GOLF’S governing body the R&A has acted on one of the sport’s perennial problems – slow play – and the encouraging news is that the cause hasn’t been found to lay solely at the feet of players themselves.
After extensive international research showed that 60 percent of regular golfers would enjoy the game more if it took less time, the R&A began looking at causes of the problem and ways to make the game faster.
They identified it wasn’t just slow individual golfers, groups or playing practices that were the only issue, but had a lot to do with overall golf course management and course setup.
A Pace of Play Manual has now been released to address the overall issue.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “There is no doubt that pace of play is a key issue for golf today and one on which many golfers have strong views. Through the research exercise and [through an industry wide conference] we gained some valuable insights into the views of players, administrators and officials involved in all levels of golf.”
“We fully recognise that in a sport as diverse as golf there is no one-size-fits-all approach and so the new manual outlines approaches which have proved to be effective and offers some thoughtful solutions to day-to day pace of play challenges which can arise in golf. We hope the manual will prove to be a useful reference guide for clubs, competition organisers and players alike.”
In its introduction the manual states it takes a holistic approach to pace of play, recognising that management practices, course set up and player behaviour all combine to cause issues with pace of play.
“The common misconception is that players are the sole cause. The reality is that many of the barriers to playing at a good pace are in place long before players themselves have a negative impact.
“Providing insufficient time between groups teeing off, leading to overcrowding of the course and waiting, is a common management practice that can mean that rounds are doomed to take longer than most players would like.
“Courses are often set up or designed to be too difficult for the majority of golfers that play them. A lack of teeing options to cater for the differences in player hitting distances, rough near to the fairway in which balls can frequently be lost or excessive green speeds or green firmness are just some examples of course features than can cause excessive delays and round times.
“Individual players can, of course, have a negative effect on pace of play, but that effect may be relatively insignificant when compared to the impact that poor management practices and ill-considered course set up can have.
“The approach of this Manual is to review all three aspects – management practices, course set up and player behaviour – that can contribute to the problem. The huge upside to there being three potential problems is that it enables all of us, potentially, to be part of the solution.”
[box size=”large”]If each player in a four-ball takes 5 seconds less to play each shot, the round time can be improved by over 25 minutes[/box]
Playing practices by individuals and groups of course do have a big impact and the manual recommends a number of measures.
As it points out, if each player in a four-ball takes 5 seconds less to play each shot, the round time can be improved by over 25 minutes.
Recommendations include playing “Ready Golf” – not just from the tee but with all shots – and not trying to emulated elite pros, for example by examining a putt from all angles.
There are also measures suggested of what to do with players or groups who are habitually slow.
From the manual on Ready Golf
“Ready golf” is a commonly used term which indicates that players should play when they are ready to do so, rather than adhering strictly to the “farthest from the hole plays first” stipulation in the Rules of Golf.
“Ready golf” is not appropriate in match play due to the strategy involved between opponents and the need to have a set method for determining which player plays first. However, in stroke play formats it is only the act of agreeing to play out of turn to give one of the players an advantage that is prohibited. On this basis, it is permissible for administrators to encourage “ready golf” in stroke play, and there is strong evidence to suggest that playing “ready golf” does improve the pace of play. For example, in a survey of Australian golf clubs conducted by Golf Australia, 94% of clubs that had promoted “ready golf” to their members enjoyed some degree of success in improving pace of play, with 25% stating that they had achieved ‘satisfying success’.
When “ready golf” is being encouraged, players have to act sensibly to ensure that playing out of turn does not endanger other players.
“Ready golf” should not be confused with being ready to play, which is covered in the Player Behaviour section of this Manual.
The term “ready golf” has been adopted by many as a catch-all phrase for a number of actions that separately and collectively can improve pace of play. There is no official definition of the term, but examples of “ready golf” in action are:
- Hitting a shot when safe to do so if a player farther away faces a challenging shot and is taking time to assess their options
- Shorter hitters playing first from the tee or fairway if longer hitters have to wait
- Hitting a tee shot if the person with the honour is delayed in being ready to play
- Hitting a shot before helping someone to look for a lost ball
- Putting out even if it means standing close to someone else’s line
- Hitting a shot if a person who has just played from a greenside bunker is still farthest from the hole but is delayed due to raking the bunker
- When a player’s ball has gone over the back of a green, any player closer to the hole but chipping from the front of the green should play while the other player is having to walk to their ball and assess their shot
- Marking scores upon immediate arrival at the next tee, except that the first player to tee off marks their card immediately after teeing off