Time to change

Golf can take far too long – it’s time to speed things up

One of the biggest issues for occasional or prospective golfers is the amount of time it takes to play 18 holes, so it’s time to sort it out.

A round of competition golf should not take more than four hours in all but extreme circumstances. A practice round in a threeball should never take more than three hours. If those points were universal, we would all be happier golfers. So why does it take so much longer for so many?

Before I get into the details, I do understand that those playing Royal Birkdale off the back tees in 40mph winds and rain may take a long time, and that busy courses can be the cause of queues. My issue isn’t with these particular circumstances, it’s with the unnecessary time-wasting and lack of awareness which sees every weekend round grind to a near-halt.

First of all, pre-shot routines. I get that they’re important but I don’t understand is why a club golfer would think it is acceptable (or necessary) to take five practice swings, tap their belt buckle twice, stand perfectly still as if posing for a Renaissance portrait for 68 seconds, then send the ball crashing into the trees 100 yards from the tee. If you think this might be you, please stop doing this immediately. Ever player who ever plays in a group behind you will be incredibly grateful.

There are also those who appear completely unaware of the need to keep their round moving. They fail to plan their exit route from the green or they will mark their card on the green rather than doing it on the tee or in the next fairway. Then there are those who feel their conversation is so important it should start as they get over the ball on the tee rather than during one of the many walks between shots.

And what about those who still fail to practice Ready Golf, even when all four players in their group are spread to the wind on a par five? The principle is simple, if it’s safe to hit, get on with it.

There are so many things golfers can do which add no time to their own round, but when added together, cause recurring misery for the groups following them. If you recognise yourself in any of the points above, take note and get on with it. If you recognise your playing partners doing any of these, have a word with them as it’s not fair for the hundreds of players queuing up behind them.

Clubs also have a part to play. If you’re playing singles competitions, play in threeballs rather than fours. It’s the recommended number of players for a reason – fourballs take too long. The amount of time spent dancing around markers and getting out of eye lines on the greens could shave hours off a year of golf.

Do you remember the initial phase after lockdown, those sub-three-hour rounds in twoballs? Let’s get back to that pace of play – the game will be much better for it.