Golf, Speed And A Call To Arms
In a Sunday call to arms for the golf inter-nation, USGA president Glen Nager dedicated 9 paragraphs of his annual address to pace of play. Specifically, he noted that rounds lasting five hours and beyond are “incompatible with life in modern society.” That’s lawyer-speak at its finest; incompatible is not the adjective that most daily-fee players and resort guests would incorporate. Most of them would restrict allotment of letters to four.
Examine with me, if you will, the situation. Rounds that egregiously perdure beyond four hours, the time-honored allotment for 18 holes, take place in the USA on public courses, or anywhere in the world at resort destinations, where the player plays his own ball from tee to green, holes one to eighteen.
This contradiction does not happen at the private club; fellow members would not hesitate to summon offenders to the tribunal and offer these suggestions:
play at night
join another club
Something that happens in Europe that does not take place in the USA is alternate-shot/foursomes play. Despite all our (read USA) talk of team spirit, we don’t play thus in the colonies. If four guys REALLY want to play quickly, they’ll play alternate shot and be done in two hours, as long as no one ahead is holding them up. I’m sure that there is a business model for this, wherein a public-access course could have five-minute versus ten-minute tee times and kick through twice as many golfers on a given date, but that’s not my business.
Arrive at a resort and all bets are off. Methinks you’ve heard one of the following: “I’m on vacation and I’ll do as I damn-well please” or “Do you know how much I paid for this round?” or “This is a Donald Trent Fazio-Coore course and I need to breathe it in, ALL OF IT!” In other words, “No, I won’t be picking up my pace and double-No, you may not play through.”
Why don’t rangers act like rangers? They’re afraid of losing their jobs. If they remove these miscreants from the course and hand them a rain check, they face reprisal from the owner. Why won’t the owner support the ranger? He likes the revenue stream and wishes to avoid a black eye in the local circles of chit-chat and rumor.
Golf is not, nor has it ever been, associated with speed in the USA. Golf is the sport, nay, game, that former athletes take up when they are no longer athletic. If that is so, explain to me how Dustin Johnson can dunk a ball and he’s not the best basketball player on tour? That would be Gary Woodland, bee-tee-dubs. Or how Tiger Woods can lift everything and out-run everything out there…or how Sergio Garcia can play some sweet football/soccer…and on and on. Don’t get me started on Suzann Petersen and Paula Creamer and their cycling and gymnastic prowess.
Those, however, are professional athletes. They are women and men of youth, who train daily because golf is their job, not their pastime. They have a monopoly on the course and often take 5+ hours to complete 18 holes as we watch on television. Why? Because their careers are at stake. Well-paying careers, yes, yet still their livelihood.
Does any ruling body have a right to mandate that pace of play must improve?
We have the USGA and the R&A as governing bodies throughout the world. We have the NGCOA (national golf course owners association) and GCSAA (golf course superintendents association of america) in the USA and similar groupings beyond our borders. We have the NGF (national golf foundation) and a variety of professional tours. Who influences whom? And which has the mandate to do so?
Ah-HAH…you thought that I had one. Perhaps I do. I wonder if the element of speed can be introduced or injected into amateur, non-tournament golf. That’s where the problem lies, mind you. Not in local, regional and national events, where a ruling body oversees pace of play and assesses appropriate and justifiable penalties. It happens Monday through Sunday, on your local muni and your local privately-owned-public access.
~Reserve the first two hours of slots on Saturday and Sunday for golfers who want to play alternate shot/foursomes? Give them a break in price (they’re hitting half the shots) and reward them with swag (coupons, discounts, a towel, a free drink) if they finish in their alloted time period. Do the same for foursomes from 9 am on.
~Let golfers use their cell phones on course to report transgressors. We’ve become a nation of whistle-blowers in the work place; extend that climate to recreation. If you are dawdling beyond reason, know that someone is watching. You certainly can’t blame the group behind you, but you can stay appropriately ahead of them to ensure its golfers have no reason to call you in. A gap between groups is proof positive.
~Remind golfers that their individual game takes a back seat to the culture of the course. Imagine this exchange:
Boys, what seems to be the problem?
Well, officer, we have a big match here. I’m in the trees in eight and he’s on top of the loo in nine. There’s $7.29 riding on this hole.
That’s great fellow. You’re a hole and a half behind. You have two choices: leave now or pick up and move not one but two holes up. That’s right, you now miss the famous bottle-ledge hole designed by Mr. Arthur Conan Papazian and the infamous Devil’s Redan, redesigned by Seth-Chuck Bernhardt, his protege. Next time, you’ll focus more on the golf and less on yourselves. Oh, and I’m fining you $10, so you both lose.
In the end, it’s the selfishness of the individual golfer that holds up the process. We need a little more socialism in the game of golf, a little more do unto others and a little more it’s not you, it’s all of us to make golf a better place to spend 4 hours or less at a time.
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