It could be much worse than this!
Handling Slow Play
By kickntrue on 4/19/10
By Matt Snyder, ClubSG Contributor

Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. His column will appear each Monday on ClubSG. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

With spring in full bloom, the local courses are starting to fill up with golfers, especially on those sunny and 75-degree weekends. With beautiful weather and cabin fever come busy golf courses that do their best to find room for each and every golfer that comes through the door. Packed courses, of course, means that slow play is going to be unavoidable. We all know that it only takes one group to bring the pace of play to a crawl on a day with average levels of play, let alone when the course fills every tee time. So, the sooner we accept that it is going to happen, the better we can handle the situation when it occurs.

Handling slow play is a skill that every golfer should work to master as it can often mean the difference between someone enjoying their round or selling their clubs to the first person they see in the parking lot. Perhaps the biggest key to dealing with this certainty of golf is simply realizing that it is exactly that, certain to happen. I know, I know. Golf doesn’t have to be slow and there are things that everybody can do to make sure that play moves along, but there are always going to be slow groups and slow players. So, tip number one, just accept that it is going to happen from time to time. It is annoying and can be frustrating, but just remind yourself that you are fortunate enough to be spending time on the golf course instead of stuck at work, home doing chores, or in a hospital bed somewhere. Remember, it could be worse.

So, instead of waiting for ten minutes on the next tee, slow your game down a little. The idea is to maintain a rhythm of play.
Now, once you have come to terms with the reality of the situation, lets talk about some of the things that you can do to help make a slow round still an enjoyable round. First of all, take your time. Listen, time passes more quickly when you are involved in making a shot, reading a green, or taking a couple extra practice swings. So, instead of waiting for ten minutes on the next tee, slow your game down a little. The idea is to maintain a rhythm of play. If you can spend a little extra time playing each hole, that will reduce the amount of time you have to sit and wait on the group in front of you. That time of waiting is what ruins your rhythm. If that means driving the cart a little slower to your ball, taking a few more practice swings, studying the green a little longer before you hit your putt, then do it. A slower routine may not be natural and may take a little adjusting, but it will help you keep your rhythm and reduce the amount of time that you spend watching the group in front of you play instead of playing yourself.

Next, lets look at what you can do during that time of waiting on the tee for your turn to swing. There are several games that many of us play in order to stay entertained while we wait on the tee box. For example, there’s tee box croquet, which is probably the most popular way to pass the time. This game involves challenging your playing partner/partners in a match to see who can hit the tee markers with their ball. You start beside one marker and take turns trying to hit the other. Once that has been accomplished, you must go back across the tee box and hit the marker beside which you started. When both markers have been hit, you finish the game by hitting your opponent’s ball, which eliminates them. Another one of my favorite games is challenging your partner to see who can bounce their ball on the face of their wedge for the longest amount of time. A simple chipping contest using the tee markers as your target can also help to provide a little competition to pass the time. No matter the game you choose, it will always be more interesting if you add some wagering to the activity. In my case, my partner and I will often keep score of the tee box games as a separate competition. Because I’m poor, we’ll play for stakes like whoever wins the most points on the tee box’s gets their choice of a ball from their opponents bag. If you’re a high roller, you may up the ante a little to keep things interesting. Regardless, if you put a little meaning behind an enjoyable tee box game, the time spent waiting for the slow group ahead can pass much more quickly and help make the round much more enjoyable.

Remember, slow play stinks, but it sure beats being stuck in the house, stuck in traffic, or stuck at work.
The last aspect of slow play that I would like to address is how to handle making a shot when it is finally your turn. I mentioned this earlier, but it is especially important when you are teeing off. You absolutely must take several more practice swings than you are used to. If you are standing around for several minutes before you tee off, you need to take numerous swings to help remind your body of the proper tempo and feel of your swing. Waiting for ten minutes and then just stepping up and swinging away is only going to lead to bad shots, which are guaranteed to add to your frustration level. Take your time and take two or three times the number of normal practice swings in your pre-shot routine. Loosen up your arms and shoulders and find your rhythm. This tip will pay huge dividends and is sure to help your game during those five and a half hour rounds.

So, to wrap it up, I know slow play is never something that a golfer looks forward to dealing with. But, each time it happens, you have a choice to make. You can sit around and complain about it and let it ruin your day, or you can make the best of it. If you choose to complain, I can’t help you. But, if you choose to make the best of it, I think you will find my suggestions to greatly improve not only how you play, but also how much fun you are still able to have during a slow round. Remember, slow play stinks, but it sure beats being stuck in the house, stuck in traffic, or stuck at work. Count your blessings and make the best of the situation.

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.

photo source

[ comments ]
kickntrue says:
I've enjoyed me a game of teebox croquet. I like the idea of taking a ball from the other player's bag though. Almost more fun stealing a ProV1 than a couple bucks.
paddyhibernian says:
Paragraph 5 is the greatest load of tosh I have ever read. If we all spend our time amusing ourselves in such a manner we can look forward to 8 hour rounds in the future. Grow up. Learn to play the game. Take your shot and walk on to the next shot. If you lose a ball, call the next group through. Show some consideration to others and go to the cinema or bar if you can't complete a round in four hours or less. There are too many people playing golf who think they are competing on the PGA Tour. You're not and you don't need seven practice swings prior to knocking it down 7 yards in front of you!
ray781 says:
@ Paddyhibernian - I supose you are one of these gifted people who picked up a golf club and could play scratch golf? ah no thought not why not allow everyone to learn the game and enjoy there round. I get frustrated at slow play but really does it matter if its 3 1/2 hours or 4 1/2 hours?
your on a golf course playin golf thats the best place in the world if you want to enjoy a game that last a specified time go watch Football/soccer 90 minutes job done.
harper1270 says:
i must say i walk and i actually prefer to be behind a riding threesome when i play. when i get my numbers from my skycaddie, pick my target, adjust for slope and wind, choose my club, got through my routine, and hit my shot i find that im am not waiting on the group in front and keeping good pace. i have stoped taking the invitations to play through because then i feel like im rushed and things go wrong. i have even at times let a riding twosome or single play through (o9r join me if there is a group in front). this is golf, a game i choose to play because i love the challenge and the outdoors, i fyou want 4 hrs or less for a round your asking too much unles you want to be at the tee box as soon as its light enough to swing away. i will not be rushed when i play, that being said i will be courtious to those behind me and will let them join or play through whenever i can.
PaulyWalnuts says:
The problem with slow golf is the "Asians"!!!!!! The don't play ready golf and they act like every putt is worth $250,000 . If one guy is in the rough looking for his ball, the other three just sit around and wait because he is "away." Go to any public golf course and if there is a backup, there is most likely a foursome of Asians causing it. Keep this in mind next time you play golf.
paddyhibernian says:
Nothing like a bit of stereotyping eh! You will probably encounter a group of drunken Irishmen, A bunch of lazy Italians, Some stingy Scot's and a plethora of loud fat Americans when waiting for your slow Asians to play.
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