The secret secretary: How we dealt with a slow golfer

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 3, 2019 19:43

Every golf club has at least one regular golfer who will not address the fact that their slow play causes distress for others. Here, an anonymous proprietor of a UK golf club details what he did when he decided he had to take action – after this had been going on for 20 years.

At our club we pride ourselves on being a speedy course – three hours and 20 minutes is the norm but many are upset if their round takes longer than three hours. Our course is 5,500 yards in length and the green to tee walks are very short. We have 10-minute start times and only one start point to avoid hold ups.

If anyone is held up and cannot get through they phone the clubhouse and someone drives out to enforce a play-through and apologises to those held up. This makes us a happy, speedy golf course. It works.

We have had one member – a distinguished politician – who plays every Saturday and Sunday morning and is always slow – unless he has forceful playing partners he refuses to call through. This has gone on for 20 years and I, alone, have wasted days of my life sorting out this slow play and the aggravation this causes to our busiest times.

But one recent Saturday was the last straw.

Tempers frayed and three county matches were held up. Green fee payers walked off the course and I drove past four empty holes to reach the culprit who was in blissful denial about the problems he was causing, as he always is. After requesting his four to call through they still didn’t comply and action had to be taken.

I engaged in dialogue. As usual I was met with total denial from him and a supportive partner. They said those behind them never asked to go through and that they never had the opportunity to call them through. The other two members of their fourball were too in awe of the politician to say anything.

He also denied that this had been an ongoing situation ever since he joined and feigned astonishment that everyone, when asked, said he was a slow player and they avoided him if they wanted to play a quick round.

This is in spite of the fact that I, and my staff, have had this conversation with him many times in the past.

I played with him last autumn and, at my insistence, we called five games through and we took four hours to complete the round. I discussed this with him afterwards and he thanked me for pointing out how he could speed up.

I suggested heavily that, unless he changed, his membership would not be renewed. He countered by sending a block email asking for support from all those who had played with him over the years.

‘The manager says I’m slow. I’d be grateful if you could give me your opinion of my pace of play,’ it stated.

I think that gives an impression of the sort of member pretty much every club encounters and struggles to manage gently.

I warned him that we could no longer continue his membership unless he noticeably speeds up or moves his start time to a quieter slot in the afternoon, for example. I also spoke to two vice presidents and they were delighted to ‘take him under our wings’. Both had been affected by his slow play in the past.

The vice presidents had no trouble making him an offer he couldn’t refuse. “You’ve been warned many times: move to the afternoon or your renewal won’t be accepted,” they said.

Although he hasn’t officially replied, we have reallocated all his early morning start times (he had, of course, booked several weeks ahead) and I wrote him a congratulatory letter saying: ‘Well done at moving your tee times. I’m sure you will have a far more enjoyable round at that time.’

Since then, many staff and members have come to me with horror stories of the times they have had to deal with him, but now feel they can speak out. The staff also now have the lever to discuss with two other slow, but less cantankerous golfers, who have been moved to quieter start times.

Everyone has breathed a sigh of relief.

I’m sure many private members’ clubs will say: ‘It’s all right for you as a proprietor, you can do that sort of thing.’ I would remind those feeling thus restricted that with all likelihood your club holds an alcohol license and one of the duties of the licensee is to refuse access to anyone whose behaviour, in their opinion, is likely to cause a disturbance to the smooth running of the establishment.

Nothing upsets the calm of a golf course more than slow play.

Several weeks on and he now plays regularly at his new, less busy, time and we have not had one report of hold-ups. Usually in that time we would have had several.

The opinions expressed on this page are those of the authors, not The Golf Business. The authors change from article to article, but so far have only been golf club managers or golf club owners.

If you’re interested in contributing a ‘secret secretary’ article for The Golf Business, email


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 3, 2019 19:43
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  1. djm September 5, 20:07

    A “distinguished politician” ?

    In the Uk ??

    Complete B/S

    Any club worth it’s salt would first tar & feather the culprit, before sticking his head on a pike as a warning to others … (not to aggravate others)

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jim September 3, 10:46

    If your rushing to get past then there should be a way of understanding that you can ask to move in front without offending. Let people play at the speed they want. It’s a game of what is meant to be to relax and cut loose from a hard week.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Paul August 30, 11:10

    I agree that a player who is constantly causing a problem with the pace of the course is annoying, but on the other side of the coin what about players obsessed with getting round in as short a time as possible, ask them how did you do today and answer 2 hours 25 minutes not how many strokes these players push and push to get through and cause distress to others who actually enjoy being on the course. Everyone play’s at different speeds it’s what keeps life interesting and players sometimes need to learn to adapt and enjoy the great game.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Stephen August 29, 15:35

    Absolutely agree with this.

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