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Slow play: Who’s to blame if we’re all innocent

“Everybody’s innocent in here, don’t you know that?”

This rhetorical question comes as an early education to new inmate Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) from life prisoner “Red” (played by Morgan Freeman) in the movie “Shawshank Redemption.”

The crimes may not be equal, and there are no sentences handed down, but the claim is just as consistent on the golf course. When it comes to slow play, it seems everyone is innocent.



Yet slow play might be the most heinous crime in the world of golf. On an individual basis, no one likes to play with a slow player, and on a global scale, it is a top reason people quit the game (it takes too long).

A blog, “fourundergolf,” (referencing the hours and not their score) recently completed a survey of 900 players. The survey contained several questions regarding pace of play, and the bottom line was that the vast majority felt slow play was a major issue. They wanted something done about it. They wanted to play in four hours or less. They wanted some action.




Next, each of the 900 golfers had the opportunity to rate themselves as: very fast, fast, average, slow, very slow. Of these players, 70 percent listed themselves as “very fast or fast,” 30 percent were “average” — not one of 900 surveyed admitted they were slow or very slow!

It may be human nature to hold a somewhat distorted view of ourselves. Yet it is ironic that we all see slow play as a large problem, but there are no slow players. Crimes are being committed, rounds are more than five hours long, and no one sees themselves as the “perp.”

So … in order to improve scores and help everyone have more fun on the course, here are some hints (okay, guidelines) to help with pace of play.

No. 1, start your round on time. Your group has started when the first ball is in the air. A 10 a.m. starting time should have the first ball in the air at 10 a.m. You know your starting time. You shouldn’t need to have someone call you. Get to the tee early and get that ball in the air on time.

No. 2, keep up with the group in front of you. The group behind you is irrelevant. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “Well, there’s nobody waiting on us.” Just because they’re not leaning on a golf club does not mean they’re not waiting. They’re probably asleep.

The goal is to have no extra space between your group and the group in front of you. Throughout the round, as you arrive at your next shot, the group in front should be vacating the area (fairway or green) you intend to hit at next.

Also when you make the turn (played nine holes), ask the starter (if in reasonable proximity) or check your watch. The time should be two hours after you started.

If you’re behind time, make some adjustments to your play. Dispense with protocol and hit when you’re ready (and it’s safe). This is called “ready golf.” Concede the short putts (unless you’re playing for a living). Divide and conquer. Turn off the cell phone.

Finally, check the watch when you have completed your round. It should be four hours after your starting time.

Golfers, as humans, are a fascinating lot. We are all concerned with slow play, and we’re all consumed with everybody else, yet we don’t want to consider ourselves as a suspect. So follow these steps and know the truth. Not only will it set you free to play faster, it will make you a very popular player!

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at jrenslow@pga.com.


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