Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Slow Play - Golf's Curse (Part 1)

Type 'golf' and 'slow play' into an Internet search and watch the 31 million results bounce back at you. Of all the problems in golf, slow play is widely regarded as the greatest curse. Never mind the hours wasted on the course, it is also dissuading young people from taking up the game... young people who are the lifeblood and future of golf.

So what do we know about slow play?

Well, for one, you could ask 100 people what's the biggest problem in the game and 95% would reply: 'slow play'. Ask them if they themselves are responsible for slow play and not one would admit to it.

You wouldn't, would you! It's pariah status. And that of course is one of the reasons why it's such a problem... no one believes they're slow, even when the group ahead has pulled two holes clear. They'll have an excuse that allows them to justify their snail-like pace of play... I lost a ball, I had to check the yardage, I had to rake everyone else's footprints in the bunker, it was a really tricky putt, my pipe went out.

When Is Slow Play, Slow Play? 
When the group in front of you holds you up, that's when. It doesn't matter how many people there are in your group - if you're being held up, good etiquette says that you should be waved through.

I know that a single golfer has no 'right' to play through a fourball in these circumstances, but common sense should always prevail.

What is it in a golfer's mindset that makes inviting someone to play through so difficult?
  • Is it an insult to his or her golfing prowess? 
  • Is it the 'I'm not slow so I'm doing nothing wrong'?
  • Is it the 'I'm a 4-handicapper so I'm better than you and I can take my time'?
  • Is it the 'I'm a 24-handicapper so I need to take my time'?
  • Is it the bloody-minded 'I've paid my green fee/subscription and I'll take as long as I damn well please... so sod off'?
But perhaps the most worrying aspect of all is those golfers who don't even notice that they're slow. They're oblivious to the empty holes ahead of them... and oblivious to the waiting golfers behind them and the stares of frustration burning their way.

Damn ball's around here somewhere.
Who Is To Blame?
If you play and love the game you have undoubtedly encountered such situations - and you know full well you'll encounter many more. Why? Three reasons:
  • Because club management is rarely prepared to do anything about it... other than a bit of lip service, the occasional sign on a clubhouse board and/or a passing comment at the AGM. Even Course Rangers often fail in their basic duties. I've only ever seen one telling a group to shift it;
  • Because slow golfers aren't held accountable;
  • And because as golfers we compound the situation by not having the cohones to tackle these golfing sloths.
Seriously, it's not easy going up to the group ahead and asking to play through. There's a risk of abuse, there's a risk of being castigated later in the clubhouse (when it should be the other way around)... or it could get even nastier. But if we, the held-up golfer, don't do anything about it how can we expect things to change.

We need to start making a stand... and my next blog will address how.

In the meantime, here's a new invention that has been beautifully designed to slow the game up even further. I don't like knocking new ideas, but this is a time-wasting invention if ever I saw one:

Slow Play - Golf's Curse (Part 2)
Slow Play - Golf's Curse (Part 3)


  1. There is a movement taking place in Colorado golf called "Golf 240"...meaning play golf in 240 minutes, or 4 hours. It is a start, because SLOW play frustrates golfers more than BAD play. Slow play often leads to bad play, and the combination of both bad and slow make many golfers quit the game. Shooting over 100, and taking 5-6 hours to do it, is torture, plain and simple. GO RORY!

  2. Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for your input on Sidekick Golf Caddy. However, we must tell you that the reviews we have been receiving on the product have all been very positive. Sidekick is designed to reduce fatigue, lower scores and most importantly, speed up play. We think if you give our product a try, you will see a real difference in your golf game and no longer have to deal with the "great curse" of slow play! Please take a look at our website to learn more about the product and read reviews from others: www.sidekickgolfcaddy.com
    Your Friends at Sidekick

    1. Thanks for the feedback guys and a very civilized response.

      I genuinely like your product - it looks neat and practical - but I don't see it saving time when the golfer now has such an easy opportunity to pick four clubs instead of one or two, and delay decisions that should or could have been made earlier in the club selection routine.

      Most golfers I know are already thinking it's - say - a 7 or 8 iron before they reach the ball. If golfers aren't thinking that way when they leave their buggy, then that delays things.

      Buggies aren't as popular over here as in the USA, but the actual process of deciding which clubs to place in the Sidekick Golf Caddy will also delay things... because golfers now have the option to take more clubs with them.

      As I said, a clever product that will help golfers in certain areas but not, as I see it, in speeding up play.

      Good luck in Orlando. Hope you prove me wrong.