guidelines in which golfers are notified about what measures they should follow on the course – essentially play when you’re ready, rather than when the rules decree. They include:

  • Hit a shot when safe to do so if a player farther away faces a challenging shot and is taking time to assess their options.
  • Shorter hitters play first from the tee or fairway if longer hitters have to wait.
  • Hit a tee shot if the person with the honour is delayed in being ready to play.
  • Hit a shot before helping someone to look for a lost ball.
  • Putt out even if it means standing close to someone else’s line.
  • Hit a shot if a person who has just played from a greenside bunker is still farthest from the hole but is delayed due to raking the bunker.
  • When a player’s ball has gone over the back of a green, any player closer to the hole but chipping from the front of the green should play while the other player walks to their ball and assesses their shot.
  • Mark scores upon immediate arrival at the next tee, except that the first player to tee off marks their card immediately after teeing off.

The LET Access Series has also this year introduced the initiative to speed up play and ran the concept at the Terre Blanche Ladies Open.

“A round of golf can take over five hours, which is a long time to be out on the golf course. If ‘Ready Golf’ improves the pace of play by just a few minutes a round, it’s a step in the right direction,” explained LETAS director Di Barnard.

The R&A’s David Rickman commented: “Since we started to promote ‘Ready Golf” at the time of the release of our ‘Pace of Play Manual’, it has proved to be the most effective way to cut rounds’ times at all levels of the game.”

“We’ve found it’s most useful. It’s astonishing how quickly a group can get back into position when they adopt ‘Ready Golf’,” added James Crampton, championship director, England Golf.

And the 2017 LET Access Series Order of Merit winner, Meghan MacLaren, commented: “We played ‘Ready Golf’ most of the time in college and it was of definite benefit to us. There’s no need, if people are ready, for them to wait if they don’t need to, so I think it will definitely help to progress things along.”

Another option is what Wychwood Park Hotel and Golf Club introduced this year: The Golf Express Open – a nine-hole competition.

A spokesman said: “This combats the pervading perception of golf being an all-day commitment. We’re making the sport more accessible with a competition which sees a faster pace of play, giving more time for relaxation – and celebration in the clubhouse.”

 

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu August 25, 2018 11:26 Updated
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