Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Slow Play - Golf's Curse (Part 3)

We've all seen what slow play has done to the Professional game of golf. Five, six hour rounds are not unheard of and, after the furore that arose a week and a half a go when Tiger won (and played the last 9 holes in over 3 hours thanks to those ahead of him), the USGA are now 'actively' looking at ways to improve pace of play in the Pro game.

But what about the amateur game? Unfortunately the news is little better. The website Golfshake.com conducted a survey last year and published its results in November. It's not happy reading. Lots has been written about slow play in the amateur game... see my Part 1 Here and Part 2 Here for starters... but what can you, as an individual golfer, do about it?

Plenty. And here's what you need...

Thick Skin
It takes a thick-skinned individual to approach other golfers to ask them to move along or stand back and let others play through. More often than not you're at your home club, which makes these people acquaintances and sometimes friends. You do, however, have right on your side, so it comes down to three things: having the balls, how you approach the guilty party and what you say to them.

There's nothing new in my advice so apologies if I'm teaching you to suck tricks or learn new eggs.

Approaching the Guilty Party
First give them a chance to pick up their pace. Something you didn't see may have happened, so wait a hole or two just in case things improve.

If that doesn't happen, make the decision to ask them to hurry up or to let you play through, i.e. don't just bitch about it to your playing partners. Pick an appropriate spot where you can have the conversation - holes that go back and forth are good, as is a par three. Don't holler at the lads 200 yards ahead. You may know you're in the right, but such antics make you look like a pillock. Ideally catch them as they're leaving the tee - it's hard for them to ignore you when you're that close behind them. Failing that, ask one of your partners to take your bag and go on ahead to chat to the slow players.

Always be courteous. Chances are the conversation may get confrontational but stay calm. Never give the group an opportunity to claim later that you were aggressive or rude. For one thing they can use it as a Get Out of Jail Free card; and for another they can use it to make you look bad.

Have your spiel ready.

What Do You Say?
Stating the obvious and telling them they're slow, that they've lost two holes and they're holding you up probably isn't the best approach... these are not words any golfer likes to hear. So be delicate and have your rationale ready so you get your point across clearly.

"Lads, would you mind if we played through. I'm off to the game this afternoon/I have my daughter's party/I need to get a pacemaker fitted before I have a heart attack from the boredom of watching your abysmal golf."

Use names if you know them.
Because sometimes things move faster in a graveyard than on a golf course!
Don't argue, prepare for their wrath or, more likely, their smart remarks, and figure out how to deal with it. Diffuse the situation if it starts to get ugly by bringing in the other golfers. Be prepared to be forceful, point out their pace of play and report them if necessary - a tough step but it is your right and they are not following proper etiquette, or showing respect for that matter. Hold the high ground and no one can ever say you got bad tempered.

"I Will In Me Arse!"
Some golfers will moan but let you play through. Others will promise to speed up (and race away for about 10 paces before reverting to type). I've never heard of a golfer actually saying 'No, you can't play through,' (although I did once hear of the above) but if that was to happen I know I'd back off, finish my round and then make sure everyone in the clubhouse knew about it. Arrogant twits like that need to be named and shamed. It may be the only way to get them to realise it's unacceptable behaviour.

If a slow group was constantly challenged over weeks of play, they would probably speed up or learn to be more accommodating. At least that's what I like to think. Or print off articles offering tips on how to speed up pace of play and hand them to these golfers as a gift (see links below).

What You Must Never Do
Do not tee off when they're within range and then shout Fore! If you hit them you could be in serious trouble. Do not get aggressive. Do not be sexist or ageist or rude. Stay in control.

One final thought - if you are concerned that maybe it is you who is the slow golfer, or you'd just like to  read some suggestions on how to speed up your pace of play, try golf.about.com here... and part II.

If you have any slow-play-in-golf stories to share - whether you were on the giving or receiving end - let's hear them.

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