Golf clubs ‘delighted’ that the pace of play has been so quick

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 19, 2020 10:43

Several golf clubs in England have reported that the length of time it’s taken for post-lockdown rounds to be completed has been so fast that they are considering making permanent changes based on the last week of golf activity.

One manager said the last few days have been so successful that he’s considering introducing time slots in which golf groups are limited to a maximum of two people.

There are also reports of golfers giving positive feedback regarding just how safe they felt at clubs in the last week.

Golf club memberships in the UK have been in decline for years and one of the most common cited reasons why people have played less golf has been slow play: Many golfers do not want to spend more than four hours playing a round of golf.

Numerous initiatives have been brought in in recent years to address this but it appears that simply playing golf in the post Covid-19 lockdown era may be far and away the most successful yet.

Tom Brooke, managing director of Glendale Golf, which runs six golf clubs in the UK, said: “We are very pleased with being open again and also by the responsibility shown by our customers who have adapted well to this new style of golf.

“Rounds are being played much faster which is a pleasing benefit.

“Under normal circumstances, we would do everything possible to encourage our customers to linger longer and enjoy a drink and something to eat after the round. It goes against the grain, but everybody understands why we must discourage any type of socialising before or after a round.”

Horsham Golf and Fitness. Image from Facebook

Neil Burke, who runs Horsham Golf and Fitness in Sussex, added: “The pace of play has been a major advantage and we are considering adjusting our future management style to include times when people can play in two-balls only.

“There has been quite a lot spoken about the fact that golf is too time-consuming but most of our players are getting round in less than three hours and that gives them more time to enjoy other activities with their families.

“There is obviously a market for faster golf. In addition, the attitude of our members and visitors has been excellent. They have been polite and eager to fit in with our new operating rules and restrictions and a delight to deal with.”

In a statement to the industry, the UK Golf Federation has said that it’s not just the pace of play that has improved, but golfers have been giving positive feedback due to the safe environment they’ve been playing in.

Doug Poole, chief executive, said: “Across the country, we have had excellent reports from clubs of all different types and sizes. The UK Golf Federation has been keen to share best practice on all government’s safety procedures throughout its membership and we are proud that we have been able to help golf resume safely.

“Importantly, all of our members realise that this is a critical time for the country and we are very grateful to be open at all. Being one of the first sports to reopen to the public is especially important for the country’s well-being and fitness. We have set the highest safety standards and I am extremely impressed with this level of restraint and understanding of everyone involved, from customers to operators.”

Safety signage at 3Hammers Golf Complex. Image from Facebook

His comments were echoed by Ian Bonser, who owns the 3 Hammers Golf Complex in Wolverhampton, who said: “Several of our customers have commented that they feel safer at our golf centre than at their local supermarket due to the thoroughness of the social distancing and signage my team have deployed. I couldn’t ask for better feedback than that.”

“We run two golf courses here and we’ve got tee times booked from 7.30am to 5pm,” general manager of Cottrell Park, in Cardiff, Derek Smith said.

“We are fully booked on both courses all day, predominantly one balls.

“Speaking to the customers this morning, they are very pleased with the protocols we have put in place, they feel very safe, and they are very pleased to get out there, do some exercise and take the sticks with them, so to speak.

“It’s put a lot of smiles on people’s faces given these dreadful times we are currently living in.”

The chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, North Warwickshire MP Craig Tracey, said: “The overwhelming feedback is that the restarting of golf has been safe and successful. Players have been keeping to social distancing requirements with little or no instruction from staff and the new temporary rules are being diligently followed. With only two-balls being allowed, play has become faster and it is not surprising that many courses were at full capacity.

“That level of discipline when it comes to social distancing rules, in particular, is critical to ensure courses stay open and golf is able to remain at the forefront of the recovery. We need to be constantly mindful that if the R number increases, the government is able to review their position and reinstate a greater degree of lockdown, either partially or wholly, which obviously we don’t want to see happen to our golf courses.”

