A Musing on Golf’s Pace of Play Dilemma

How players are the solution!
Denver city skyline and golf course sunny day

Golf is a great game that allows us to spend time with friends outdoors in a beautiful, idyllic setting. Ah, the birds singing in the trees, the warm gentle breeze … ‘Hey buddy would you please hurry up and hit the shot!’ Twenty-seven practice swings just to dump it in the water. We have all been there, including me!

Years ago, a friend of mine was giving a presentation to an audience of golfers in Michigan. He began with the question, “Please, raise your hand if you are a slow golfer.” You guessed it, no one raised their hand. Next, the question, “How many of you know a slow golfer?” This time, everyone raised their hand. No slow golfers in the room and yet, they all know a slow golfer. Hmm, what are the odds?

A great dilemma in golf, is that none of us think we play slow! Yet, the time it takes to play a round of golf continues to creep upward. Ok, that may not be fair. I recently read an article from 1973 where Lee Trevino was railing against slow play and offering ideas to play faster. For those under the age of 50 who never saw him play, Lee was a notoriously quick golfer.

Did you know, in the 2019 overhaul to the Rules of Golf published by the US Golf Association, the issue of time was a major focus in the revision? Let me give it to you straight … we can all play faster! It’s not just High handicap golfers and beginners who can play slow. I know plenty of golfers who hit all manner of grounders, duffs, skies, foozles, squibs, and shanks, and still play in four hours, myself included.

Truth is, it’s usually the little time-wasters that increase the time it takes to play. No one goes out to deliberately play slow. Here are some tips to help you play faster, they are not necessarily new, but they may be new to you:

  • Play a provisional or second ball if your original ball might be out of bounds or lost.
  • You have three minutes to search for a lost ball.
  • Tee it forward – play the correct set of tees for your skill set. Jack Nicklaus does, so can we.
  • If you are new to the game, you do not have to start from the tee markers. Start the hole where you can advance the ball onto the green in three shots (par 5), two shots (par 4), one shot (par 3).

Play Ready Golf!

  • To heck with “honors,” let the shorter hitters tee off first. While we are at it, the person whose ball is farther from the hole doesn’t have to play first. If someone closer to the hole wants to lay up, let them.
  • Be ready to play when it is your turn to play. Don’t wait to figure out the yardage, select a club, etc. Do it while you are waiting. Then you can play when it is your turn.
  • Putt when you are ready. Continue until you have holed out. Then the next golfer can putt.
  • Please, no golf lessons on the course. Save it for the range.

*A note on keeping score: Do it on the next tee, not on the putting green. Give the folks behind you a chance to play. 

‘Golf Carts slow down play!’ Really? Here are a few cart etiquette tips:

  • Drop off the first golfer and drive over to your ball if it’s safe to do so. You can go through all of your preparations while your cart partner hits, then start walking forward toward the green. Now go pick him up!
  • If both balls are close to one another, park near one, grab some clubs and walk over to yours. Have your partner pick you up.
  • Do park your cart on the path on the side of the green nearest the next tee. That means fewer steps and a quicker exit from the green.
  • Do not park in front of the green where you are walking back into the play behind you.

I hope you have enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek rant on the time it takes to play golf. I hope these tips have gotten you to consider how you can play a little faster and help you enjoy the game a little more. Happy Golfing!


Denver GolfBy Bob Nelson, Head Professional, Kennedy Golf Course


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