The pace of play problem – what’s the rush?

Slow play is one of the biggest issues in golf at the moment, but Graeme Smeaton from Royal & Awesome has a different take on the issue – he argues that golfers should be allowed to take the time to enjoy a round and that this can lead to more revenue for golf clubs.Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 09.34.33

With average round times well over four hours, the pace of play debate is raging on. You’ve all heard the problems; people with busy lives just can’t spare the time, slow play holds up other players and long delays make you lose focus, get bored and drop shots and, ultimately, is one of the factors that puts people off playing.

Surely we’re looking at this all wrong though; we all like golf, right? And we like spending time with our buddies? So what’s the rush to get back to our weekend chores? We’ve even paid for the privilege of playing! What other recreational activities do we pay for and then say, ‘right let’s get this over with’? Instead, let’s rejoice in the value that golf provides; five hours of entertainment for a green fee that is way less than we’d normally pay for the sometimes dubious pleasure of watching a rugby team for 80 minutes or a football game for 90 minutes.

We can’t just ignore the problems of slow play of course, but we can certainly address them. I fully understand that we all lead busy lives, with many demands on our time and getting the green light from a partner to go golfing for even a few hours can feel like a big achievement. But given that we often need to negotiate so admirably and spend so much relationship capital to get the golfing go-ahead, it would be crazy to only agree enough time to rush around and not enjoy it fully. So we need to better manage expectations – no more half measures when negotiating golf time. A slow round could take more than five hours and let’s give ourselves some wiggle room – in for a penny, in for a pound. We need to accept, and indeed enjoy, the fact that a round of golf and then time at the bar can mean you are at the club for most of the day.

Screen-Shot-2016-06-10-at-09.34.53If my friends and I are taking our time then we won’t hold up the group behind if they are also enjoying a relaxing round themselves. So all we need here is a bit of segregation; Clubs should allocate certain courses or certain tee time to the leisurely lads, so that they don’t hold up the eager beavers. Moving all of the slow Joes on to their own track will even speed up the rounds of the guys that are golfing to a certain schedule.

As for those who talk about getting bored in-between shots – excuse me? When we’re catching up with mates in the pub, we don’t worry about getting bored between sips, do we? This leads us nicely onto another benefit of accepting that golf is not a quick game; it gives us time to enjoy one or two liquid looseners. Not enough to make us miss putts, but just enough so that we don’t feel bad when we do.

Taking time when playing golf can also save lives – bear with me here as this is a bit of a leap. Some courses make you take carts to keep the pace of play moving along, but walking is great for your health and promoting the health benefits of the game is an absolute must. I realise that, unfortunately, a lot of us don’t have six hours to spare. In this case, just go for 9 holes of golf and take the time to enjoy it.

‘But what about the golf club’s revenue?’ I hear you cry. I understand that slower rounds mean fewer tee time, and fewer tee times mean fewer green fees. But again this is glass half empty thinking; golf clubs have an awesome opportunity to up-sell; keep the beer cart close, tempt them into the half-way house for bacon butties and get them booked in for a post round dinner. Remember, they have agreed a full day pass.

Instead of moaning about slow play, why don’t we see how much fun and enjoyment we can cram into those precious 18 or nine holes and time afterwards in the club house? By occasionally stopping to actually enjoy the game, the natural outdoors and the company we can say good-bye to the pace of play problem and hello to the opportunity to have fun.