Slow play is like the weather – everybody complains about it, but nobody does anything.
The problem of slow play was never a major issue before either 1947 or 1953.
The first televised golf tournament was the U.S Open held at the St Louis Country Club when Lew Worsham defeated Sam Snead in a playoff, but the viewing area only included a local radius.
The first national broadcast came in 1953 when the same Lew Worsham won the Tam O’Shanter World Championship of Golf in Chicago.
Debate ensues as to whether Worsham caused the rise of slow play on the final putt of the U.S. Open or did his best to derail it six years later.
With both players less than three feet away for their final putts of the U.S. Open, Worsham called for an official to determine who was away and, after a measurement, it turned out to be Snead, who missed. Worsham clinched it with his putt, but the whole process consumed many minutes and left the viewers with a ‘taste’ for a slower pace of play.
Six years later, Worsham tried to undo his past. From the 18th fairway over 100 yards from the pin, his ball found the hole for an eagle two and the victory and TV exposed a new method of playing quicker.
Prior to golf on TV a round of golf consumed about three hours. Today’s average is approaching five hours. A lot can be blamed on the pace of play viewers perceive to be what they see their idols doing, but not all is shown by the cameras.
In the first place, professional golfers play in twosomes and threesomes, but take pride in the fact they play a round of golf in about four hours. They should. They don’t have a fourth player.
In fairness, we see a lot of pre-shot organization and calculating, reading notes and pacing off yardages, hand waving to describe the break in a putt and discussion. What we don’t see is the speed with which the players walk to their golf balls.
Frankly, it’s an incredible pace. They’d rather have more time to play and less time walking provides it.
A few other “advancements” have created an opportunity for slow play over the years. For example, the increase in distance the golf ball travels has given cause for such great courses as Augusta National to add length.
In many cases, the additional yardage comes by relocating a tee deck further back. In turn, the distance from green to tee is also increased. Many courses that were 6500 yards only few short years ago are now over 7000.
Before you present the case that I’m playing from the wrong tees, let me state that on many occasions, the cart path goes from the green, around behind the back tee and then forward. While we are on the subject, cart paths are frequently too far from the fairway. One solution would be to design more waste areas where carts can be driven, replacing high cost maintenance bunkers.
Another factor is the distance the ball travels. Players who once hit the ball 240 to 250 yards now hit it 280. Par fours that once were considered long and par fives that were unreachable by 90 per cent of golfers are often hit by at least one player in every foursome meaning increased wait time.
As clubs and balls have increased distance and are often referred to as improvements, so has course maintenance equipment “improved.” It has improved so much that green speeds that once were seven or eight are now 12 to 13.
A green with nary a blemish and a surface smoother than a glass table is true beauty to any golfer. Unfortunately, this pure surface can only be controlled by two or three players at a club. This adds to the number of strokes taken.
Further, the fear and intimidation in the vibrating hands of the other 98 per cent of the membership causes them to stand frozen over the ball, dreading the anticipated result – and more time ticks off the clock. FYI: 10 to 10.5 on the stimp is more than adequate.
Golf cars have added greatly to the time it takes to play a round of golf. The reason is because one person becomes the designated driver. After tee shots are safely away, riders should determine which player will be second to hit.
That person should drive the cart to the location of the shortest hitter’s ball, drop him/her off with clubs to play and drive to the longest ball. Player one then hits and walks to the cart where the process is repeated – closest ball to the green drives the cart. The rider is dropped off at his/her ball with pitching clubs and a putter.
As they approach the green, the driver should be one on the green who takes the car to back of the green or next tee. When both players hit the green from the fairway, the driver is the player with the shortest putt who drops the rider close to the green so he/she can prepare to putt.
That leaves plenty of time to get organized, read the green and get ready while the driver parks the cart in the correct location and walks back to the green, where he/she can mark the ball to allow the longest ball to be putted.
Programs on the Golf Channel haven’t helped either. We constantly hear how marking a line on your ball aids putting direction. It also adds precious seconds to accurately aim the ball before removing your coin.
We hear about pre-shot routines that involve a call to your instructor before and after every swing. We have video lessons on our smart phones to help determine how to play a shot. These might be exaggerations, but why doesn’t someone phone in and tell the group in front they can discuss the previous hole and mark the score on the next tee?
I love golf and I love that a nice round takes about four hours, 15 minutes to play. I don’t like more than four hours, 45 minutes. Just move along when you play.