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On the golf course, be aware, be considerate

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By Elsa Bonstein, Golf Gab

Every year or so, I write a column about slow play, praying that it will help move folks around the golf course faster. Everyone hates slow play and even the PGA and the USGA have come out with various campaigns and slogans recently. Most memorable are the “while we’re young” videos that have appeared during various televised golf tournaments.    
Slow play is a persistent problem and we need to change our way of thinking about it.  Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we are a problem.  
Several months ago, I had a conversation with Adam Peters, of Meadowlands. He is a golfer but had a unique perspective on the problem since he had worked as a ranger for several years. For my non-golfing readers, a ranger is a person who drives throughout the golf course in a cart, giving player assistance and making sure the golf journey is smooth and swift for everyone.        
Peters grew up in Linden, N.J., and as a young man he served our country in the Navy as an electronics technician (stationed at Guantanamo Bay). After the Navy, he worked for IBM for 30 years in the service end of the business. His was the first home built at Meadowlands.  
Adam is an articulate, detail-oriented guy who hated slow play so much he wrote a piece about it. When he showed it to me, I loved it and asked whether I could use his ideas in my column.
He agreed, and so without further ado, below is Peters’ “Why We Play Slow.”
Every golfer has stood on the tee or in the middle of the fairway poised in that famed position of frustration: one hand on the hip, the other leaning on a selected club. Endlessly, he watches the group in front of him, waiting and waiting for them to move out of the way.  
Why? Slow play.
The reasons for slow play can be attributed to two words: Awareness and consideration.
Awareness is a state of mind: being conscious and cognizant of the environment around you. The unaware person has his head in the clouds. He’s having a grand old time smelling the clean air. He is enjoying the view, the weather or the beauty of the course. Sometimes an unaware person is deeply engrossed in his game, concentrating on his score, his swing.  
Consideration, on the other hand, is an attitude. Lack of consideration leads to a selfish attitude that sanctions slow play. “Hey, I paid my green fee and golf is not a race. I’m here to relax and enjoy my game. I’ll play at my own pace.”  
The mission of this article is to heighten awareness that may enable all golfers to quickly identify themselves if and when they become the reason for slow play.  
Remember: Awareness, consideration and ready golf.
Most clubs allow 2 hours and 6 minutes per side with a 5-minute break at the turn. In an 18-hole round, that comes to an average of 14 minutes per hole.  
We can do it if we have awareness, consideration and we play ready-golf. Ready golf is the key to the 4-hour round. This means you are ready to take your next stroke as soon as your partner or competitor has hit.  
You begin to get ready to hit as you approach your ball (whether walking or riding). You may not know exactly what club you will use, but you’re looking at the layout of the land, elevation, distance — even the wind direction and strength.  
If you’re unsure which club, take several (especially if you’re playing cart path only).  Keep your setup simple, get comfortable and hit the ball.  
Eighteen tips on ready golf:
1. If you walk up to the tee box and can hit right away, you are too slow. If you are in the fairway and never have to wait, you are too slow. A short wait between shots means that you are keeping the pressure on those up front, helping them to move along. You should always be waiting, a little. The point is to keep up.  
2. As you are waiting on the tee box, select your club and get your ball teed up. Always be ready to hit.  
3. Don’t stand on the “honors” rule. Don’t wait for the slowpoke. Go ahead and hit if he is not in the line of fire.    
4. If you’ve hit a bad shot and think the ball is lost or out of bounds, hit a provisional ball immediately. Keep an extra ball in your pocket for this purpose.  
5. When you hit a shot, follow it for the entire length of flight. If you have vision problems, ask someone in your group to follow the flight of the ball. If the ball leaves the fairway, pick a tree or bush to mark it and go directly to that spot. Don’t stop along the way to watch the others play their shots. Find your ball and keep the game moving.
6. When you are having a bad hole, pick up the ball and take your punishment. Unless required by a tournament, don’t take 14 shots on a hole when you can only post a 6.  
7. After you hit, don’t stand in the middle of the fairway to clean and stow your clubs. Go to your next shot and do it then. You’ll probably be waiting a bit and moving forward will allow the group behind you to hit its shots.  
8. Don’t take or give lessons while on the course. Save it for the practice tee.  
9. Keep your pre-shot routine simple. Don’t take excessive practice swings, or worse yet, take post-shot swings to try to figure out what went wrong. Go to the range for this.     
10. Park your cart or leave your bag in an area that is easy to get to from the green.  
11. Allowing a foursome to play through does not vindicate your group’s continued slow play. The other groups behind you will, unfortunately, continue to feel the effects of your slow play.       
 12. When putting, take the time to survey the green, but do this simultaneously with the other golfers. Always be ready to putt when it’s your turn.  
13. If someone in your group has hit an errant shot into a bunker or worse, go ahead and putt while he finds his ball.  
14. If you must have a wager, make it match play, not total score. In this way, you can pick up and concede the hole without having to take the dreaded snowman (or worse).  
15. If there is a question on rules, put down another ball, play both and then ask the pro for a ruling when you get in. Remember that you cannot do this in a match play tournament; each hole must be decided before moving on to the next.
16. Save the long discussions on your favorite football or basketball team for the 19th hole.  
17.  Don’t ball hawk.  
18.  Remember, if you are first off, or if there is no one in front of you, you become the pace-setter for all who follow.  It only takes one group to back up the entire course.  
So there it is, fellow golfers,  Adam Peters’ guide to get moving on the golf course.  
Remember his advice: Speed up, catch up and keep up.
Be aware and be considerate.
Golf Gab groaner
This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I’d never met herbivore. (Submitted by Mary Lou Montanari.)
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at elanbon@atmc.net. Follow her at facebook.com/elsa.bonstein.