Since English golf courses reopened last week there has been a surge in membership applications. This has not offset the problems caused by coronavirus, and The R&A has launched a £7 million fund to help UK and Irish facilities.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 19, 2020 10:43
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  1. DeliriousBeef May 25, 22:46

    There’s quite a few issues people are missing here:
    Certainly at the courses I’ve played and my member course-
    Some players are booking tees and not turning up. Some are playing as 1 balls.
    They have now extended an 8 minute tee gap that could be played by 4 players to 10 minutes for a maximum of 2 players. No wonder there’s no queuing at tees.
    There aren’t any competitions going on so people aren’t necessarily worried about how many shots they are having as not affecting handicap. Don’t need to go back to the tee for a shot out of bounds, no need for provisionals as you can take friendly drops. No need for the 3 minute search for a ball to save your scorecard on one hole.
    Lots are playing match play so conceding holes etc.
    Many I’ve seen aren’t fully putting out as it’s not a fair putt to hit a piece of plastic, or the cup 1/4 inch down etc.
    We have also had approximately 10 weeks give or take off from golf. Jeez I was happy if my first tee shot wasn’t OB!!
    Lovely to get round in 3 hours but I play golf to enjoy myself and I class myself as a youngster.
    We are not currently seeing proper golf, we are seeing everyone’s slow re-introduction to golf and enjoying the fine weather, many are just happy to be out of the house with a valid legal excuse.
    Get a grip snowflakes, not everything gets delivered the same day!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Neil May 22, 07:50

    We are getting back to the boom days of golf pre 1970 when there was little catering and smaller clubhouses,simpler courses (shorter courses,less bunkers and trees, ).Now most members are much older and fatter less keen on the sport and more on the social side:.To justify the expense of big clubhouses we get “No changing in the car park”,compulsory halfway huts” and a set up that demands “alternative income streams”.This means slower more expensive golf.
    Covid19 has ,to a degree,freed us of those influences.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Neil W May 22, 07:20

    Golf is indeed to be enjoyed by all. Unfortunately these days this doesn’t seem to include the more accomplished player. Many just don’t feel like playing anymore simply because it’s too slow and too time consuming. Better players are being told to slow down, instead of the slowcoaches learning to speed up. 3.5 hours/max 4 hours is plenty of time for 18 holes in my opinion.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Sara May 21, 11:28

    Bit surely it is meant to be relaxing? Okay don’t accept dawdling and holding up the people behind you, but presumably the time taken previously had found its level and people are now going faster because they are so pleased to be allowed out again. They will calm down soon I am sure!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Edward May 21, 07:18

    Surprised at this..I would have taken time enjoying being out there!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Simon B May 21, 05:47

    The pace of play is quicker because 1/2 the number of shots are being played, personally I’d rather take a 4 ball everyday for the extra hour (max) it takes

    Reply to this comment
  7. Sue May 20, 11:27

    This is really positive. Can we make it work long-term….

    Reply to this comment
  8. Philip M May 20, 08:33

    does this mean we might see the introduction of 2 balls and 3 balls only for members competitions going forwards

    Reply to this comment
  9. Gordon May 20, 07:43

    Everybody leaves pin in and the gadgets to get the ball out are great – should be a permanent fixture.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Jon M May 20, 05:27

    Certainly from my experience in the US the same is true

    Reply to this comment
  11. Jo C May 20, 04:18

    Yes it’s definitely faster

    Reply to this comment
    • Mal May 20, 14:19

      Everyone who plays golf know that 4 balls are slow.
      Great having 2 balls only at moment playing 18 holes should take no longer than 3.5 hrs……

      Reply to this comment
  12. Ashley May 20, 02:36

    Two-balls are the future.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Keith G May 20, 01:16

    I think 3 hours is about the normal

    Reply to this comment
  14. Windup May 19, 22:25

    Three ball should take no longer than 3 hours 15 minutes. People faffing around thinking they are pros . Just get on with the game and be ready to play

    Reply to this comment
  15. Alex H May 19, 22:18

    Played this afternoon at @huntswoodgolf – car park was full – so the course was pretty loaded – no waiting at tees/ no bunching up / no one racing up behind – it was as if we had the course to ourselves.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Mark H May 19, 16:47

