Golf Editorial: Why does it take so long to play 18 holes?

Slow Play--image by

Slow Play—Golf Fail

How you ever been on the course and found yourself looking at your watch or (IPhone) and exclaimed, “Are you kidding me? 2 hours to play 5 holes!”?

I am like many of our golfing community—slow play makes my blood pressure spike and disturbing thoughts enter my mind from vulgar words to wanting so badly to hit into the group in front of me and say, “Oh sorry, I didn’t know I could hit it that far!”

When I am faced with slow play in front of my group, I find myself losing touch with staying in the present and keeping focus on my game as I stare down the group in front of me with my right hand on my right hip and my left hand resting on the grip of the club that is piercing the ground. I start counting the number of times the US Open Champ wannabe takes practice swings, waggles or waits for the green to clear on a par 5 when I know his/her 25 handicap-self has no chance of reaching the green.

What really is the Cause of Slow Play?

I must admit I have read article after article about slow play and how we can as a golfing community speed it up. But in a recent reading, Bill Yates, a former industry efficiency expert who consults with golf courses on how to speed up the game, says that a player’s behavior ranks No. 2 on his list of the 5 major reasons for slow play.

Let’s take a look at the list of Mr. Yates and my take on each reason.

1)      Course management practices and the policies put in place by the course staff. Yates says that in his research, players can be blamed for a lot, but if courses have too many players in to short of time teeing off, there is not chance for a fast round of golf. 

I would have to agree. How many times do you find yourself teeing off on #1 and by the time you are walking away from your second shot, a ball is rolling up the back of our heels from the group on Hole #1 tee box. Or better yet, you are next on the tee, the starter tells you to go ahead and all you see it the group in the first fairway still waiting to hit their 2nd shot into #1 green. Eventually, you realize that your tee time is basically on top of the group in front of you and is not giving anyone time to breathe.

In the end, courses that continue to pump out the players as fast as they can in the shortest amount of time (only 7 minute intervals between tee times…or my goodness even less) will only be creating bottlenecks and identifying the real problem slow players just getting lost in the mix.

2)       Another reason Yates suggested is a reason for slow play is player ability.

This can create a bit of a back up as well since the high-handicappers take more shots thus more time as an aggregate for a round of golf. What I see more is the high-handicapper teeing up from the inappropriate tees for their ability. Higher-handicap golfers should talk to the golf shop prior to their round to determine which tees will be best for their index.

There are too many golfers out there who think that they are a bit better than they might really be. Call it ego or even pride, but it is ok to find out the best tee box for your ability and you may find you score better and then as your index goes down, you will be able to adjust to a different tee box.

3)      Architecture of a golf course can create a log jam and slow play as players try to manage the difficulties of the design.

Now a-days our top golf course architects are hired to design more and more difficult courses on various terrains that cause for golfer headaches. Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful designed courses out there on the most beautiful landscapes —mountains, oceans, hills and valleys—but the golfer tend to find themselves constantly looking for balls or finding the greens so quick and adulating that 3, 4 and 5 putts is the norm.

I love a good difficult course, but I will make sure I tee up from the appropriate tees as well and still take in my surroundings and the beauty of the design.

4)      Along the design, how a course is maintained can also cause disruption in the speed of play.

If a course is poorly maintained, you may find yourself either searching for your ball just off the fairway in the rough that is more like a jungle and not on purpose. When the course is not maintained very well, there are often ‘obstacles’ that create slow play for players of all abilities. Take for example a tee box that hasn’t been cut in weeks; or a green that has ball marks, dead areas or even long grass. Again, this can create a delay in play.

And there you have it. Mr. Yates researched reasons for slow play and my take on each.

Slow Play Can Cause Health Issues -- image by
Slow Play Can Cause Health Issues — image by

Final Thoughts

In the end, it is up to each of us to find a way to speed up play…even me. Solid repeatable pre-shot routine, understanding it’s ok to allow a group to play through or play up on a par 3. It is also ok, to simply pick up your ball when you have hit your max score.

Maybe golf today cannot be played in 4 hours, but with a little effort by every golfer that tees it up, we can get rid of the 6 hour rounds…and that included the LPGA and PGA tournaments!

Do your best and commit to taking 5 minutes off your round by managing your game a little better. Take a handful of clubs out to your ball vs. going back and forth to the cart. Try to look at your putt while others are putting and decide on your stroke before it’s your turn.

Together we can all make golf a little bit more fun with just little changes in each of us.

‘keep smiling and always believe’


Written by BP Staff


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