BOSTON, Mass – There are few things more aggravating on a golf course than slow play. Waiting on every shot behind a foursome that has little concept of the proper pace of play can ruin an otherwise glorious day.
Slow play has become something of an epidemic, as too many golfers mimic what they see from the pros on television. So, they carefully step off yardage, toss grass in the air to gauge wind direction, read putts from numerous angles and take endless practice swings before pulling the trigger.
The result? Five-hour rounds that make everyone else miserable.
Here’s the thing: there’s no excuse for slow play, and it doesn’t matter what level golfer you are. A round of golf should average around four hours, whether you’re shooting 72 or 102.
Here are a few tips to keep the pace up and make your day more enjoyable.
1. Plan Ahead
As you walk or ride to your golf ball, start thinking about the distance of your next shot and what club you will use. Don’t wait for your partners to hit before deciding on a club. Instead, be at your ball, with club in hand and ready to go as soon as it’s your turn.
2. Be Timely
Strive to play in 20 seconds. That includes selecting your club, proceeding through your pre-shot routine and executing the shot. Limit yourself to one or two practice swings, and don’t stand frozen over the ball for 30 seconds. That will only create tension and anxiety and most likely lead to a poor swing. If you must follow an elaborate pre-shot routine, start it while others are hitting.
3. Know Your Limitations
If you’re playing a par-5 and you’ve got 250 yards to reach the green, and you average 220 off the tee, why are you waiting for the green to clear? Go ahead and hit your second shot.
4. Learn How to Share a Cart
Too many golfers sit in the cart while their partner hits and then drive to their golf ball. Instead, get out and walk to your ball, or have the driver drop you off, so you’re ready to hit when it’s your turn. If walking to your ball, take different clubs, giving you options of what to hit.
5. Play Ready Golf
Nothing speeds up play more than this. If you’re at your ball ready to hit and your partners are not, go ahead and play. If a playing partner is looking for a lost ball, hit your shot first and then go help look for the ball.
6. Know Your Turn
Too often, you’ll see beginners standing around staring off into space until someone says, “You’re away.” At that point, the beginner starts to go through their pre-shot routine, and the waiting ensues. Stay focused and don’t wait to hear those frustrated words from your playing partners.
7. Don’t Be Hesitant to Go Pocket
If you’ve left three shots in a greenside bunker and you’re lying 7 on a par-4, pick up and move on. And don’t feel like you’ve got to read that two-foot triple bogey putt from both sides of the hole. Call it a gimme.
8. Be a Good Partner
Follow the flight of others tee shots and help your partners locate their ball in the fairway. If a partner is facing a blind shot, walk ahead to the top of the hill so you can watch where the ball lands. Grab divots and toss them back, volunteer to rake a bunker and repair ball marks on the green. All these things will speed up play and make you popular.
9. Be Efficient on the Green
Nothing slows down play more than putting. When you arrive at the green, immediately mark your ball and start the process of reading your putt even if it’s not your turn. If you leave a putt three feet short or long, putt out instead of re-marking your ball.
10. Distance Control
This tip has nothing to do with how far to hit a shot and everything to do with how you exit a green. If you’re walking, leave your golf bag on the most direct line to the next tee. Do the same with any extra clubs you’ve brought with you. After putting out, walk briskly to your cart or the next tee. Don’t stare in disbelief at the hole after missing a putt or try the putt again. And wait until you arrive at the next tee before marking down your score.
If every golfer followed these 10 tips, those dreaded five-hour rounds would become ancient history.