6 Ways to Speed Up The Game of Golf

Photo by Cristina Anne Costello on Unsplash

Let’s have a talk on slow play. Given the growing popularity of the game since many sought refuge from “the bug” several years ago, it has become apparent we need some guidelines around pace of play. It’s getting slooow out there.

Having been around the game for 3/4 of my life, I feel I’ve been able to gain some insight as to what may speed things up. Here are my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours too.

1. Bring back the rangers

When was the last time you saw a ranger making his way through the course while you were golfing? I honestly cannot recall. At several high-end golf courses here in Minnesota, there are starters, but I have not seen rangers on the course during play. These guys can help speed things up in a helpful, non-threatening way. Bring. Them. Back.

2. Institute a handicap requirement

I’m not for making the game more elitist. But, we do need some guidelines. I don’t think it is far-fetched to require golfers to carry and show a handicap before play. Especially at your 18-hole courses. And, I’m not saying this handicap needs to be hard to obtain (even a handicap kept on an golf app will do). Neither I am advocating for it to be a low handicap. St. Andrews (the home of golf!) has a handicap requirement of 36. Given the highest handicap offered is 54, I think a 36 requirement to play a 6,000+ yard course is sufficient.

3. Play your tees

If you aren’t routinely hitting the golf ball over 240 yards with your driver (which, to be honest, most male golfers average 215 yards), move up a tee box. No need to make the game less enjoyable or slow up play. For male golfers, that means playing from the white or gold (senior?) tees and for the females, the red tees. There is no shame in playing up.

4. Keep the extracurricular activities to a minimum

Looking for golf balls in the pond, going to each playing partner’s golf ball to watch them hit, using AimPoint to line up every putt, and making 3-5 practice swings before you hit only slows up play. Be purposeful in your game and efficient. Enjoy your time, but be efficient about it. I’ve played my best golf when I’ve not dilly-dallied over every shot. Most of us are not playing for our livelihoods.

5. Courses can help

Golf courses aren’t immune to how they can affect pace of play. Educate golfers through signage (when to wave players up on certain holes) and using starters and rangers (how long each golf hole should take to play, when to “pick up”, etc). Most of the courses that have a healthy pace of play seem to put playing efficiently as an up-front expectation. Also, ensure your course has adequate yardage markers (I love it when a course tells me via the scorecard or tee signs how far it is to something in the distance off the tee). I also enjoy when golf courses equip their carts with range finders. Lastly, allow plenty of time between tee-offs. Ten minutes between each isn’t going to cut it.

6. Alleviate bottlenecks

Every course seems to have that “one hole” that tends to slow up play. At these holes, there needs to be clear and concise direction about pace and how to combat it. At a course I grew up on, it had an island fairway and peninsula green that seemed to cause back-ups and headaches. I wish the course would have moved the tees up (especially on weekends) and built a bridge (or have a ferry) to the green. One of the culprits to the slow pace of play on the hole was the pathway length which required golfers to make this long trek to the green. What also caused problems is the golfers hitting it into the water again and again. In many cases, they could have dropped closer OR near the green. But, this requires clear signage / and education. Heck, if a hole is causing that much back-up, at least put a beverage cart OR concession house nearby.

Final thoughts

Pace of play has been a long-standing issue in the game of golf. I realize this. There are some courses that are always going to struggle with it — but I feel that implementing some of these suggestions can and will speed things along.

I’d like to hear from you too. What do you think will help speed up play?

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