There is so much to love about golf – the integrity in policing yourself during a round, the interpersonal skills developed in playing with people from all walks of life, the etiquette learned that translates to everything you do. However, there are many factors working against the game of golf, especially when it comes to trying to grow the game.
Cost is always cited, but there are some good programs out there to combat the expensive nature of the sport, especially for kids getting started. The First Tee, PGA Junior League and many others.
Time is often the second detrimental aspect of getting people involved in golf. It takes too long for many people, and young people especially need their entertainment quickly. Four hours (or more) for a round of golf just isn’t appealing to most young people. Again, some programs are helping with this such as encouraging 9-hole rounds, the development of 6-hole loops on existing courses, and the emergence of par-3 courses at many locations. Another success story is Top Golf, which if nothing else is getting golf clubs into the hands of people who would not otherwise even consider playing golf.
But the time issue ultimately comes down to each individual player, and the pace of play issued reared its ugly head once again last week at the highest level on the PGA Tour. We all watch and sometimes emulate the pros on TV, which in some cases is the worst thing we can do.
Bryson DeChambeau got annihilated on social media for taking over two minutes for a simple 8-foot putt during last week’s Northern Trust playoff event. The debate raged for a couple of days, and included first a statement defending his position, a second statement apologizing and vowing to do better, and then a third statement through a video in which he backtracked again and said he’s not the problem.
Now, DeChambeau is certainly not the only slow golfer playing for millions of dollars each week on the PGA Tour. As frustrating as it is, you can almost understand why they take so long. Anyone reading this ever had a putt for $100,000? Me neither, so who’s to say we might not take an extra look or two from behind the hole just to make sure.
The problem lies in the fact that the PGA Tour pace of play policy is very vague and allows for the rules officials, in most cases, to give the players the benefit of the doubt when choosing whether or not to penalize them. And when they do get penalized, it’s in the form of a fine instead of strokes. If they would beef up the pace of play policy, then give the rules officials the authority to hand out stroke penalties, I feel pretty confident that the overall time of a round will decrease immediately at the highest level.
This all leads back to the everyday golfer. Whether grinding to win a club tournament, or just a few bucks off our buddies, we want to do our very best on every shot. We all watch the pros and try to pick up things they do and incorporate into our own game. You think some random golfer was the first to put a line on his ball, in order to line up each and every putt? How about plumb-bobbing or using Aim Point Express to get a read on putts? Those are all habits many recreational golfers utilize after seeing a PGA Tour player do it, which is why it is so important that the Tour get it right once and for all on slow play amongst the best in the world.
This is my 20th year in the golf business. I’ve seen just about everything when it comes to pace of play issues. Very fast players, very slow players, and everyone in between. There’s nothing more frustrating than playing a round of golf with someone, or behind someone, who is slow, and having to wait on every shot. We’ve all been there, and if you haven’t, then you’re the slow one holding everyone up.
So instead of emulating the DeChambeau’s of the world, or J.B. Holmes – another famously deliberate player – look at yourself in the mirror and do your part to speed up the game. Get your yardage and pull a club before it’s your turn, don’t wait until your playing partners have putted before you get behind it for your read, and agree on the first tee to play ready golf at all times within your group.
After all, fast players know they’re fast and don’t brag about it. They just get on with it. I can assure you that the people who come up and make a point to tell you how fast they are, are usually the ones who didn’t look in the mirror, or behind them to see the whole golf course backing up behind them.
NOTES: Congratulations to Chris Stacy of Lonesome Pine Country Club for winning the Tri-Cities PGA Chapter Championship recently. Stacy fired rounds of 64 at Johnson City Country Club and 74 at The Virginian to take the trophy.
Bruce Bowen is the head golf professional at The Olde Farm in Bristol, Virginia. His column will be running every two weeks in the Bristol Herald Courier.