USGA's Nager on slow play: 'Golf needs to act'

Glen Nager (file photo)

Glen Nager (file photo)

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CORONADO, Calif. – Glen Nager will declare war on slow play and any move toward bifurcation, according to an advance copy of the U.S. Golf Association president's speech obtained before Saturday night's inauguration.

Nager, a Washington attorney, was scheduled to address 500 USGA officers and members during the association's annual meeting at the Hotel Del Coronado.

“Five-hour-plus rounds of golf are incompatible with life in modern society, where there are many alternative forms of entertainment and sport that fit more comfortably into the compressed time that we have available for recreation and relaxation,” Nager wrote in his prepared remarks.

The USGA, under Nager’s leadership, will enlist the help of the PGA of America, PGA Tour and other professional tours, as well as golf associations and organizations around the world.

“Now, more than ever, the golf community needs to act,” Nager said.

Nager offered few details for speeding up the game, although he did say, “This past year, the USGA’s Research and Test Center launched an ambitious project to create the first-ever dynamic model of pace of play – a model based on real data, and applicable to both competitive and recreational golf. Previous models and programs addressing pace of play have been based largely on observation and anecdote, but our test center’s model uses large-scale, real-world data.

“When complete, the model should show the specific influences that course design, setup, and operation, as well as golfers themselves, have on pace of play. And it will allow us to advise course architects, club owners and managers, golf superintendents, professional tours and golfers themselves about how to promote a faster pace of play.”

Nager blasted the concept of bifurcation, or creation of two sets of rules: one for touring pros and elite amateurs, the other for everyone else.

“The argument that multiple sets of rules are needed to accommodate players of differing skill levels is refuted by golf’s long history and traditions,” he wrote. “The history of golf is actually a history of movement toward unification of playing and equipment rules, as golfers of different abilities from myriad geographies and cultures seek to play the same sport on a national and international basis, and soon in the Olympics.

“As I stated last year, and have reiterated today, the game of golf is facing real and complex challenges. But the answer is not to change the game. We should instead vigorously address the factors that we already know discourage golfers from enjoying or taking up the game, such as long golf courses that are unduly expensive to maintain; rough heights that make it difficult to find golf balls and slow down play; putting greens that are set up at speeds that are expensive to maintain and that slow down play; and indeed slow play itself.

“These issues and others like them are the challenges that we must carefully examine and address, with the confidence that we can identify solutions that will both protect the essence of our great game and foster a sustainable future. I hope that others will join us in this pursuit.

Nager, 54, a partner in the law firm of Jones Day who has argued 13 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, is starting his second one-year term as USGA president.

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