Speeding up pace of play idea: The three-and-a-half hour golf course guarantee
Imagine…an 18-hole round of golf on a regulation size course in three-and-a-half hours.
These days, that sounds borderline impossible - perhaps only if it’s after a rainstorm and you’ve got a course you’ve played 100 times all to yourself. And sure, there are destination courses out there that are built on a lot of acres, are 7,000-plus yards long with hazards and O.B. galore, and require well over four hours to get around. There are also courses in heavily trafficked cities where demand is high that coral golfers in like cattle and space tee times out four minutes, equaling long waits on the tee and five-hour-plus rounds.
But what if a course was built and managed with a three-and-a-half hour promise - and it was actually enforced?
The idea would be to find a classically-designed and routed course, probably built before the 1980s, and one that wasn’t too long and didn’t have so many hazards and thick forests so you’re fishing for balls all day. I might also suggest the first hole of this speed course be a par 3 (I’ve played three courses, the Montgomery Course at Green Hotel in Fife, Kilspindie Golf Club in East Lothian and Ashburnham Golf Club in Wales with par 3 openers). A modest opening par 3 can be easily played in eight minutes by a foursome. By the time the group walks off the tee, that’s the last time the group behind should ever be waiting.
Now, if a group isn’t holding anyone up behind them, they can play as fast/slow as they wish. But if they ever hold a group up and are over pace, they must pull over and let the group through the FIRST time they’re waiting on a shot. While rangers won’t be on every hole, we’ve all got cell phones and can call the shop immediately if a group isn’t cooperating.
To initiate this philosophy without bad P.R., every group who books a tee time would have to be explained the policy briefly on the phone and reminded before they paid at the counter. This might deter some groups from coming, but that’s the point. Only seasoned golfers who play regularly and know how to play fast would ever dare book a time here. Golfers who don’t play often and don’t feel like they want a gun to their head while they play can go to the municipal courses. Players who play regularly usually know how to play fast and should be entitled to a course where fast golf is mandatory.
I’m not asking for a golf club full of jerks who work there, either. Rangers can be helpful: offer advice and even look for a ball or two if needed. But groups have to do their part too. No lolly-gagging on tee boxes or hitting on the beverage cart girl (in fact, this course probably shouldn’t have one - wait until after the round to drink your pops). Putts inside the leather are understandably good. Encourage match play and best ball over stroke play.
A lot of country clubs out there have an unwritten understanding of how fast you can play golf - and golfers in Scotland play their courses very fast, even when the yardage is poorly marked and high fescue grass lining many fairways. Unfortunately, public courses in America let pace of play get out of hand and most feel they can’t light a fire under a group’s but or they won’t come back.
When you consider a given metropolitan area has 20 or so golf courses, if just one of those instituted this guarantee, it’d become popular fast so long as it was enforced. Word of mouth would spread like wildfire among savvy golfers.
We can’t all join a private club and enjoy the fruits of a guaranteed fast round of golf whenever we please. But if you knew that from the time you left your home to the time you walked off the course it was under four hours for a full 18 holes, you’d play more golf, wouldn’t you?
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