    We posted the other day that maybe assign one day a week to two balls, say a “Twoball Thursday”. I’ve loved being round in 3 hours, may also encourage more to stay and have food and a few drinks ️‍♂️⛳️️‍♀️

    Reply to this comment
    • Mark May 19, 17:41

      We must not forget
      2 ball
      10 minute intervals
      Not putting out
      Not raking bunkers
      Just dropping ball if lost
      Just a few reasons
      Do like idea of 2 ball Thursday

      Reply to this comment
      • Birdyjohn May 19, 23:38

        I’m a member of Carlisle golf club, and played a full round in just under 3 hours, great pace but enjoyed every shot …mind you if we were playing out of bunkers then raking them, and putting out as normal, you could add 30 minutes to your round

        Reply to this comment
  17. Laurie May 19, 14:53

    So important to let everyone enjoy the game

    Reply to this comment
    • Eric May 19, 17:43

      I’ve loved playing post lockdown. If would be great if 3/4 balls were restricted to Saturdays and Sunday, and mornings only in the week.

      Reply to this comment
      • Rollo. May 19, 18:07

        Loving the 2 balls.But what about the midweek comps .Seniors.etc.also club KOs.imposible to keep all 4 ball to W/E .

        Reply to this comment
    • Colby May 19, 19:43

      The fact that we are not playing competition golf is another obvious reason play is much quicker currently.
      At my club, the time taken to complete a competitive round can be as much as 4 and a half hours compared to 2ball social golf taking 3 hours maximum. Barmy and sadly true.

      Reply to this comment
  18. Richard (EcoBunker) May 19, 12:53

    When i started playing golf , there was a ‘speed of the course’ and that was set at 2 ball ‘speed’. It was only 4 ball speed when a dedicated 4 ball competition (usually a 4bbb pairs comp) was scheduled. I’ve noticed over the years a gradual change: firstly Saturdays became 4 ball speed – then the whole weekend – and now it seems that 4 ball speed (circa 4-4.5 hrs) has become the default. Many times you see 4 ball groups never give a second thought to the 2 baller stuck behind them. I understand it may be not so simple to turn the clock back (clubs need to get more people on the course to make money etc) but i think the temporary ban on slow 4 ball matches may help golfers appreciate that a round of golf is not automatically 4 hours of your day gone. It can be 3hrs or even less.

    Reply to this comment
    • Caddyshack May 20, 07:10

      Golf clubs need as many members as they can to survive and in normal times get the back the the clubhouse after a round for refreshments. The 2 ball player rule is a godsend for us just to get back playing again in any shape or form and yes it is a lot quicker to play a round of golf. But rules can still be adhered to with a four ball playing golf as well making it even more enjoyable for the competition golfers as well and for players who just enjoy the company of their fourball friends. But I agree a special two ball day in the week or of certain times everyday is a good idea.

      Reply to this comment
  19. Tim L May 19, 11:14

    Sounds great – a much needed push on the drag on the game but do we inherently have short memories as we return to socialising?

    Reply to this comment
    • Chris May 20, 05:28

      It will be impossible to maintain such speed of play if and when we return to normal golf. Competitions and the extra concentration required, handicap rounds and the advent of the World Handicap system, 3 and 4 balls even with restricted tee times and just the general freedom of unrestricted golf will all decrease the speed of rounds. Accept that and if we all make that effort to generally play that bit faster and we will all benefit whatever happens in the coming months and years

      Reply to this comment
    • R24VEN May 20, 05:51

      I totally understand and agree that a four ball takes alot longer, but i don’t agree that they should just be played at weekends, what about the guys who cannot play in the week. They want to play at weekends but also spend time with the family. Then on the other hand I understand that the clubs need the revenue.

      Reply to this comment
    • JD May 20, 20:44

      So I took a driver, 5 iron, 9 iron and putter in a backpack on a mountain bike. Got way more exercise, and done in 2 hours.

      Reply to this comment
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