Pace of Play

Picking up the Pace

By Scott Simmons, Executive Director & CEO of Golf Canada

Pace of play has become a hot button issue facing the golf industry in Canada and abroad. At the 2013 US Open, our colleagues from the USGA unveiled a series of videos featuring notable PGA Tour and LPGA golfers as well as celebrities aimed at bringing pace of play to the forefront among competitive players and every day golf enthusiasts.

While entertaining in their own right, the USGA ‘While We’re Young’ videos won’t fix the problem. Some have even argued that the videos give more accomplished golfers a green light to use the ‘while we’re young’ mantra to shame or intimidate novice golfers. I certainly hope that’s not the case as that’s far from the spirit in which the videos were developed.

The fact is, golfers see and golfers do. The swing habits and on course routines we see each week on the professional tours are all too often mirrored at the recreational level. Count me among those who believe a few more slow play penalties assessed at the pro level would go a long way towards educating everyday golfers about the ready position.

But pace of play is not simply a Rules of Golf issue. It’s an entire industry issue rooted in the culture of golf. That culture is ultimately set by the golfing bodies, the clubs, the professionals, the superintendents and especially the golfers themselves.

So how do we promote change? It starts with educating golfers on simple ways to play faster: playing ready golf; continuous putting; moving quickly from greens to tees; and for a great many of us, playing from the skill-appropriate tees and distances for a most enjoyable golf experience.

It means encouraging alternative formats other than stroke play, such as match play, Stableford scoring, scrambles and alternate shot events that take less time yet still offer competitive elements to a round of golf. For Golf Canada members who track their Handicap Factor, following the guidelines of Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) goes a long way as well.

PGA of Canada members and club officials play a key front line role in educating golfers on how to play at a proper pace and select the most appropriate tees. The same is true for course starters and marshals as important golfer touch points. A friendly tip from an expert goes a long way.

Some courses encourage a good pace of play by promoting nine-hole rounds and nine-and-dines or offering incentives such as discounts in their pro shops or food and beverage facilities for rounds played under a set time. Other clubs may take a harder line approach with an expected time par strictly enforced and understood among the membership.

Not to be forgotten are the stewards of the playing field. Superintendents and greens staff need to ensure a course set-up that encourages a good pace by maintaining the rough at a reasonable height, manageable green speeds and fair hole locations. The same is true for properly marked and effectively spaced yardage markers or sprinkler heads.

The pace of play resource centre that the USGA had made available is a good start for those interested in finding out more about little things every golfer or industry stakeholder can do to improve overall pace of play. You can find links to many of those pace of play resources below.

There’s no silver bullet to improve pace of play or golfer awareness. But there’s something to be said for making the turn in two hours or less – that’s good value and a lesson worth learning for any golfer.

Pace of Play Resources for Players

The USGA’s While We’re Young Campaign Videos