My part in the slow
play battle

Everyone agrees that something has to be done about slow play — whether it is at top pro level or down among the hackers at competition time. But clamp-downs are not easy to impose, as we are finding out at The Glamorganshire.
Not that there’s been any trouble, nor have any harsh punishments been handed out yet, and there is no doubt that general pace of play has improved.
But there are rumblings which I have been noticing in my role as assistant course marshal; a position that was awarded not because I possess any particular marshalling qualities but I happen to be hanging around the club like a spare toothpick at a wedding while I recover from an operation.
Roger Evans, who is in a similar plight after a stroke last year, is another who has been roped in to the job while a third is Eirian Owen who isn’t recovering from anything but has his own buggy and fond memories of the power he used to have as a deputy headmaster.
The main marshal, of course, is Leon Reece, an ex-RAF officer recently demobbed, who is our match captain and who, quite rightly, is determined to increase our rate of play.
He is not looking for world records but reckons that four hours for a three-ball playing in a medal is plenty and anyone who exceeds that runs the risk of chastisement or even worse if they are persistent offenders.
The trouble is that it is not easy for those playing in the afternoon of a medal to go any quicker if the pace of play has slowed during the day.
Those off first thing in the morning at our club can usually get round well inside four hours. If they don’t stop at the halfway house for the customary bacon sandwich and can of Stella, they’ll be nearer three and a half.
Before I became ill, my three ball used to go out around nine o’clock and be back about four hours later to be greeted with derision by the early pacemakers. When you consider that the combined ages of me, Max and Mike amount to 220 years, and we rarely came back without having hit 300 shots between us, it wasn‘t a bad time.
But some of the afternoon players were taking four and a half hours which is very slow and something needed doing. In the new campaign, players have to record the time they leave the half-way house and the time they finish and, to help them to get a move on, a course marshal buggy is on patrol.
The first week of Leon’s campaign was the July medal. I accompanied him in the buggy in the morning and his gentle encouragement brought an immediate improvement. The afternoon players came home in four hours ten minutes.
The presence of a buggy with the words Course Marshal written big across the front is helpful. I thought we should have hats with Marshal on them but he thought that was going a bit too far.
The following Saturday I went out with Roger and although we didn’t have the match captain’s authority they took pity on two old crocks and moved along well. The following week a thunderstorm soaked everyone, including me and Leon, and last weekend there was no-one around to do the marshalling but me.
Because the greens were being tined and treated, they decided to have a three-club competition. It was a fun event but they still wanted a marshal about so I rode around alone feeling very important.
It didn’t take long to discover a big gap between the first and second three-balls. The second group, which included Max, said they hadn’t seen the first group since they started.
I caught up with the first group and asked if they’d started early but they hadn’t. I do know them and they are pretty quick and the fact they didn’t stop for refreshments accounted for ten minutes or so. But by the 16th, they were four holes in front. I went back to Max and co who said they didn’t think they were going slowly.
I checked with the three behind and they said they weren’t being held up — and the three behind them were just as happy.
But the three behind them complained it was too slow. They had two buggies and I knew them to be quick players. I don’t know why they weren’t called through but this is the problem. Some players are better than others and some are faster and if they are in buggies they are going to be quicker than those walking.
There needs to be pace that satisfies everyone but a little patience is required. I think good marshalling is the answer but it takes time for the marshals to get the hang of it. You need to know why some groups are making slow progress and appreciate that speed is not the only requirement of a decent game of golf. I rthink, on balance I’d rather be a slow player than a marshal.
As it happened, the first group completed their round in a very fast two hours and 59 minutes. Max’s group came in after three hours 25 minutes which I don’t think was slow. It was only a three-club competition but every shot has to be hit the same as in a normal competition.
Three club competitions are usually a wip — wood, iron and putter — but you could use any club in this competition. Some were putting so well with their drivers they were thinking of making the change permanently.
What was interesting is that the winning score was 37 points and there were a dozen or more who had 35 or better. They were asking themselves why they needed to carry a full set every time they played.
Not everyone fared well. Andy Ferrier had an air shot with his putter on the 15th green. He said it would never have happened if he’d had all his clubs.

3 thoughts on “My part in the slow
play battle

  1. In the first paragraph of the above article on slow play, you say “clamp-downs are not easy to impose”.
    Out of interest, I did a google on “golf marshal”.

    One American site that came up on Google gave the definition as: “A golf course marshal ensures smooth pace of play on golf course, and acts as an information centre for golf and real estate development issues.”

    A site connected to the New York Times was more sport-focused and said that: “Some courses allow marshals to force slow groups to move up, skipping part or all of a hole in order to speed up play.”

    This sounds tough stuff. Does it actually happen anywhere, do you think?

    • it is done in Spain. I have witnessed it at El Paraiso a few times, I believe that some ladiy golfers on the continent have handicaps of 48 ! so if they are determined to hole out it is extremely slow.

  2. I witnessed my mate (who hits it a long way, but rarely straight) drive over the brow of a hill on a Par 5 in Spain and through 3 fourballs hacking their way down the long fairway! We had already waited for one of the ladies to hit 6 times before she got over the brow. The round took 6 and a half hours. Nice, sunny day tho.

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