Monday, July 28, 2014

How Long is Too Long For 18 Holes of Golf?

I love getting out for an early round of golf, with the morning dew glistening on the grass and before the crowds of golfers arrive.  To be able to cruise through the course at my own pace, playing a round in 3 hours or less, is a beautiful thing.  However, in recent years, pace of play in general has increasingly become a concern, making my morning sanctuary rounds, that much more sacred.  In partnership with Golfplan, and as a follow-up to their recent article 'Has Golf Lost Its Enjoyment Factor As It's Got Slower?' I'd like to weigh in on the subject of slow play and whether or not its hurting golf's enjoyment factor.

It seems to be a reality that the pace of play on the golf course, at least in my area, has slowed in recent years. I think it's safe to say, I love golf as much as anyone, but when it comes to playing a 4-1/2+ hour round of golf, my excitement level starts to dwindle. It got me questioning, what's causing this trend? Are golfers to blame for many of the traffic jambs on the course? Are golfers reciting painfully long pre-swing routines before every shot... taking forever to read and re-read every putt... combing the forest in search of their errant drive? Or are the courses to blame? Is the course marshal missing in action... Is the beverage cart distracting golfers from keeping pace... Are courses guilty of shortening the length of time between tee times in order to maximize revenue, overcrowding the course?

Regardless of the cause, I'm unwilling to sacrifice my enjoyment for the game, and as such it's left me searching for answers of how to speed up play and ultimately maintain golf's enjoyment factor.  

To gain an additional perspective, I decided to consult with a well respected colleague, Wayne J. Bosley, Design Team Leader at Vision Golf Australia, regarding his views on slow play and to help determine... Is golf taking longer to play these days compared to the past?  Does slower play reduce the enjoyment factor of golf? and What can be done to improve pace of play and/or the enjoyment of golf?

"I've been playing golf since I was 3" explained Mr. Bosley "now 51, I would have to say the last 15 years have been the worst in regards to speed of play." As we dove right into the heart of the issue and the cause of slow play, Mr. Bosley believes televised golf is largely to blame, as the 'average Joe' golfer strives to replicate a  'Tour Validated' game.  We see this in golfers desire for both having Tour validated equipment as well as a Tour validated approach to playing the game.  "I was going to turn Professional last year" explained Mr. Bosley "and join many of my friends on the Senior Circuit, but I found out early enough that the ProAm style rounds are usually 5 to 6 hours long, at which point, my desire to play dropped to nil."  

This lead to us questioning, what, if anything, can be done to improve the pace of play at golf courses?  Exploring the idea with Mr. Bosley, it's tough to say whether or not there is a quick fix.  "It's difficult to change such an ingrained culture which has developed over the past 15 years.  Additionally, we have a current average age of golfers that is close to 60; it is hard for many of these players to walk faster on the overly challenging club courses that have been build or renovated/extended over the past decade."  These course 'improvements' cater to the less than 2% of the current golfing population that have a single figure handicap, who feel they need more of a challenge."  Clearly frustrated by the direction the industry has been heading, Mr. Bosley noted "the arrogance of our better players and the way we dismiss the needs of the casual/regular player amazes me."

Amidst the current circumstances, we are all looking to preserve the enjoyment factor of golf and to seek a sense of refuge on the golf course.  Mr. Bosley continues to find his 'happy place' on the golf course accompanied by his sons as playing partners "I continue to play golf with my sons at the beginning of the day or end of the day where we can play 18 holes in 2-1/2 hours walking the course with 9 clubs in a Sunday bag."    
Enjoy your day...

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