Sport Golf Why golf clubs need to get tougher on time-wasters

Why golf clubs need to get tougher on time-wasters

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Your author once followed Paul Lawrie during a European tour event in Dubai. His round? Three hours, 40 minutes.
Your author once followed Paul Lawrie during a European tour event in Dubai. His round? Three hours, 40 minutes.

Your elaborate pre-shot routine; the player who thinks he’s at the Masters; the chatterbox; the serial ball lifter and marker – all of these people are to blame for the extended time it takes these days to complete an 18-hole round of golf, according to research from the Royal and Ancient.

The survey received more than 56,000 responses from golfers in 122 countries between September 2014 and March 2015. It was carried out by The R&A as part of its efforts to investigate the issues affecting golf and the extent to which they impact on participation in the sport.

The survey revealed the following:

  • 70% of golfers are largely happy with the duration of their rounds, 60% of golfers expressed the view that they would enjoy golf more if they played in less time.
  • Majority of 25-44 year-olds were never happy with pace of play, 21% said that golf would need to take as much as one-and-a-half hours less for them to play more often.
  • Of the 8468 golfers in this age range who responded, 19% said they would welcome the opportunity to play nine holes more often as an alternative format.
  • The survey found that the two biggest factors preventing people from playing golf are work commitments (34%) and family commitments (29%) with the time taken to play (16%) ranked third. Other factors mentioned were alternative hobbies (12%), cost of play (7%), difficulty of play (1%) and cost of equipment (1%); although there were some regional variations on these percentages.

In an effort to improve the amount of time it takes to play a round of golf, please be aware if you are one of the following:

Problem Number 1: The pre-shot routine monster. For decades golf instructors have urged players to have pre-shot routines to improve ball striking. The theory being that a set routine creates consistency, and therefore better scoring. Adoption of a pre-shot routine adds dozens of minutes to rounds because players now have two practise swings; set the shoulders; adjust the left hip; check alignment; check ball position; narrow target; waggle; and (hopefully) pull the trigger. Ideally, you have practised this pre-shot routine and narrowed it down to less than 10 seconds. Anything longer is brutal for your playing partners and is a time-killer.

Solution: Take one practise swing. And aim to hit the ball in less than 15 seconds. Every time.

Problem Number 2: He thinks he’s at The Masters. You hear this saying a lot, and yes it’s also brutal on time. The player who think he’s professional, and does everything like a professional except shoot the score they shoot. This person will check the sprinkler heads for distance, pull out his pin-seeker to be sure, throw some grass into the air to check the wind; on every shot; and checks every angle on the green when putting. They will probably pump their round stats directly into their golf app and will wipe the grips and club face after every shot. You can see how this leads to extra time.

Solution: See solution one.

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Problem Number 3: Poor etiquette. And what exactly is poor etiquette, since it is such a broad topic? It is all of these:

  • You arrive late for your tee-off but insist on a warm up which sets the group back a couple of minutes
  • You fail to hit a provisional ball on a wayward drive, and end up back on the tee after a five-minute search (big time killer).
  • You talk too much.
  • You check your phone whilst on the golf course (they should be broadly banned).
  • You hover over the ball for an eternity, no doubt running through all the swing thoughts you have heard, but which now paralyse you over the ball.
  • You don’t immediately check your putting line on the green whilst waiting to putt.
  • You leave your cart bag at the front of the green – every time.
  • You mark your card when it’s your turn to hit.
  • You walk along as a group, watching each other hit, rather than walking well ahead to your ball, staying out of the line of others of course, but ready to hit when it is your turn.
  • You walk and chat when it is clear that your group is a hole behind.
  • You, as the lowest marker in the group, don’t do anything about it.

Solution: Club management become more aware of the position of the field, use a marshal to move groups along, and then send letters to players (or groups), that are consistently later than three hours and 45 minutes. Long delays usually begin with the first few groups. First a letter, then a suspension for a second offence.

In all other areas, it’s still your own responsibility to be aware of how long you take over the ball, and all the little things you do to cause delays to the round. Yes, it’s nice to be social, but there’s plenty of time for that later in the clubhouse. First: a letter, Second: a suspension.

What do you think, are there better ways of improving the pace of play in club golf?

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