A little too Easy to ‘mail it in’
There's a particular example that Mike Purkey did not account for in his article, and it's one that I find damning when tournament sponsors also sponsor players (“Golf’s dirty little secret might not be so filthy,” Feb. 13, http://bit.ly/2EoyCVt). There are two caveats to this response: I am a big Ernie Els fan, and I'm Canadian.
Els won the 2012 British Open but then had to jet across the Atlantic to play in the RBC Canadian Open as an RBC athlete. There was zero question that he wanted to skip the Canadian Open, and he even made a remark that he was in Canada to fulfill sponsor obligations. Although he attended events, he wasn't “there.” He made light of skipping the Canadian Open to visit relatives in London.
Els missed the cut by three strokes in a tournament with a very weak field, and on a course that was yielding scores much lower than his. By all accounts, he mailed it in without withdrawing and running into issues with his sponsors. Even though he did not withdraw, many Canadians felt disrespected by how he carried himself from his Claret Jug acceptance speech until he was wheels up and out of the Greater Toronto area.
I still love Ernie, but I'll never forget how he made me feel back in 2012.
Pace-of-play lesson from ‘home of golf’
I look forward to Morning Read each morning. It very much keeps me up to date on various views covering many topics in golf, mainly from across the Atlantic.
I read with interest the article and comments regarding slow play (“From the Morning Read inbox,” Feb. 13, http://bit.ly/2sqZzWZ). I have played golf for well over 50 years, having started at Auchterarder Golf Club, across the fence from the Gleneagles PGA Course. In the 1960s, the average round was three hours or less. We were not even playing “ready golf.” When it was your turn to play, you got on with it – no pre-shot routines or looking through any distance-measuring devices in those days.
I now play off a 6 handicap, and my son, Sam, 24, is soon to be a qualified PGA pro. We live 30 miles from St. Andrews, but when we play, we try to book the first tee time of the day – often around 7 a.m. With no one in front of us, our average time to play 18 holes is never more than 2½ hours. Why can we get around in a two-ball in about 2½ hours or less holing everything out, and yet our game is plagued with slow play?
Maybe the game needs to be a little more “self-regulatory” when it comes to slow play. Why a casual round should take more than 3½ hours is beyond me. For a more important round such as a medal or club event, then maybe a little longer is acceptable.
We have run a successful golf tour business here in Scotland for 15 years, and in that time we have arranged for thousands of clients to play the Old Course. The St. Andrews Links Trust certainly does well at getting golfers around the Old Course in a very reasonable 4:15 average. For 20,000 visiting golfers each year, the round on the Old Course probably is one of the most important and memorable they will ever play. Of course they do not wish to be rushed.
So, 2½ hours for a couple of good players to play 18 holes, 3½ hours for a three-ball and four hours for a four-ball in a club event and 4-4¼-hours for a round on the most famous golf course in the world. Surely these are reasonable times for all golfers.
Slow play is not helping as the game struggles to keep and attract golfers new and old. Between clubs and governing bodies in the pro and amateur game, it’s time to take action and find ways to speed up the game we all love.
(Craigon and his wife, Fiona, own and operate Morton Golf Holidays.)
Another perspective from south Florida
My question to Mark Feldman and those who are in agreement with him is, Where are you playing? (“From the Morning Read inbox,” Feb. 13, http://bit.ly/2sqZzWZ).
If it is an exclusive high-end private course, then I would agree with him that 4½ hours in a cart is too long. However, outside of his example of fixing the ridiculous pace of play on the PGA Tour, the solution is simple: Pay enough in dues and cart fees to spread out the tee times to allow for 3½-4-hour rounds. If you're a member at a high-end exclusive club, then get with the other members and demand it.
Feldman used south Florida, including Boca Raton, as examples in his commentary. I live in south Florida and play in Boca Raton a lot. Here is the problem with courses trying to speed play: The courses here do the majority of their business from November through April. I don't know what the high-end courses here do because I play on the public and semi-private courses. They have to get as many fee payers through a day during those six months as they can because that's more than 80 percent of their profit for the year. Time between tee times is tight.
I will approach the group in front of us and ask to play through (if not offered by them first) if they have completely lost contact with the group in front of them. But, what can you do if they haven't and you can see a foursome in front of them, another in front of them, another, etc.? These courses fight to stay alive, and we are losing a lot of them. They can't afford to spread out the tee times more by raising fees because they will lose players. Lose enough players, and we lose another course. Lose enough courses, and those that remain become even more crowded and expensive as they have less competition and aren't forced to keep their rates down. I promise you that that will force more golfers from the game than 4½-hour rounds ever will.
I know that golf here during that six-month season is going to be slow. 4½ hours is not unusual. I've seen five-hour rounds through no fault of our own. I invite Feldman and those in agreement with him to join me for a round here in July. Bring a wet towel, plenty of sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and keep yourself hydrated. It's going to be hot, but I can promise to take you out on some of the nicest public and semi-private courses in the area for ridiculously cheap prices and that our foursome can play a championship round in less than three hours – if no one passes out.
Me, I'm used to it.
A golfer’s manifesto
I'm not cattle to be herded through the process or a dollar sign. I am not something to be managed, marketed, or some stat on a spreadsheet. I am a human being with a shared interest in a game.
Bring me an opportunity to play at a fair price, where I am treated well, where if I need something to make it through my round, the pro shop has it, and a place where I can relax afterwards with something to eat and drink at a price that does not rival those at a stadium or airport and I'll be happy.
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