Solving The Slow Play Problem at Your Course

Like most golfer’s — I don’t like to play slowly. Of the best rounds from my past, almost all involve a very consistent pace. Almost like I was walking up to the ball, seeing my shot and then hitting it right away. Most of those rounds happened when there were very few people on the course — and it was just me or my group — with no one in front or behind. We would establish our pace early and keep to it for the entire eighteen. Those were almost always good days. My favorite time to play golf has always been late in the afternoon, when the sun’s going down, there’s no one on the course and I am trying to get finished pretty quickly. I almost always shoot par or better in these situations. Sadly however, I’ve never been able to consistently take that quality play over to competition. And now, with much more experience, I realize it had everything to do with my pace. I would play well when I could play quickly and not think too much. And would play poorly when things got too slow and I had time to think and not just react.

I am going to spend my next couple posts discussing the problem of slow play and then — how you can — no matter the situation — find your ideal pace to play great golf. But first, lets talk about how you can get things moving a little quicker at your golf course. I would make these suggestions to your pro or golf committee and in turn — they can make these suggestions to the golfers playing your course. Reminders on the carts, letters to members and education by the professional staff are also great ways to get play moving.

When I took over as Director of Golf at Cheval Golf and Country Club back in 2000, one of the first things I addressed was slow play. I spent the first few weeks monitoring how things worked and was appalled to see the average time for a foursome on Saturday morning was over four hours and forty-five minutes. Crazy! Yes, we had a difficult golf course with lots of hazards — but still, this was completely unacceptable.

So, I talked to my assistants and came up with a very simple approach to take 36 minutes off every foursome’s round. But, much to my surprise, it got much better than 36 minutes, as we almost took a complete hour off the average time. Here’s how we went from an average time of 4:48 to 3:57 in less than a month.

First , I decided to include the membership in on the “speeding up” process. I wrote a letter explaining how slowly things had been moving and how much more fun they would have if they could all play a little faster. On top of that, they would have much more time to do other things throughout the day if they could play, eat lunch and get home within 5 hours or so. I told them we were going to do two things — one the shop’s responsibility and the other theirs. I am happy to say it worked well.

The first thing we did was to ask each member to take 15 seconds off their tee shot and putting routine. We explained that — if each golfer was ready to go when it was their turn to hit — and had their putts lined up when it was their turn to putt — that would just about do it. Think about it — if each member of a foursome plays just 15 seconds quicker on the tee — that’s a minute. Then, if they each play 15 seconds quicker on the green — that’s another minute. Over 18 holes, that translates to 36 minutes. This was initial goal. For the golfers who felt rushed, I had my assistants give them each a 15 minute lesson on “ready golf.” Within a few weeks, 90% of the groups were playing fast golf. Yet, we still had a problem with the other 10%. And as you know, if that 10% is in front or in the middle of groups — the foursomes behind cannot play quickly — even if they want to.

So, the next thing we did was to post a pace board for peer review. We put this up every Saturday afternoon outside the golf shop, which solved the problem almost immediately. Next to every group, we posted their finish time. This proved to be an effective way for players to self-govern and feel some peer pressure. Imagine your name listed as the 10th group of the day — and the first nine groups all had less than four hours next to their names — but yours had 4:30 in bright red. It wouldn’t take long for you to speed up or force the slow guy in your group to do the same. Especially when all the groups behind come in and want to know who it was holding up the golf course.

So, if you are dealing with slow play at your golf course — and like me, don’t like it – try these simple things. Educate players on how to be ready on the tees and greens and have peer review for final end times. You will be amazed at how quickly things start moving in front of you. Just make sure your group keeps up.

3 Responses to “Solving The Slow Play Problem at Your Course”

  1. Tim Tubbs says:

    That’s fine for a private course.
    do you have suggestions as to how to speed up play at a public course where many levels of golf may be played?

  2. Edward Kodatt says:

    Hi Andy,

    This is a very good article with some clever ideas. I’ve taken excerpts and published them in a weekly golf newsletter to eliminate slow play in our league.

    Many Thanks,


  3. Thomas Drusky says:

    Very clever, I have to tell them where I play to put this in there course.
    Yesterday no one was on the course and four of us played in 3hrs and 45 mins. Other days we are on the course a good 5 hrs. So I’m going to print this out and give it to them.

    A great idea

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