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Pace of PlayIf you are planning a trip to Hell this month I suggest that you pack your insulated underwear because it’s going to be frozen. The cause of this phenomenon, you see, is something rarer than a sighting of Halley’s Comet – Tom Gorman winning a debate. I am conceding victory to NEGM’s winner of the Brandt Snedeker look-alike contest before I compose a single word to support the affirmative side of our October debate; “Can golfers learn to play a round in three hours?  The answer should be yes, “While We’re Young”.

In Scotland, birthplace of the game, the average time to play a round of golf is 3:10, while in the good old U.S. of A. it’s 4:15 and if you’ve ever played in any of your local club’s major tournaments you know the norm is closer to five hours. Earlier this year I played in a threesome that walked Triggs Memorial Golf Course in 2:20. We played 18 holes, never ran once and putted everything out. But there was nobody in front of us and all three of us are quick players.

It can be done, but I dispute the notion that quickening the pace will draw more people and grow the game. Just the opposite, because to enforce the three-hour round, golf establishments are going to have to harass and/or remove the slower players. Think they’re ever coming back? I once played the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina where the group ahead of us was painfully slow. At the turn they were informed of their pace of play and advised to pick it up. The response was, “We paid $200 apiece for this round of golf and if you think we’re going to rush around this course you’re out of your bleeping mind.”

They were then refunded their money and asked to leave. Now if golf course operators are willing to follow that policy we have a chance to enforce the three hour round.  So here is my 10 step manual to help speed up the game.

1: Rangers must not only be on the course but must have the authority to remove slow groups or players.
2: Electric or gas carts must be singular. Once you put two people in one cart you slow play unless they both hit the ball to similar spots.
3: Golf courses must be willing to reimburse players for all lost balls. People who spend a lot of money for their Pro Vs do not easily abandon them.
4: Each daily fee course should add a $10.00 surcharge to the greens fee. If a group finishes under 3:15 they get the $10.00 back.
5: Ready golf. No waiting for the person who’s got the honor or who’s away.
6: No returning to where you hit your last shot when you lose a ball or hit it out of bounds. Drop one and add a stroke (sorry USGA).
7: Golf courses need to cut down all long and fescue grass. All it does is slow down play.
8: Eliminate cart girls. So what if they bring in a lot of money for the club? People who stop to buy stuff hold up play.
9: Give instruction on where to leave carts and/or bags. Place them between the green and the next tee, not where you have to walk all the way back to them and then go around.
10: Line up your putts or get your yardage while other people are playing. Then you’re ready when it’s your turn.

(Tim Geary is a R.I. based freelance writer. He’s not good but he’s a very quick player).

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