In a world where attention spans are measured in seconds, golf takes hours to play, and that’s a significant part of the game’s charm.
Golf isn’t intended to be a frantic experience. Conversely, it shouldn’t slow to a crawl either.
A 4-hour, 15-minute round is absolutely achievable when players are cognizant of pace play. I’m not just talking about playing from the proper set of tees and minimizing pre-shot routines, though both are effective ways of keeping a round on pace.
Here are five things everyone – regardless of skill level – can do to ensure they maintain proper pace of play.
— You are carts partners, not a couple. Don’t wait in the cart for your partner to hit before heading to your ball. Use the time to get ready for your shot – figure out yardage and club selection, for example, and be prepared to hit. It drives me crazy to see someone in the cart while their partner is hitting and then said person gets out and begins preparing for his or her shot. Over the course of a round, that adds up to a lot of time.
— Not too long ago, the USGA reduced the amount of time to look for a ball from five minutes to three, and that’s a rule that should be strictly enforced. The guy who spends three to five minutes looking for a ball several times a round is a bigger detriment to pace of play than the player who takes five practice swings. Don’t be that guy. As an aside, it’s not the responsibility of the entire group to look for a wayward drive either. You hit it, you find it.
— For the love of all that is good and holy, please play ready golf – everywhere on the course. If you are first to the tee, hit it. When your buddy is in the woods looking for his ball, go ahead and hit your approach. If you’ve got a long putt and a partner is still walking to the green, go ahead and make it. Ready golf is everyone’s friend.
— Don’t be afraid to pick up. You aren’t playing on the PGA Tour and USGA rules permit picking up when you are out of a hole at the recreational level. Equitable Stroke Control means a 12 won’t go towards your handicap anyway. If you’ve hit two balls in the drink and find yourself in a fairway bunker, save yourself the frustration and move on to the next hole. Everyone on the course will thank you.
— Speak up, especially before play begins. Discuss pace of play expectations and ways the group can meet them before you tee off. Let people know you play ready golf and encourage them to do the same. No need to be condescending or confrontational. A quick, cordial conversation can go a long way.
You don’t have to be a good player to maintain an adequate pace, nor do you have to rush. Just exercise common sense and be aware of what’s going on around you.