Thursday, December 6, 2012

What's Wrong with Golf - Pace of Play

                What’s wrong with golf?  It would be easy to start a finger pointing game more childish than the daily happenings of Washington D.C. (well, almost as childish) and a bit of that has certainly happened in the wake of the recent anchoring ban announcement, but that wouldn’t be productive.  The anchoring announcement has divided the golf world in expected and unexpected ways, but since I promised not to write any more about anchoring I’m going to delve into the after-shocks to find the true issues plaguing our game.

                Behind all the conflict that has recently arisen between players, the USGA, the PGA of America, the St. Andrews Links Trust, the R & A and the average golfer, some great conversation has arisen striking at the true issues afflicting golf.  On Twitter or on comment boards you’ll see tons of people ranting against the ban saying that the true problem is “distance” or the rising difficulty of modern golf courses.  Golf associations across the country are constantly looking for new ways to speed up pace of play.  And programs like the First Tee are trying to make the game more accessible and less expensive for juniors.  Out of the ashes these are the real issues plaguing golf, not whether the butt end of the putter rests in your belly or not.

                The common complaints from players that do not play or have left golf are that it takes too long, it costs too much, it’s too hard and I don’t feel welcome.  These are the problems we need to address to bring golf back to its peak.  And as one single PGA Professional I am not in a position to address the larger issues - only the ruling bodies can tackle lengthened golf courses and the clubs and balls that require them – I would like to offer my suggestions to all who will listen in solving one of the issues that every individual can contribute to: Pace of Play

                It’s time that ready golf, “gimmies,” and quick-routines are encouraged.  Here are 10 ways every golfer and golf professional can start quickening their pace of play in both casual and tournament golf.

Tee It Forward!
 I’m a scratch PGA Professional and I do not play the tips every time I play.  Make sure you are playing a set of tees that will be both challenging and fun.  You should be rewarded for your good shots based on your level of play.

Be Ready for Your Turn
Get ready for your next shot while your cart partner or other fellow-competitors are playing. You should especially be reading putts while others are putting so you are ready to go when it’s your turn. 

Smart Cart Sharing
When sharing a cart drive half-way between the two balls and bring any club you may need with you so you don’t have to go back and forth. 

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Be generous to yourself and your buddies.  If you’re not in a tournament stop lining up 6 inch putts and just knock it away.

“Under Four” Tip
In tournaments, if you’re the first to finish, head to the next tee and be ready to play as soon as your fellow-competitors finish the hole.  This has helped tremendously in collegiate events.

Teach Quick Routines
The golf professional needs to help too, however, as golfers are introduced to the “routine” it is important to emphasize that a quick routine is just as effective as a slow, deliberate one.  Touring professionals should not be the standard for the casual golfer’s routine.

Banish “Plumb-Bobbing” FOREVER
Even the experts at this technique are not quite sure how effective it is at reading putts.  The average golfer certainly doesn’t need to do it over a three-footer.

Provisional Balls and Rule 3-3
If you’re playing a tournament or a serious match the best way to save time in certain situations is to play a second ball.  If your ball might be lost outside a water hazard, hit a provisional.  It will save you from having to go back to the previous spot.  If you aren’t sure how to proceed in a doubtful situation in stroke play, invoke Rule 3-3 and play a second ball.  Then you can figure out the issue at the end of the round instead of wasting time trying to figure out an answer.

Bite the bullet – buy one and stop stepping off yardages.  If a tournament doesn’t allow distance-measuring devices that’s one thing, but for your everyday round of golf stop wasting time searching for yardage markers.  One thing the group behind you doesn’t enjoy watching is you zig-zagging across the fairway for no apparent reason.

Shorten Your Searches
Just because the Rules allow you 5 minutes to search for a golf ball, doesn’t mean you should be stomping around a snake-infested jungle for the full 5 minutes.  It is important to remember that sometimes finding your golf ball will hurt your score and you should just let it be lost.  Groups behind you will appreciate not waiting on empty carts with four players looking in the trees.

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