Gordon on Golf

Pace of play is everyone’s responsibility

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(Golf Canada/ Josh Schaefer)

Not even halfway through your round and you’re hot. Man, are you hot.

Sure, the thermometer is in the upper 20s, but it’s not the summer heat that’s frying you.

It’s the waiting on every shot. Every shot!

“Why is that group in front of us so @%#%-ing slow?!”

Cool down. It just might not be their fault. Or the fault of the groups in front of them.

At this year’s Golf Canada annual meeting, attendees were enlightened about the USGA’s research into pace of play by Director of Strategic Projects Hunki Yun and Technical Director Matthew Pringle. You can view their presentation below.

Enlightened, to say the least, because the data indicate that while pace of play is a shared responsibility, much of the blame for slow play may be laid at the feet of course operators.

Pringle says “one of the biggest misconceptions is that slow play is the fault of the group in front of you. That may be the case at times but it is more likely that the golf course is set up to fail. It can’t flow properly, so you will end up waiting at some point. The operator has to balance flow onto and through the course. There are structural reasons why delays occur.”

Yun cites a hypothetical situation where an easy par-4 is followed by a difficult par-3. Golfers finish the par-4 too fast and a bottleneck occurs on the par-3 tee. If the course operator intentionally slowed play on that par-4, perhaps by lengthening it or growing in more rough, the overall round would be more enjoyable for everyone.

“We have been preaching to operators to look critically at their golf course and setting tee time intervals that are realistic,” Pringle says. “The player experience will be better and there will be an economic benefit, too.”

Much of the USGA data reinforce what Bill Yates, founder of Pace Manager Systems, has been preaching for about 20 years. A couple of years ago, he started working with the USGA in their effort to try to understand the root causes of slow play.

Using his training as a process engineer, Yates looked at a round of golf from the perspective of an efficiency expert. “My previous job was to improve efficiencies in how companies produced their product, whatever that might be. In most cases, 90 per cent of the responsibility was on management to improve how they did business. And make no mistake about it. Golf produces a product: It’s the player’s experience when they are at a course.

“Players are not the biggest reason for slow play on our courses, any more than slow drivers, for example, are the reason that gridlocked freeways are slow.”

In other words, if there are too many cars pouring onto a highway with too few lanes, traffic jams are inevitable. The problem isn’t really slow play; it is that golfers hate to have to wait on every shot. (Yun calls it, “Slow versus flow.”) Stop and go. Hurry up and wait. Bottlenecks.

“By understanding the flow of your course and the cycle times of each hole, you are not only getting the same amount of golfers or maybe more around the course, but they will finish in less time and have a much better experience,” says Yun.

But before you go pointing fingers at the operator of the course you are playing, make sure you have done your part: Playing from the correct tees for your ability, playing ready golf, continuous putting, and so on.

Pace of play is everyone’s responsibility.

To understand more about the USGA’s pace of play initiative, click here.