Why are today’s golfers so slow?
Maybe it’s just me, but watching the PGA Tour these days seems to be taking longer and longer. The average pro seems to take an eternity to play their shot. We have measuring equipment that measures yardage quicker than ever these days, yet rounds on the PGA Tour seem to be taking longer than ever. There are many golfers who are to blame for this slow play but I couldn’t single out just one. All of them need to get moving!
The European Tour has the right idea. They send a course marshall out to shadow a slow group and that sends a message to the players in that group to hurry up or be fined. Fines have been handed out and although only $1.500 (nothing much to some pros) they get the message. Once it is their turn to play, they have 45 seconds to hit the shot. That is more than generous. If you cannot hit your shot in 45 seconds then you should be fined. The PGA Tour seemingly does not care how long some players take.
There is just no need to be slow. A study done by Peter Kostis in 2011 showed some tour pros were taking up to 119 seconds to play their shots. Over double the amount of time that was allocated. Kevin Na is a case in point. Notorious for being slow, Na exceeded the 45 second timeframe in 18 of his 31 shots over 9 holes. This year however, he set a tour record for completing 18 holes of tournament golf in just under 2 hours. He shot 4 under. So, there is no use in taking all that time. Whether fast or slow, the score seems to remain the same.
Another factor that is contributing to slow play these days is the new green reading books. These topographical drawings of each green give the tour pro extra information regarding slope on the putting surface. Time and time again, I see pros taking these books out 2,3 or even 4 times before they finally hit their putts. You should be ready to play when it is your turn. Why do they wait until it’s their turn to putt before reaching into the pocket to look at the book again and again? These books should be read by the pro in the days leading up to the tournament. They should not even be allowed on the course.
The PGA Tour themselves do not do us spectators any favours either by making the greens run so fast. Some of the greens this year have run ridiculously fast and caused slow play by making so many pros 3 and 4 putt before finally getting the ball the drop. The US Open is always the major culprit. Somehow they seem to believe that any score under par in that tournament is an outrage! The greens were so brown and so fast this year that commentators the world over were calling for drastic changes on the Thursday and Friday and greenkeepers were forced to water them overnight. The greens went from brown on Thursday to green on Sunday. Even still, the double cutting made the speed too fast. It was the same story the year before at whistling straights. It will most likely be the same story this year at Erin Hills in June.
They should be looking at the European Tour and majors like the British Open. The greens at the Open championship were slow in comparison to the other majors, but look at the final day’s golf we got from Phil and Henrik. The pace of the greens worked beautifully and gave us birdies and eagles to remember, instead of tapping knee trembling par putts from 8 feet. For me, that is great golf. Giving the pro the ability to attack the course and take advantage of his skills. Not hitting greens and having them run off and 30 meters down a closely shaved approach area back to their feet. Does anybody care if the winner wins with -15 or -1?
What does all this have in common with the average club golfer I hear you ask? Well, players play like their idols. If people today see Jordan Speith take 2 minutes to play a shot, then they will. If they look at Jason Day meditating behind his ball with his eyes closed for 30 seconds, they will. We need to speed up play. GPS units and rangefinders are in every group these days and they were designed to help speed up play. 150 meter markers and yardage on sprinkler heads are on most courses, so there is no excuses any more! Know when it's your turn to play, get the yardage, select the club, hit the shot. So why does it still take 4 and a half hours to play 18 holes?
Hurry up or call through.