On the clock

Another four hour-plus round of fourball betterball awaits this weekend, but why must club golf take so long?

As you’ve already guessed, this month’s column is all about slow play and there is a lot to get off my chest.

Before I get into why taking more than four hours to play a round of golf is ridiculous for club golfers, I understand why some rounds do take longer, and that golf should be enjoyed rather than simply being a race.

In certain circumstances slow play is near unavoidable – though a few of the steps outlined later would help if you’re not doing them already. First up, playing long courses can take a while – though there is no excuse for playing a tour length venue in a fourball knock with the lads when you can’t reach the fairways – you know who you are. We also all inevitably slow down when playing in the rain (the only unavoidable cause I can think of). I also understand that the final stages of a County Championship may take longer (note this is not the same as a Wednesday afternoon medal – you know who you are).

At the top level of the game, things are changing. The European Tour will again trial a shot clock during this season with players expected to play their shots within 40 seconds. The players welcome the idea and I hope it does help some of the guys out there get on with it.

As for club golfers, the issue doesn’t seem to be those elaborate, 14-swing, two taps of the belt buckle pre-shot routines or checking the wind direction six times before pulling the trigger (if that is you please stop immediately, I’m sure it won’t affect your rounds of 97 anyway).

This issue instead is one of common sense, or the lack there of. We’ve all heard these a million times before but so many people just don’t get it and have no awareness of how they can affect the rest of the field queuing up behind them. First up, don’t mark your card on the green – do it on the next tee or even in the next fairway. Second, be aware of what’s going on around you and when it will be your turn to play. Use this to know when to get started checking your yardage, choosing a club and everything else you can do while waiting to play. Leave your bag on the correct side of the green to make a quick exit – especially if you have a trolley.

Others of course are less common sense and are caused by a complete lack of self-awareness. For instance, your conversation on the tee doesn’t need to begin when it’s your turn to play – save it for the walk up the fairway and hit your shot. Instead of holding up play to faff around with your bag, leave it until you make it to the tee or when it’s not your turn.

There are so many things golfers can do which add no time to their own round but when added together can cause misery for the group following them.

You can also add in the adoption of Ready Golf (which most clubs have already asked players to adhere to in competitions outside of matchplay, and all should) to really help speed things up. The biggest change to most club golfers is to play out of turn if safe to do so (e.g. if a long hitter is waiting for the fairway or green to clear, if a playing partner has lost a ball or if the person with the honour is delayed on the way to the tee). The last one, and the one which got me thinking about this column, is by far the most infuriating and the cause of my latest four hour-plus round on a Sunday morning. If playing fourball betterball and you’re partner has a tap-in for a three please pick up the ball you’ve just knifed out of the bunker with your fifth shot – you know who you are!