Golf can do better on enforcing pace of play
I really don't care how long the PGA Tour professionals take to play golf. I am not leaning on a club waiting for them to hit the ball. And the broadcasters have learned to cut away to other players when a slow guy is gearing up to play.
Slow play affects me only when the group in front doesn't know how to play efficiently and the so-called course advisers do not do any advising.
In that regard, I believe the course operator must bear much of the responsibility for slow play. I am a member at a very nice semi-private course in St. Augustine, Fla. St. Johns Golf and Country Club is used for numerous state events and even hosts a qualifier for the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament. Some days we play this course, walking, in much less than four hours; other days, it can take five hours in carts. That’s open play, not a tournament or an outing. Why?
I suggest that the management neither promotes nor enforces policies that would speed the pace of play. By stating to guests that the standard pace is 4:20, it just encourages them to dawdle and try to go pro with pre-shot routines, changing clubs three times and trying to read the grain before putting.
If players are told that they must complete play in four hours or they could lose their place on the course, they will find a way to do it. If a ranger must speak to a group, he should stay with that group instead of riding away, never to see them again. If he truly is a “course adviser,” then he should advise them on how to play efficiently without having to rush their shots. When a group becomes arbitrary, a member of the professional staff should be summoned to explain and enforce the pace-of-play policy. When was the last time that happened?
I play a lot of golf at a lot of courses, and many of them suffer the same management problem when it comes to the proper way to treat a guest while maintaining the club's pace of play. I often think that they are worried that word will spread and fewer people will choose to play there. I think that actually the opposite would be the effect. As players learned that the course enforces its policy, it will draw more players, not fewer. I don't know a golfer who thinks it is cool to spend five hours on the course.
I realize that slow play also can be the result of poor play. In this case, the ranger, who by now should be in touch with this group, might suggest moving to a different tee. How about picking up instead of putting for that triple bogey? Remind them that there is a time limit for a ball search. These seem like little things, but often the poor players also are the new players who have no idea about such etiquette.
I play with lots of men and women who have a variety of ideas on how to get through a round in a reasonable time. I am sure that we could boil them down to a nice, concise list of suggestions to speed up the pace of play. It makes one wonder why the professionals in the field have not managed to do something like this.
I play in a traveling group of old farts who were taking forever. The board of directors put in place a policy that goes like this: If your group falls a hole behind the group in front, you must skip a hole and record a triple bogey. If you are not finished by a certain time, your group will be disqualified. Suddenly the slow play was no longer an issue. We typically use a shotgun start with 120 players, so our 4½-hour pace is pretty good, and we often do better, depending on the course.
St. Augustine, Fla.
Another way to react to fan misbehavior
I was disturbed upon hearing that Justin Thomas had a fan removed for wanting Thomas to hit his drive into a bunker during the final round of the Honda Classic, which Thomas eventually won.
If a fan is obnoxious and an irritant to others, he or she should be removed. No one should be removed for rooting against a player.
In his early years on the PGA Tour, Jack Nicklaus was the anti-Arnold Palmer and was subjected to constant harassment. But I never read of Nicklaus having anyone removed.
If you want to do anything when a fan roots for the ball to end up in a bunker, I suggest hitting the fairway and then giving him a nod.
Perry Hall, Md.
1 game, 2 sets of rules
I do not understand the gnashing of teeth and wailing about different rules for casual amateurs and the elite level of amateurs and pros.
The groups I play with and observe at our club do not play a game with which PGA Tour pros would be familiar. Start with the mulligan (or breakfast ball) off the first tee, then riding carts rather than walking, no caddie for consultation (thank goodness), rangefinders to get distances, distances which do not even closely resemble the pros’ (Rory McIlroy hits a 180-190-yard 8-iron; some of our guys hit 180-190-yard drivers), greens that run 10 on the Stimpmeter, not 12.5; gimmes inside the leather, etc.
It’s like baseball vs. slow-pitch softball. Same arena, same concepts, different game. A “hot” ball for us will not make a 6,500-yard course obsolete, just more playable.
If you want to preserve the intended playing characteristics of the classic courses, the same ball cannot be used by the professionals. And, I had to laugh at the reader who wrote that the ball was not responsible for club selection, that McIlroy and others hit irons off the tee on a 414-yard hole at Bay Hill because the course, not the ball dictated the club choice (“From the Morning Read inbox,” March 22). Do you think they would have been hitting irons off those tees with balata balls and have to hit a long iron into the green? The distance offered by the ball gives them those options.
I do not think anyone in my group would hit a 2-iron (or could even hit a 2-iron) on a 414-yard par 4 and have any hope of reaching the green, much less play their second shot with a short iron (maybe their third).
El Paso, Texas
Another option for distance debate
There’s an easy answer to the golf distance debate: a professional tour-standard golf ball, made this year by one company, next year by another company and so on (“Golf’s distance debate falls short on logic,” Feb. 27).
Manufacturers continue to make golf balls of various types for everyone except the professional tours. This would not affect charity donations.
Apple Valley, Calif.
The good old days
Somehow the game seemed more fun when we just went out and swung the club (“High-tech gear helps golfers get grounded,” March 21).
Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Morning Read invites reader comment. Write to editor Steve Harmon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide your name and city of residence. If your comment is selected for publication, Morning Read will contact you to verify the authenticity of the email and confirm your identity. We will not publish your email address. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and brevity.