Slow Play in Golf

More than once I’ve thought about playing at a particular course and then passed when remembering that it usually takes 5 hours there. Only a few years ago there were rangers on the course making sure everyone stuck to the 4 hour time limit.

Nowadays I don’t see rangers anywhere. Is that because golf courses figure they can’t afford it. If that’s the case, then I think they’re missing the bigger picture. With slow play they are apt to lose more in greens fees than they’d have to pay a ranger.

Slow play isn’t about crowded courses from what I see. I played 18 holes in a threesome recently and we played through three groups. The course wasn’t crowded by any means. There were vast expanses of open holes in front of each group.

They were taking in excess of 20 minutes per hole. In my definition that’s not golf. Do they enjoy taking that long? I just don’t get it. It’s a game and it has to be fun or people will give up the sport. Waiting 3 or 4 minutes before taking every shot isn’t fun.

The slow play I’ve seen is not because of a physical handicap or beginners’ playing skills. Many golfers just don’t seem to know how to play a hole as a group. In one instance last week, two golfers in a cart came 100 yards backward for a shot after playing the farthest shot first.

My wife and I played behind two young men who looked to be in their early 20’s. We literally played a circle around them. We finished ahead of them and played 6 extra holes in between. I have no idea why they were taking so long. They were competent players, but they agonized over every stroke as if it was worth their pay check.

Male, female, young, old, beginner and 15 handicapper – it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Slow play cannot be attributed to any one group. Are golfers being effected by the slow play they see on the pro tours? Or are we, as a society, less concerned about others? A foursome can finish a round in under 4 hours without rushing a shot. It requires ‘ready golf’ and, except in tournaments, that should be the norm. With ‘ready golf’ you take your shot when you’re ready to play, not standing on ceremony that the player furthest from the hole goes first.

Part of slow play may be more golfers looking for lost balls. If you hit a lot of errant shots, don’t play Pro V1’s unless money means nothing. Is it just me, or does it seem that most new courses are made as difficult – read long and tight – as possible. This doesn’t help slow play. I predict that course design logic will change in the coming years to save the game.

More modern designers should take a page out of the old Scottish designers’ books. You can make a course challenging and difficult without requiring a golfer to lose balls. A pot bunker is a wonderful hazard and though you may wish you couldn’t find your ball once it’s rolled in, it will be lying in plain sight. Well placed trees and shrubs are challenges that don’t usually eat balls.

It would help slow play if all golfers were educated on etiquette and rules, and if courses used rangers. It shouldn’t take more than a few months of enforcement to ‘train’ players to 4 hour rounds. Beginners sometimes have to ‘pick up’ on a hole to keep from slowing play. Learning this is as important as learning how to hit a shot out of the sand.

The U.S. could take a few pointers from the Europeans on how to keep rounds speedy. Courses in many countries require a particular handicap for play and sometimes for each tee box as well. New players are required to pass a ‘playing’ test with a pro before getting their first handicap card. This insures everyone is on the same page on rules and etiquette. And remember, it’s no sin to let faster players through. A par 3 is a convenient place for a pass.

One last word to golfers that want to play the classic courses from the same place the pros do. If you don’t hit 300+ yard drives, you aren’t really playing the same course. Think about it. Even if your drives are 270, you won’t be in range of the hazards, like bunkers and narrowing fairways, that the pros face. Play the tees that force you to negotiate the same hazards as the pros and your experience will more closely approximate theirs.

Doug Farrick is a co-founder of The GolfDash Blog – a golfdashboard dedicated to improving your game with great deals, news, reviews and no B.S. commentary. To find out more or to contact Doug with questions related to this article, email or visit:

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By bedrck from Pixabay

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