The USGA recently announced an initiative to improve the pace of play in golf. The campaign is being called “While we’re young” and features commercials and public service announcements by behemoths in the sport like Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, and Annika Sorenstam. The campaign also includes an educational program and online resources to support both players and golf facilities.
If the game of golf is to continue to grow, and not stagnate as it has in recent decades (I belong to a women’s golf association that had 225+ members in the late 1980s but membership has declined to about 60-75 active current members), then the amount of time spent on the course MUST be addressed. The National Golf Foundation released statistics recently which indicated that over 90% of golfers are frustrated by slow play, many of whom believe the problem has worsened in recent years. According to their report some golfers have admitted becoming so annoyed that they walked off the course in frustration. The NGF’s report goes on to say that the problem does not entirely lie with players alone and that other factors include course design and set up.
I have both been annoyed by and perpetrated slow play and various points in my time as a golfer. Much of the problem, in my opinion, is a function of “pressure” to perform well and lack of skill. The pressure to perform well is an issue at both the casual amateur level as it is at the professional level. I can recall 6 hour rounds during last year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Black Wolf Run. Players simply weren’t ready to take their shots when it was their turn. On the other side of the coin I was shocked and bothered when a 14-year old kid, who had the game and the moxie to make it into the field of this years’ Masters’, while still in the eighth grade, was given a slow-play penalty.
In my own foursomes many folks take their games too seriously (sorry to say this but men more-so than women) myself included.
Golf is a game that will be destined to be played only by the rich and semi-rich as long as 18 holes comprises a standard round and that (1) takes 4-5 hours to play and (2) costs about $100. It also presents a particular burden for mothers for whom TIME and MONEY are the 2 resources most at a premium.
I am glad that the USGA has announced this initiative; it’s light-hearted, fun, and the commercials are entertaining. They are taking a new approach at correcting an old problem – there is no benefit to the USGA if people stop playing golf because rounds take too long. These same people will then also stop paying to attend tournaments and buying fancy golf clubs and balls, thus threatening the industry as a whole. No one stands to gain from fewer and fewer numbers of avid golfers.
However, if they REALLY want to make the game accessible there are some other things they could address.
Reduce greens fees. Courses are over-fertilized and over sprayed. Spend less on maintenance and people would also play faster if they weren’t trying to chip out of championship-caliber rough. This is better for players’ health as well.
Put average score on the scorecard underneath “par.” With a big shiny 8 sitting there underneath the value of “5” people will be less likely to care about tripling a par 5, and won’t belabor every shot, if they know that’s what most people end up doing.
Offer the chance for people to pay for and play just 3 or 6 holes. This accommodates those with time, money and health issues. Make 18 holes standard only for professional and amateur tournaments. Also, make 9 hole tournaments more the norm.
Make GPS standard in carts. A foursome checking yardages with 3 different devices is a waste of time. Add a “pace of play” clock to this display.
These are simple steps that don’t put the entire responsibility to speed up on the player.♣