Land of the 6.5-hour round of golf at the World Amateur in Myrtle Beach
Take 120 players competing in stroke play split into foursomes (most holes have an A and B group) and put them on a Pete Dye-designed course and you’ve got a recipe for a tidy and efficient 6.5-hour round of golf.
Such was the case today at the Dye Barefoot course in the World Amateur Handicap Championships. Many of the Grand Strand’s 100-plus golf courses usually pack foursomes in pretty good on any day (I play more five-hour casual rounds here than anywhere else in the world) but the World Amateur makes the illusion of a five-hour round of golf feel as possible as a three-minute mile.
So how do you keep your concentration when you come to your third hole and there is already another group waiting to hit on the tee? My cart partner, Roberto Ronchini from Italy would smoke. I asked him if he likes European cigarettes or the Marlboros he was smoking in the south. He said the only time he ever smokes is on the golf course so it doesn’t matter.
I usually passed the time pacing back and forth on the tee like a jailed Cincinnati Bengal awaiting bail. Two weeks ago I was in Wales playing 18-27 holes every day for a week and didn’t wait on a single shot all trip. Not only could you play in under four hours easy there, the weather was also pleasant - not the 95-degree furnace that is South Carolina in August.
In three rounds so far, our fastest round has been a woeful 5 hours, 45 minutes at Diamondback. What is a bit offensive to the players is the five-minute speech from each course’s head pro before each round, when they lecture us on how the course is set up to get us around in under five hours easy, and if we take any longer it’s pretty much our fault. They may as well drop us off in middle of the Kalahari and expect us to stay hydrated.
When you have a 120-player shotgun start there is simply no room to go anywhere. You can’t blame us.
The only solution to speed things up is to use fewer players per course, no more than one group per hole. Only then would we have a more reasonable pace, around that elusive five-hour mark. This all obviously depends on how many courses are participating versus the amount of players entered. You would think in the 24 years of the World Am they’ve heavily researched this issue so I’m not going to try and reinvent the wheel.
I’m moping a little, I know. But I’m still looking forward to round four at Pawleys Plantation tomorrow - even though a suspect round today has me out of contention for the Friday playoff unless Domino’s is dishing out some bad pepperoni pizza at the 19th hole tonight.
It’s funny, all of the competitors in this event know about the sandbagging, jammed courses and sticky weather. Each also has their own horror story talking about 15s scored on holes or worse. But everyone keeps coming back. I haven’t met anyone yet who is playing in their first World Am, but plenty who are playing in their 10th or more.
*I’d also like to give a shot out to George Yocum in Flight 4. I noticed he is from Las Vegas and thus accused him as a sandbagger in my witch hunt last night. Well, a dreadful 96 sent him from 4th place to the mid-20s. So either this is a very advanced form of sandbagging or there is actually some honesty in Sin City.
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You hit it on the nose when you said that
120 players is too many. It's not the player's
fault either as the courses and officials are
just putting too many players on the course for
this kind of format. Maybe, they'll learn that
spreading out the thousands at 96 per course
would result in faster and more fun rounds for
the contestants, but each course is afraid of
losing those extra 24 green fees.