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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Slow Play - The curse of the game and 5 culprits

Our 8-man buddy trip is coming up next month to London and Scotland. Finally, I have convinced the boys that London has such great golf that we would be crazy once again to suffer the agonies of Heathrow without the ecstasy of golf in the wonderful heath land to the west and south of the capital of the old country. The classic heather strewn courses are too numerous to mention and we have several of these on our plan - St. Georges Hill, Walton Heath Old, Sunningdale Old. It should be a treat. Then it's off to Scotland for The Old Course, Muirfield, and North Berwick (pictured above).
That all sounds great, but what's the point of this blog, other than to name drop? Well, the point is this, on several days we are playing 36 holes and although the tee times are not set in stone at most British clubs we will have no problem playing 36 holes on these world class courses. Sadly the same cannot be said for many of courses I have encountered in the US where 4 1/2 to 5 hours has become the norm. The reasons are numerous so let's take a look at a few and ponder why the US golfer has slowed to a crawl and yet British golfers simply hit the ball and when it stops, hit it again! Here are 5 of the main culprits.

1. Carts. A dreadful invention and used by able-bodied people who should know better. Golf is a game for walking, not driving. If you have a medical reason, no problem, but kids and anyone who can walk should walk. I see more carts moving sideways or backwards here than I see moving forward! Players driving over to see their opponents ball, or if "cart paths only" are in operation taking one club out to their ball only to return 2 minutes later for another!

2. Electronic devices. Regular readers will know I would like to blow these all up or have a large receptacle by the first tee for them. It would be just like going through the airport and the golf equivalent of the TSA would ask you to dispose of your electronic yardage device - you know it doesn't help anyway and they just add time to the round. "Jerry, you have 167 yards and not 169 yards" (as we thought by looking in a yardage book) - oh, let me take that couple of yards off my 6 iron swing! I don't think so and you took 2 minutes to make your mind up and hit it 130 yards!

3. Watching golf on television. The Brits watch golf too, but for some reason the excruciatingly slow play on the professional tours seems to have had a more negative effect on US amateur golfers than their foreign counterparts. The question is when will the tours actually try and speed up the game and stop pretending that 5 hours is acceptable. Go on, fine someone a shot and see what that does - money won't get it done, but shots will. The American Junior Golf Association has been proactive by introducing a "Pace of Play Program" for their young, aspiring College players - the tours should take a leaf out of the AJGA's book and follow suit, so guys like Webb Simpson, Jonathan Byrd and Ben Crane get a move on!

4. Drinks carts. Don't have 'em in the UK and the only reason they exist in the US is to generate revenue. A noble idea for sure, but just one more thing that holds up play. A bunch of old dudes chatting up the 19-year-old cart girl is no reason to add 15 minutes to the round. Fellas, she is not interested!

5. Keeping score. Stop it now! This is supposed to be fun! If it's inside the leather pick it up and move on. In the UK, 99% of golf is matchplay and it's the major reason that golf keeps moving. I don't need to be waiting 230 yards away watching you putting out for a 7... I'll give you a 6 if you pick it up and get out of the way! Think Chevy Chase in Caddyshack and measure your performance by height!

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