Keeping Score

Personality dictates pace of play in golf

After 24 years as tournament director of the PGA Tour Champions, which followed 24 years as a director of golf and club manager at facilities in central Florida, I have learned something about golf: Personality traits are the No. 1 cause of slow play.

There are four styles of behavior: Drivers, Persuaders, Craftsmen and Analyzers. I wrote my master’s thesis on the topic, and here is a condensed version of my findings.

A Driver can be characterized as one who is blunt and takes a direct approach toward everything. It’s hard to miss a Driver’s urgency in getting things done and bottom-line results. Drivers likely will walk up, tee the ball, put the head down and rip it.  Lanny Wadkins, Mark Calcavecchia, John Daly and Craig Stadler serve as good examples of golfers with a Driver personality. They hit and start walking before the ball is down. They rarely get challenged for slow play. They are bottom-line, results-oriented players.

A Persuader ordinarily is very attentive to others and wants to be liked. Persuaders will entertain with charm and wit, and offer a lot of one-liners. They love the sizzle of life. They are the first to arrive at a party and the last to leave. Persuaders are apt to look around to see who’s watching, tee it up, do a little dance behind the ball, twirl the club, check the audience again and then hit, warming to the applause. Fuzzy Zoeller is known for his great awareness of people as well as playing with a flair. Lee Trevino and Chi Chi Rodriguez are similar in that way. All three are known for their repartee and wit. They are expressive, gregarious and flamboyant, traits they have in common with others of their style.

A Craftsman enjoys staying with a task until it is finished. Typically, Craftsmen are agreeable, cooperative and laid back.  Their bent toward routine and rhythm gives them a natural balance between people and tasks. They often look hesitant because they need to review every choice and decision in light of the future, and that takes a little time. Once committed, however, they follow through steadily at their own speed. You can’t hurry them. Craftsmen tend to get as comfortable as possible, with a patience that seems like slow motion, then swings rhythmically through the shot. They move so easily and fluidly about their game that they border on being unnoticeable on the course. It’s as though they’ve blended into the fairways. Even when they post an exceptional score, it will look ho-hum. When Craftsmen meet trouble, it’s with patience. When things grow tense, they can get too patient and become hesitant. That often results in a shortened backswing, not following through or just generally restricting their swing and play. But when they are playing inside their style, they are awesome. Players such as Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Fred Couples and Davis Love III fit the Craftsman style.

The Analyzer is careful and exacting and pays close attention to every detail. Accuracy is important to Analyzers, so they double check everything. Because they find it unacceptable to miss a step in any process, they appear to be – and often are – slow. You will see them pause to review what’s in “the book,” to make sure that they aren’t missing something. That makes them look even slower. They have a strong sense of right and wrong, do not like change and often appear rigid in defense of their position. Analyzers have a tendency to study the distance, club selection, tee position, then tee the ball, look at the shot again, block out opponents and gallery and strike it. They are distinguishable by their very deliberate play. They appear to be totally withdrawn from everything going on around them, especially if it involves interaction with other people. They are cautious with every shot, making them seem to take forever, and are the most common targets of slow-play complaints and penalties. When they get into trouble, they grow progressively more methodical and cautious.  Jack Nicklaus, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman and Glen Day fit this description.

The four styles of behavior were first observed by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician known as the “father of medicine.” In the 1920s, American psychologist William Marston studied and expanded the concept. Since then, a variety of behaviorists have reviewed, researched and refined the information and validated its usefulness. More recently, the principles have been applied with increasing effectiveness to many avenues of human activity.

It is well documented that about 30 percent of the population (Drivers and Persuaders) are styled toward a high-risk orientation.  Their normal playing style in golf would be to “go for it.”

On the other hand, about 70 percent of the population (Craftsmen and Analyzers) keep to a low-risk style. Their normal playing style in golf would be “keeping it safely in play.” The Persuader makes up 50 percent of the population, leaving 20 percent Analyzers. The Analyzer is the player with whom course owners and PGA professionals must contend when slow play is being addressed at courses around the country.

These personality traits are the single most important factor in slow play. While we can suggest ways for golfers to observe proper etiquette and ways for architects to design faster-playing courses, it is highly improbable that an Analyzer will change his normal behavior and become a Driver on the golf course. Golfers who try to change their personality traits to adapt to a given situation will not perform to the best of their abilities. Asking a golfer with an Analyzer personality to play like Lanny Wadkins almost certainly would cause him to lose his tempo, which would adversely affect his game. Conversely, asking a golfer with a Driver personality to slow down and take more time to study a shot will alter his timing and result in poorer shots.

Put four Driver personalities off first on a golf course and they will have a great time and finish the round in less than 3½ hours. Put four Analyzer personalities on the same golf course and they will have a great time and finish the round in five-plus hours. Put the Drivers behind the Analyzers and you would have problems.

Gene Smith, who lives in Ocoee, Fla., recently retired from the PGA Tour after 24 years as tournament director of the PGA Tour Champions. A PGA professional for 48 years, Smith is past president of the North Florida Section PGA and the past vice-chairman of the PGA of America Rules Committee. He also served as a Marine Corps combat correspondent in Vietnam. He can be reached at

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