Getting to the bottom of slow play

Stephanie Connelly waits to hit a shot during the 2009 UCF Challenge.

I’ve received some interesting feedback about the pace of play blog I wrote.

I have heard suggestions, criticisms, advice and tips. I’ve even heard sounds of desperation from people who are giving up. Let me be the crusader in trying to get this pace of play problem fixed. I’ll stand up for all the agitated coaches, players, rules officials and parents that are forced to waste an entire day just to watch 18 holes of golf. I have said it once, and I will say it again: It isn’t right!

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Frank Darby

I spoke with St. Johns University head men’s golf coach Frank Darby on Wednesday. He had some interesting suggestions, and I believe this could be a start to fixing the problem.

1.) Get rid of every 200-plus-yard par 3s. Like Darby, I like to see players play from a variety of different yardages. Yes I know, the longer these kids hit the ball the more exciting it is, but c’mon . . . there are only a handful of spectators that marvel at great strength. Let’s see what these kids can do with different types of yardages for par 3s. Move the tees up to see a par 3 from 130, 150, 170, and then a 200-yarder.

“I like to see different club options,” Darby said. “If you really think about it, we want to target 15 minutes a hole. If players start to accumulate minutes here or there, then a short par 3 can start to make up a few here or there.”

I agree. If players aren’t playing par 3s from the lengths of short par 4s then that is one way to gain some minutes back.

2.). It is OK to play ready golf . . . sometimes. I spoke with a volunteer rules official for Carolinas Golf and the NCAA, Barry Bruggers, who officiated his first event in 2004. He has noticed that pace of play has gotten worse in the last six years. At this rate, what will pace of play be like in 2020? According to Bruggers, there are several different instances kids should be playing ready golf:

  • If a player is waiting for a rules official to talk about options or where to drop, the other players in the group should hit. “In stroke play there is no penalty for playing ready golf,” Bruggers said. “At the very least a player should set up their shots while the other player is discussing his or her options with the rules official,” Bruggers says.
  • Pre-swing routine. Bruggers said most college players today don’t have the proper habits to keep the pace of play going. Coaches, this is where I am going to call you out. A player should be able to take one or two practice swings then put the ball into play. Tell your guys to stop dilly dallying, staring at their opponents swing, looking for yardages when they have lasers in the bag or eating something before their shot. Tell your guy to get to his ball, judge the wind, get his yardage, take a practice swing or two and hit. That process should not take more than 40 seconds, according to several rules officials I have spoken too.

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 3.) Let’s get a competition committee for pace of play purposes. I thought it was rather interesting that between the coaches and rules officials I spoke with, all suggested having a competition committee created for this issue.

“Unless we get coaches to support a committee as a group, nothing will change,” a rules official told me. “We all talk about it, but no one will do anything about it.”

Coaches constantly talk about how bad pace of play is. Well, coaches how about it? Are you really willing to get a committee together, let them throw out a yellow flag for delay of game and start penalizing these kids? Let’s face it . . we talk, complain, blog and post on the discussion boards this issue to death. Unless everyone finally agrees that rules officials should become more liberal with handing out penalty shots for slow play nothing will ever change.

I encourage you to write to me with more suggestions, thoughts and ideas regarding this issues. I’m sure this isn’t the last you have heard from me about this subject.

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