Don’t blame us
for slow play

It’s bad enough when rain stops you playing golf but when it prevents you swanning around the course in a buggy as a marshal’s assistant it is doubly sad.
My enforced lay-off following an operation still has a couple of months to go but last weekend I was offered the chance to witness at first hand our club’s latest clamp-down on slow play.
This was slightly ironic since every time slow play is discussed my regular three-ball tends to get mentioned in a derogatory manner. Needless to say, we are aggressively vociferous in our defence. Not that we disagree with the principle, we just don’t like getting picked on.
The European Tour has also declared war on slow play and they penalised Ross Fisher one shot at the Wales Open last month. At Glamorganshire, suspensions are threatened.
There wouldn’t be much point in imposing a shot penalty at our level — most of the 200 or so who compete in each monthly medal would hardly notice if you added five shots to their total.
But stopping a club golfer playing in a medal is a cruel punishment. You have to queue up a week ahead to get your name down for one, that’s how keen everyone is to play in them. We are far keener on competitive rather than social golf.
Every golfer has their own idea of what constitutes slow play. In the third round of the US Women’s Open at Wisconsin last week the final two-ball took five hours and 25 minutes. They were probably having a chat.
Obviously, games of that duration would cause havoc in club golf. At our club, the match and handicap committee have decided that four hours, which includes a refreshment stop at the halfway house, should be the norm.
As it is, those off first in the morning usually manage to finish inside that time but by the afternoon rounds are taking four hours 30 minutes or more which is not good enough.
Match captain Leon is determined to speed play up so that no-one is unduly delayed. The first offence will attract a warning letter and dilly-dallying for a second time will earn a two weeks suspension for all competitions.
To help maintain the pace of play, a series of course marshals will be cruising the course in a buggy to encourage any laggards to get a move on.
And to ensure everyone begins on time, a starter will be posted on the first tee. Anyone late will also attract a penalty.
Leon invited me on his buggy to see how it all went but the torrential rain closed the course.
Just to prove there’s nothing new in this game, we had a slow play problem when I was captain 20 years ago. I appointed a senior member as a starter and because he’d be on duty for six or seven hours I arranged for him to be paid a couple of bob.
A year or so later, after my term of office was over, they sacked him to save money. I feel somewhat vindicated that a starter has been re-introduced and I may have mentioned it once or twice in the bar.
Of course, whenever slow play is brought up the poor old hackers are usually blamed. But common sense tells you that a golfer taking 110 shots in a medal is liable to be slower than one who takes 70.
Although that doesn’t always apply. Hackers don’t generally ponce around the green studying putts from every angle. And after playing a shot we tend not to stand there posing for 30 seconds
As for my infamous three-ball; Max, Mike and myself usually play at about 9 am. Unfortunately, most of those who start earlier have a passion for rapid play that we don’t share. This is not surprising since our combined age is about 220 and we take around 300 shots between us.
But we still get home in around four hours. They take pride in being a lot quicker. In fact, if you ask them how their round went instead of giving you their nett score as most would they say ‘three hours 41 minutes’.
Now, you wouldn’t mind if they were in a rush to finish in order to take their wives shopping or to see their sons play football. No, they gather round the back of the 18th green, with a steady accumulating array of empty glasses in front of them, mocking the finishing times of those behind them.
Our only explanation is that they are all alcoholics who can’t wait to get back to the clubhouse to have a drink.
Having said that, we are wholeheartedly behind Leon’s campaign and I hope Leon invites me onto his marshal’s buggy when last weekend’s postponed medal is played next weekend. I’d welcome the role of independent observer.

2 thoughts on “Don’t blame us
for slow play

  1. Peter, my first golf club was a new pay and play and so had many members who were new to the game and didn’t know their way around a golf course. The winter league was a pairs beter ball stableford and rounds would typically take up to 5 hours. My partner and I were grumbling during yet another interminable wait on a tee when one of our playing partners said ‘Oh I don’t mind how long it takes, this is my leisure time the longer the better.’ We were needless to say stunned to silence.

  2. Come and play in Asia where every super-hacker believes they are playing on the final day of the Masters. My record experience was 6 hours 45 minutes in a competition and the last 5 groups didn’t beat nightfall. 38 C and 95% humidity added to the enjoyment. All good fun. As an expat I really enjoy the weekly posting. All the best from Vietnam

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