I worked at the same golf course in high school and part of college for about five years, give or take a few months. I held the esteemed title of Cart Boy and my duties - when I wasn't recklessly driving carts around the course and goofing off - were to park the carts by the first tee, pick the range, and wash the carts when they came back in after a round. It was a simple job that required little thought and provided free golf for half of a decade.
In other words, it was the greatest job I ever had.
Every time I drove a cart up to the first tee I saw a list of ten course rules on a big sign, with a medium sized sign beneath it that said, "Please play at a steady pace. 9-hole round time limit: 2 hours, 15 minutes; 18-hole round time limit: 4 hours, 30 minutes."
For a public course that was often crowded, the time limits seemed manageable and fair. Fifteen minutes per hole, even with a foursome, is a long enough shot clock that no group (minus a foursome of hacks slicing, hooking and losing balls) should hear buzzers and draw shot clock violations.
Besides, those time restrictions are not an indicator to players at the amount of time it SHOULD take to play the round. It's letting you know if you ever approach that limit, it may be time to get some golf lessons. Quite a few of them, actually.
Pace of play was only enforced when a group of players were playing so slow that multiple groups called into the club house to complain. It didn't happen very often, but when it did, it was always funny to see the old starter have to leave his post from the first tee to go track someone down and tell them to respect his authority.
No one ever listened, and no one ever got booted. But, why?
In this case, playing on a public course has a lot to do with it. But, we're talking about a course in a town with a population of just over 5,000 with 10 other courses in a 10 mile radius. Players are paying good money to get out on the courses around my hometown and I'm sure for many of the club professionals, it's easier to just let them take their time, rather than rile them up and lose them as a customer.
This isn't the case on the PGA Tour, where slow play is becoming a bigger concern to people every week it seems.
Anyone who has watched Kevin Na play golf knows that comparing his speed to a snails pace would be a compliment. Perhaps that 16 he shot in the first round of the Valero Texas Open on a Par 4 is the golf gods way of telling him it's time to stop approaching every shot with the carefulness of a brain surgeon. To stop staring at every putt as though a beloved family member or friend's life depends on his sinking the putt.
Golf is his livelyhood, this is true, but there is no reason for such a methodical approach. Especially if you've never even won a PGA Tour event.
My intention is not to call out the slowest players on Tour, for Golf.com has already done that for us , I'm just going to add my opinion to the thousands of others as to how to fix the issue. The only difference? This one works.
To me, it's simple: just start adding strokes. Fines simply won't do it, because the penalty system is flawed in itself. If a player is put on the "slow clock" 10 times during the year, it's a $20,000 fine. Mere pocket change with tournament purses in the millions for winners.
Take a cue from baseball: every three strikes and you're out (aka add a stroke). Take a cue from basketball: add a shot clock (unfortunately, I don't think we'll get a buzzer to go along with it).
I won't pretend to know what the amount of time should be because there are smarter golf experts out there that could figure that out. However, if a player exceeds the shot clock once he gets to his ball, he gets a strike. Get three strikes and you get a stroke. Get three more and you get another stroke.
Just like in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, imposing a financial penalty won't do any good. You've got to hit 'em where it hurts, or nothing changes.
There have been a number of ways to speed up the game, but the one I find most interesting comes from Geoff Shackelford. He proposes creating a competition ball that all players use which would even the playing field in terms of distance on longer holes. Personally, I think it's a moot point and a reach, but it's interesting nonetheless.
I don't believe it's an equipment issue since any player can play whatever equipment they want (it's their choice to get a sponsor or not) as long as it meets PGA Tour rules.
Other than my solution, I think the best solution/comment I've read about pace of play comes from Geoff Ogilvy, who tweeted that it's simply a respect issue (see below).
When you think about it, that's true. No one is saying that you can't think about what you're doing, especially with so much money and job security on the line, but there has to be a common respect amongst players to not inhibit others because you have to read Moby Dick between shots.
See ball, think, hit ball. It's not rocket science. And if you think it is... add a stroke.
Slow play, fast tweets
The following conversation took place on Twitter Monday night after Peter Kostis (@peterjkostis) attempted to do a little research about slow play. PGA Tour players and golf writers chimed in, including: Geoff Schackelford (@geoffshack), Paul Azinger (@paulazinger), Geoff Ogilvy (@geoffogilvy), Arron Oberholser (@arronoberholser), and Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405).
A simple question turned into a cat fight between Kostis and Shackelford, but if you follow either of them closely enough, that is no surprise.
@peterjkostis - OK Tweeps! I'm writing a slow play article for Golf Mag. Give me your 3 best ideas for speeding up play for the tour and your home course.
@paulazinger - Slw ply is here 2 stay! 5generations since Jack&complaining started
@geoffshack - Create a competition ball to reduce the number of back-ups on short 4's and all par-5s!
@peterjkostis - You owe me $10 cause I bet you would make the ball the problem! :-)
@arronoberholser - I'm fine with one ball Geoff. Every company would make their own pro ball. I'm not worried, hell, bring back the professional 90!
@peterjkostis - Same worn out argument about me and the ball. Show some imagination!ZZZZ
@geoffshack - it's not in any way part of the problem? All the architects and players fault?
@arronoberholser - you could have one ball for sure. We have one set of grooves. They would have to retool the ball makers for a tour ball.
@dougferguson405 - Sorry, have to agree with @peterjkostis. You're becoming too predictable.
@geoffogilvy - It is a respect issue. If you truly don't want to hold anyone up, you won't
@paulazinger - Actually it's been 50 years since Jack and slow play concerns
@geoffshack - ok then so would play speed up if the ball went 20 yards longer?
@peterjkostis - Blaming the long ball for slow play is like blaming the Pope for your local mass service running long.
@geoffogilvy - keep it up, I enjoy the banter
@geoffshack - have u been to a tour event lately?play bogs down on p5s because they are all reachable!
@dougferguson405 -but there is slow play everywhere. it's not just a problem at the highest level.
@geoffogilvy - they time for groups out of position, but with no realistic chance of getting a penalty it's not very effective
@peterjkostis - I ask people what they think contributes to slow play and you want to hijack the conversation to talk about ball rollback. Geez!
@geoffshack - Here's the giveaway: you don't even entertain that distance could be one of the things at play here in slowing things up.
@peterjkostis - At this point, hampsters and the smell of elderberries comes to mind. I'm bored with you and this. Good night.
@geoffshack - you're the one who singled out my comment and made a big fuss!