How many times have you stood watching a professional golfer preparing for a shot and shouted at the television, “just hit the f**king ball!!” If I had to play golf at the pace that most professionals play on a routine basis, I would give up the game. I admit that this concern comes from liking to play three hour rounds and get on with the rest of my life. I admit that I prefer to do my drinking in the clubhouse and not on the course. I know that this is a serious problem for golf and that way too little is done to enforce pace of play guidelines at most golf courses. But the professionals are at least partly to blame for the insane pre-shot rituals of 24 handicappers. Don’t get me wrong- I like to play with 24 handicappers- provided they play at a good pace. My wife rarely breaks 100, but we routinely catch up with young twosomes in a cart- and we are in our sixties and walking! Keegan Bradley’s two step was only cute for a while, but at least when he does finally get to the ball he hits it quickly. Jim Furyk’s back-offs seem almost designed to annoy the viewer. The real problem, however, is just the enormous amount of time spent talking, fidgeting, club selection, walking a round the shot from every angle, standing still “visualizing” what you are going to have for dinner, throwing grass up in the air five times. We all know that basic golf etiquette demands that you hit the ball when it is your turn and that all the pre-shot thinking ought to be done as you are walking up to the ball or waiting for another player to hit. I wish that golf commentators were more critical and more honest about which professional golfers are the primary culprits in being role models for slow play.
I have no solution to this problem. It exists much less in Ireland and Scotland where people practically run around the course. This is partly because they often are playing match play and don’t worry about their score. It’s also because the weather encourages one to complete a round as quickly as possible and head for the warmth and dryness of the clubhouse. But it’s also part of how they play and enjoy the game. I have thought that courses should give partial refunds of green fees to players who complete a round within a designated amount of time. Designating certain hours in the morning and evening for singles and two-balls might also help. Marshals who are firm with slow players would help, but the retired guys who get paid nothing to do that rarely want to start trouble. I just know that golf is a lot more fun when you play it at a good pace and I think you usually play better when you play faster.