Mark NessmithThis Week at Feb. 1, 2006

You say slow play is a pox on golf? Bollocks!

Tim McDonald has continued to bang the drum about the pace-of-play issue in his golf blog, first defending Rory Sabbatini for playing out of turn at the 2005 Booz Allen Classic (pissed as Sabbatini was at Ben "The Snail" Crane's glacial pace) and more recently writing about a Scot named W. Eric Laing, who wrote: "Slow play has become a universal curse in American golf and is talked about on every course in the country."

The Laing quote reminded me of a round I played at Nairn Dunbar Golf Club in the Scottish Highlands this past fall. A guy in our foursome started talking about pace-of-play problems. The more he talked, the faster we played. He was making a passionate argument that there's no problem with slow play. "How can you say that?" I asked. "You read about the 'plague' of slow play all the time, how it's killing the game!

"Bollocks!" he said, walking on to his next shot. "That's not my problem, is it, lad!? Course owners are crying about it but I don't see it. I pay a lot of money to come out and play and I don't want to be hurried along. Look at this course, look at this day - you won't see me hurrying to leave and get back to my wife or the office!"

It occurred to me that, on one level, the guy was right. I hate slow play but POP has become one of those golf industry rallying cries that's really not the problem of the average hacker (unless, of course, you get stuck behind a foursome of Crane clones - but how often does that happen, really?).

Faster play means more rounds and more profit for course owners. Well, bully for them. But why should we hackers care?

Same goes with growth-of-the-game programs. Bringing more people to the game is admirable. But why should recreational golfers with no stake in the golf industry really care if kids in downtown Detroit learn golf? Equipment makers care (someone has to keep buying their stuff). Club pros care (someone has to keep taking lessons). Owners care (new blood = round$). The pro tours and broadcasters care (someone has to watch).

But maybe my new pal in Scotland was right: A lot of the "problems with the game" just aren't our concern. Golf is great to play and a lot of fun to watch, period. So what's the problem?

Oh, and back to pace of play - on foot, our foursome at Nairn Dunbar finished in well under four hours.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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