How to speed up play and help find a cure: I've got the answers
MONTGOMERY, Texas – It was mid-morning, and my group had already played 36 holes. We started a little after 6:30 in the morning. By 6 p.m., we had played 100.
No, I don’t love golf that much; I was a small part of a fund-raising effort called the Walden 100 – “What We Endure to Find a Cure.” It was part of a larger movement that started in the late 1990s, called Golfers Against Cancer, which has raised millions for cancer research at tournaments and special events are now held in different parts of the country.
The idea behind the Walden 100 was for 50 or so golfers to play 100 holes and get friends and family to pledge money per hole played. This was the third year of the event, conducted at Walden on Lake Conroe Golf & Country Club, a terrific Robert von Hagge/Bruce Devlin design just north of Houston. Club owner Dan McIntyre, a two-time cancer survivor himself, donated the course for the day, and there were countless others who donated their time, products or services to make sure we made it through the day.
But besides being part of a great cause – the event was expected to raise some $70,000 for cancer research – I learned a few things about how to speed up play. It was necessary if I expected to get in 100 holes.
The first thing you learn is the true meaning of ready golf. There was more than one occasion that everyone in my group basically teed off at the same time. We hit some pretty good tee shots doing that. There were also times we hit over each other, just to keep things moving. I don’t recommend this during normal play, but what the heck, nobody got nailed.
There were also no practice swings, which had two benefits. Not only did it speed up play, but it saved a little wear and tear. Figure if you averaged 85 strokes on each round, that’s more than 400 swings (counting putts). An additional 400 practice swings could have put some of us in traction.
We were also getting generous gimmes. Anything inside of five feet was good, and it had an amazing effect on our short games. Changing the goal to getting it within five feet, sure does relax you around the greens. Suddenly chipping and pitch shots don’t seem so hard, though I have to admit, everything became difficult around the fifth round.
Fortunately, we got a break in the weather today. The highs were only in the upper 80s. It had been in the mid-90s around here lately. That meant we could do a little sprinting to and from the greens to keep things moving.
We also didn’t mark our balls on the greens. If you were in somebody’s way, you just putted first. We didn’t really line them up either. We just took a look and putted, and I’m pretty sure I made more this way than I do when I look at it from every angle.
Of course, playing 5 ½ rounds in a day can take its toll. By 3 p.m., I was starting to do something I rarely do – make half swings taking more club. That helped keep the ball in play, ergo, speed up play. Hmmmm.
And yes, we did have carts. If we didn’t, I wouldn’t have made it, both in terms of time and survival. It’s hard to play fast without a fast cart.
And finally, we just kept the reason why we were there in mind. The good folks who made their pledges did so to help find a cure. And we made a promise to play 100. It was the least we could do.
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