I travelled to Castlerock at the start of the week to play in an open teams competition and had a great day.  My friends and I always play in the August Team Scramble at Castlerock so I know the course pretty well (especially the rough!) however it was so much easier at this time of the year as the rough hadn’t had a chance to grow, meaning that errant tee shots were easily located and relatively easily struck!  The weather was dry and sunny and for once there wasn’t any wind.  When we play in the summer team scramble it’s a very slow affair, as the time sheet is full and we end up waiting at every shot, so I was pleasantly surprised that there weren’t any teams within an hour either side of our tee time and we whizzed round the course an hour faster than usual!

That got me thinking about pace of play, or rather, slow play.  On the PGA Tour players are expected to hit their shot within 40 seconds of the preceding player hitting theirs.  If they are first to take the shot they have longer.  The main criticism levelled against slow players in The R&A’s pace of play survey was that such players were not ready to play when it was their turn.
Being ready to play should be easy. While taking care not to distract other players or compromise safety, all that is required is that a player should do the following while waiting for others to play:
• Walk efficiently to the ball putting their glove on in the process
• Assess the shot, including any calculation of distance the player wants to make, or line up the putt, and
• Make a decision on club selection.

If each member of a four-ball played just a few seconds faster, it would have an enormous impact on pace of play:  For example:
• Each player in a four-ball takes an average of 5 seconds less to play each shot
• Each player plays 82 shots
• 82 shots x 5 seconds x 4 players = 27 minutes and 33 seconds
That means that, ignoring all other variables, the four-ball would play in almost half an hour less than normal.

That’s all well and good, but there are lots of other things that golfers do that waste time!  It’s vital to teach beginners good habits such as always thinking ahead and leaving your golf bag at the side of the green that you’ll be leaving by and refraining from marking your score card on the green – do this when others are teeing off at the next hole.

When you’re stuck behind slow players, there’s nothing worse than getting ready on the tee, waiting to hear the bell, only to see a lone player appear at the top of the hill, driver in hand, retracing his steps to hit three off the tee!  If there is even the slightest chance that your ball may have gone out of bounds or have landed in deep rough (where it might be lost) you must hit a provisional ball!  Apart from saving time, it means you don’t have to do the “walk of shame” back to the tee, under the glare of the four-ball patiently waiting to tee off!

To finish off, here’s a short video from the R&A showing good practice and exaggerating poor practice!  I’ve never seen anyone behave like that on the course, but I have seen people take ages to measure, find a glove, re-measure, swing a club, change their mind, try another club, then revert to their original choice…