In essence, golf is a “time-consuming” sporting activity.
To play an 18-hole course, it takes between 3.5 and 5.5 hours (or more), depending on the number of golfers in the group as well as their level.
This is where the problem lies!
And if the low estimate may seem optimistic (especially for a foursome), the high one is clearly unbearable.
This is the risk for the future of this wonderful sport.
Playing time is clearly what takes away the pleasure of the game more than anything else.
Who hasn’t complained about groups in front that play slowly, or that don’t wave you through (in some cases this doesn’t make much difference since the traffic jam goes back several groups).
This may seem anecdotal, but repeated several times, this phenomenon can lead to such frustration, that some may consider giving up.
So two questions arise, why do we have the problem of slow play and how to remedy it?
1/ The problem of slow play?
There are several possible explanations.
Firstly and mainly, a behavioural problem with the golfers, many of whom are unaware of the rules and the etiquette that apply on the course.
Secondly, a problem of profitability which pushes golf courses to accept, in the middle of a peak period, people whose level is not compatible with a course.
Thirdly, still associated with a financial problem, courses that set tee times every 8 minutes…
Faced with this phenomenon which, in the long term, could seriously harm the future prospects of golf, what remedies and solutions are there ?
2/ Remedies and solutions
There are several avenues to explore. First of all, a few simple behaviours that should help improve the situation.
In no particular order:
- Play “ready golf” – the player who is ready plays and does not wait for the one who has the honour or who is furthest from the hole
- Follow your ball AND your partners’ balls to locate them better
- Help partners to look for their balls
- Play provisional balls
- Do not take eight practice swings – let’s do a simple calculation – 3 practice swings represents roughly 15 seconds – if you only take one it “saves” 10 seconds – multiplied by 4 players and 18 holes it represents 12 minutes (at least) !!!
- Position your bag or trolley on the side of the exit of the green towards the next tee
- On the green, do not spend 40 seconds analysing all the slopes by positioning yourself behind your ball, then behind the flag, then on the side before coming back behind your ball…
- Note your score on the next tee and not on the green
Finally, nothing revolutionary, just GOOD SENSE!
However, for some, it is necessary to go further.
The world golfing authorities are thinking about more “drastic” solutions.
This could start by requiring the professional golfers we see on our screens to set a good example…!
Experiments in the United States have reduced playing time by 45 minutes…but at what cost? By eliminating all obstacles on the course. A fast game but a boring one.
Another idea, much more divisive, is starting to gain ground: going back to the origins of golf.
The first British Open, in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club, was played over three rounds of 12 holes!
12 holes means spending less time on the course with as much pleasure and for a lower green fee.
It is a smaller land footprint, the assurance of consuming less water, the opportunity to transform 36 holes into three courses and 18 holes into one and a half courses etc, etc, etc…
Will the golf courses be prepared to adapt to these transformations?
Will golfers be ready to accept them ?
Open questions that will certainly lead to others.
So 12 or 18 holes ?
For me the answer is obvious…I like to finish what I start!