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We are getting into the warmer weather. Hot sun, humidity, mosquitoes, and late-afternoon thundershowers mean total aggravation on the course when it takes five hours or more to play 18 holes.
There is no reason for golf to take more than four hours per foursome. In fact, my friend Sherry and I once played 18 holes with a caddie in 2 hours and 25 minutes. Neither of us was a touring pro (we both shot scores in the 90s), but we moved it.
In the interest of everyone’s sanity, and to make golf enjoyable for everyone, here are Golf Gab’s Handy-Dandy Tips for Fast Play:
1. Be locked and loaded on the first tee. Balls marked, tees in your pocket, ball markers within easy reach (glove or pocket). Sun tan lotion applied. Count your clubs when you load them in the car, don’t wait until you get to the tee to remember you left your sand wedge in your garage.
2. Turn your GPS system on when you unload your clubs. It will boot up and be available when you get to the tee.
3. Be a Ready-Freddie. In other words, be ready to hit your shot when it’s your turn. If you always hit a driver on the longer holes, have it in your hand. If you play the course regularly, you already know that on the third hole (a short par 3), you always hit a 7-iron. If you are playing a new course, check out the scorecard so you will have some idea of what club you need. Don’t stand there admiring the reflection of the pine trees in the pond, poem in mind, meditation in your heart. You can do that later on the beach while sitting in the lotus position. Now is the time for golf.
4. If you are playing “cart path only,” take the club you think you need, plus the next longer club and the next shorter club when you walk to your ball. I sometimes take half my bag with me especially on shots to the green. I may have an easy pitch shot, but what if I skull it over the green or dink it into the bunker? To be better prepared, take a sand wedge, a pitching wedge, a ball retriever and an extra ball or two. And for God’s sake, don’t hawk balls while others are waiting to hit their shots.
5. Get prepared while others are hitting their shots. Walk to your ball, select your club, line up your shot. Then when it is your turn, you’re ready to strike the ball.
6. When you are out of the hole, please, please, please pick up your ball. Imagine playing in a best ball tournament. Someone in your foursome has a net 3 (birdie) on a long par 4. Everyone picks up, except one person who insists on finishing the hole, lining up her putt and dropping it for an 8. Argh.
7. Line up your putt while the others are putting. Get a sense of direction and speed before you step up to it. I’ve seen people gazing at the sunset, and when it’s their turn to putt, they wake up and walk around the green, plumb the line, squat down and look it over from the opposite side, take three practice swings and…and…miss. Then, they begin the process over again. Zzz.
8. If you think your ball may be in the woods or in an out-of-bounds or buried in a clump of pampas grass, hit a provisional ball. This will save you from going forward, finding that it’s OB or lost (after searching for five minutes), then having to go all the way back to the tee box to hit another shot. Remember, it is stroke and distance for an out-of-bounds or lost ball.
9. Look ahead, not behind. If there are two holes open behind you, terrific. If there are two holes open in front of you, you are a turtle. Look at it this way: you cannot play any faster than the group in front of you. If you started the round with foursomes in front of you, you should be able to keep up with them unless those groups are made up of touring pros. If you fall behind, pick up the pace.
10. Let faster groups play through. If your foursome is experiencing difficulty, and you do fall behind, wave the group behind you through. You’ll feel a whole lot more comfortable without a crowd of golfers behind you standing in the middle of the fairway leering at your and making obscene gestures.
11. Don’t chitchat. God knows I love to talk, but I try to save it for the post-round libation or lunch. While it is possible to play golf and simultaneously exchange recipes, the name of your hairdresser, the cheapest place to buy mulch, a synopsis of the best-seller you just finished, and who you think should have won “American Idol,” don’t do it.
12. Leave your cell-phone at home or in your car. Unless you are a surgeon with a patient who is on life-support, you don’t need to be connected while playing golf. I’ve played golf with people constantly interrupted by the jingle-jangle of their cellphones. I’ve played golf with people texting after every shot. What could they possibly be saying? “I hit my driver into the middle of the green?” “Meet me for lunch tomorrow?”
When one person in a foursome is a slow player, it creates conflict. The others in the group are constantly running around, picking up clubs, raking the offender’s trap, jogging between their own shots just to keep the group moving along. Don’t be that slow player that no one wants to play with. Keep up a brisk pace and you’ll never lack for playing partners.
Slow play has become a news item on both the PGA and LPGA Tours recently.
During the Sybase Match Play Championship this past weekend, Morgan Pressel was penalized for slow play (loss of hole in match play). She was 3-up with six holes left to play when it happened. That penalty changed the outcome. The hole went to Azahara Munoz and the match became 1-up with three to play. When it was over, Azahara Munoz won the championship.
All of us who watched the Players Championship were horrified to see Kevin Na’s tics and gyrations and waggles on every shot. The pace of play slowed to a crawl while Na dealt with his inner demons. The crowd was annoyed and I’m sure lots of people just turned off their TVs or switched to the baseball. Tiger Woods, in a post-tournament news conference, suggested the PGA Tour start assessing strokes for slow play.
So, dear readers, let’s try to move the game along. Playing faster will make golf more pleasurable for everyone.
Read The Rules of Golf: Rule 6-7. The player must play without undue delay and in accordance with any pace of play guidelines that the Committee may establish. Between completion of a hole and playing from the next teeing ground, the player must not unduly delay play.
Golf Gab groaner
Two golfers meet in the bar after a tournament.
“How are you making out with your new clubs?” asked Fred.
“Great,” Johnny said. “They’ve put 20 yards on my slice.”
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for The Beacon. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at facebook.com/elsa.bonstein.