Timpson CEO offers free book to clubs to end slow play

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 27, 2015 10:35

The chief executive of retailer Timpson has said he will supply a book he has written on how golf clubs can reduce slow play free of charge to any golf club manager who requests it, while stocks last.

John Timpson, the former captain of Delamere Forest Golf Club in Cheshire, said that golf, especially corporate events, “takes up too much time” and blames this on why participation in the game and memberships at clubs have dropped in the UK for more than a decade.


image by wwphotos

His comments come as leading golf journalist Ewen Murray has said there should be more punishment for professional golfers who play the game too slowly.

“Today a corporate golf invitation may be less welcome than you hope,” said Timpson.

“Many people now feel golf takes up too much time and find a corporate day particularly tedious. Once you’ve driven from the first tee you are committed to spending the next five hours, perhaps in driving rain, with three people you may not have met before. After taking two and a half hours to play eight holes you will be praying for a big bird to swoop down onto the fairway, pick you up, and fly you away from your misery.

“But there is no escape – back in the clubhouse you may wait two hours before the last four finish and dinner can commence, and another two hours before speeches and prize-giving. Only then are you free to go, arriving home 12 hours after you left, with your husband or wife wondering how you can play golf in the dark.”

Timpson said that this scenario is financially damaging golf clubs.

“Fewer people now play the game, membership is down by more than 20 percent since 2004 and lots of clubs are desperately trying to recruit new members,” he said.

“I’ve no doubt a big factor is slow play. Golf, in my view, should take up a morning or an afternoon, but, at clubs where a four-and-a-half hour round is par, golf blocks out a whole day.

“I tried to help when I was captain at Delamere Forest by writing a book How to Play Golf Quickly. It worked, I offered a Timpson trophy to anyone who completed a competition round in less than three hours during the month of May and handed a cup to 54 different members.

“I printed sufficient books to make them available to a generation of junior golfers but my plan was thwarted by officialdom. One of the quick techniques I quote is to carry your bag – but custodians of the junior game said that bag-carrying can cause mild back problems and banned my book on health and safety grounds.

“As a result I still hold a substantial stock which, while stocks last, I now offer free to golf club secretaries or professionals and anyone with a golfing friend who needs speeding up. To order a free book just send an email to askjohn@telegraph.co.uk with your mailing address.”

Meanwhile, Ewen Murray has said that slow play by professional golfers is having a knock-on effect on participation.

“Why there are not more severe penalties for slow play, I don’t know,” he said.

“At a time when the number of golfers are dwindling, it’s high time to enforce stronger penalties on those who quite simply take too long. Some caddies have a ‘board meeting’ with their bosses before a decision is made. It’s not the caddies’ fault, it’s what the player wants, but my opinion is that this is not the way forward and the powers that be need to address this problem sooner rather than later.

“The game has to become more attractive and the speeding up of play I’m sure would help.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 27, 2015 10:35
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  1. Richard August 27, 15:17

    The time taken to walk 18 holes at a golf course at good pace of 3mph, including allowances for detours and green to tee walking, is of the order of 90 minutes.
    If an acceptable time for a group of three golfers with an average handicap of 7 to complete a medal round is, say, 3 hours 30 minutes this means that 2 hours are spent playing shots, raking bunkers looking for balls etc. If the group comprises a 6 a
    7 and 8 handicapper each playing to his buffer zone limit they will play 78, 79 and 80 strokes respectively ie a total of 237 strokes. This averages at 30.4 seconds per stroke.
    A group with an average handicap of 21 (18, 21 and 24) playing to their respective buffer zone limits would take 288 strokes and require at least 2 hours 25 minutes in addition to the walking time of 90 minutes. This group, despite playing at the same rate as the former group, will require an additional 25 minutes to complete their round.
    It is inevitable that the latter group will hold up the former group.

    CONGU policies which encourage higher handicaps are not helpful in this respect.

    The R & A has been banging on about slow play for years. It has even introduced rules/guidance (Provisional Ball Rule and the requirement to call faster groups through) and produced a video featuring Padraig Harrington on the avoidance of slow play all to little if any avail.

    In nearly 50 years of playing the game I have yet to see a serious official survey aimed at establishing the average golfer’s expectation of how long a round should take. So there is no objective, authoritative basis for determining what the norm should be or how it should be calculated for particular courses.

    Committees could do more to make play quicker and easier.

    For example they could control the height of the rough especially in those places where it is out of sight from the tee.
    They could make greater use of the “call forward” system on par threes.
    They could mark out trolley parking areas to encourage players to leave their trolleys in sensible places..
    They could establish target times for each group of six holes.
    They could adopt faster forms of 4 man team competitions.
    They could make the requirement to call a following group through optional. Invariably calling the following group through is counter-productive because the group which is called through may derive some benefit but the groups behind them will almost certainly suffer added delay.

    Personally, I feel that it is not the overall time a round takes that frustrates but rather the slowness of players who waste time by not being ready to play when they should and changing their minds about the club to use which they should have done whilst others are playing.

    Reply to this comment
    • Adrian Stiff August 27, 16:08

      You make some good points Richard. I too have been playing the game a long time it used to be an hour quicker. The walking time for 18 holes is nearer to 60 minutes, it works out about 1 minute per 100 yards of course length. The time taken actually on the greens can be in excess of 90 minutes and this is the area that could be speeded up with one quick rule change. The ball may be marked only once on the putting green. 30 minutes can be saved by people faffing around marking, remarking waiting over twelve inch putts. Remove the penalty for hitting an opponents ball if its on your line ask him to putt out. I also think the rule about lost balls could be changed so everything is played as a lateral water hazard, they play this a lot on the Old course to keep play moving. Time is our biggest enemy.

      Reply to this comment
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