Pace of Play PSA

Unpopular opinion: Pace of play doesn’t need to be a big deal.

I imagine heads have exploded, desks have been flipped, iPhones have been shattered against walls…but here I am, still disagreeing with you.

Preface: I recognize extremes. The average round takes four hours (4 1/2 on weekends). If you’re creeping near the five hour mark, something along the way could have flowed better.

On the flip side, there are the people I like to call Birdie Bullies – experienced golfers who play easy courses to gain strokes on their card AND their ego. They hover or force their way through, on a mission to clock in at well under four hours, even on weekends. It’s a dick move.

Extremes on either end of the spectrum should absolutely be addressed. But the amount of content published on slow play – articles, tweets, Yelp reviews, editorials, angry smoke signals – completely outweighs the severity of the issue in real life.

When you book a tee time, you know what you’re getting yourself into. You’re committing the better portion of your day to this. Traveling to the course, waiting on playing partners, actually playing…it’s going to eat up a huge chunk of time and you know that. If you’re calling a marshall or passive-aggressively playing through on every outing, you need to reassess your choice of activity. Golf takes time, so it takes time out of your day to golf.

You’re already at a disadvantage as a single or pair if you’re behind a foursome. You can play through them, but you’ll likely catch up to another foursome along the way. Sometimes you can make friends, but more often than not, you’re holding that group up and returning a favor they likely never meant to extend. In a game that takes half a workday to play, those extra few minutes aren’t the end of the world.

Part of this unpopular opinion stems from personal experience, but as an individual, I couldn’t care less if you get pissed about pace of play. I mean, I get pissed when a stranger offers “help,” but there are people out there that would tell me to take the tips. There are schools of thought for every golfer, but my concern is avoiding schools that push people out of the game.

A large deterrent for demographics like women, millennials and kids is pace of play. But frankly, that’s not entirely the fault of the woman, millennial or kid in question.

New people are nervous. They don’t necessarily know all the rules and etiquette, and they certainly aren’t parring every hole. But hovering, offering unsolicited tips to get them moving faster or rudely asking to play through are all contributing factors to the dropout rate. Not to mention the effect on golf as a whole: the idea that golf is elitist, entitled and unwelcoming is exacerbated by the public shaming non-golfers get for trying to understand the appeal.

Don’t get me wrong, newbies should start on easy courses and do some reading before booking an outing. But since nothing can prepare you for how a round will actually go, some leniency won’t kill the more experienced groups on the greens.

Your time is not more important than that of the group in front of you. Your money is not worth more than the money they used to pay for their round. Barring the absolute extremes I mentioned before, it’s not imperative that you flex your jackass muscles. You were a beginner once. There was a time when you didn’t know course etiquette, or couldn’t hit a wedge straight to save your life. Whether you admit it (or know it), you’ve been the cause of slow play at some point.

If you feel you absolutely need to play through, go for it. But do it politely; don’t hover for six holes, don’t mutter to yourself while they tee up, don’t tell them it would have found the green if they’d only teed up higher. You’re not their coach, the marshall or their mother. There comes a point where you need to accept golf as a leisurely sport, slow down and smell the warm beer.

It’s worth noting that we’re assuming that the group in front of you doesn’t have an ego problem. You can be the nicest person on the course when you ask to play through and still be denied without good reason. While working an event, I watched a couple ask politely to play through. The ringleader of the Scumbag Guild in front of them not only refused, he did so by saying “you and your bitch can just wait.” In cases like this, we’re talking more about a bad person and not about bad golfers, so handle that however you see fit. Just…don’t be the guy that stabs another guy because of slow play (true story…seriously).

All I’m saying is, if you catch up to the group in front of you once, let it go. If it happens again, consider asking to play through and move on. If you see the course is crowded, realize that it isn’t the fault of the group in front, it’s a circumstance of the time you booked (or the fault of course management). There’s no sense in speeding past the car in front of you just to be stopped at a red light. Set the cruise control and relax.

This was originally published on Check it out alongside some other #golfchat authors and opinions here.

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4 thoughts on “Pace of Play PSA

  1. Hey Cassie,

    This was a fun article to read, and well-written as always. You bring up some good points. Pace of play on the course can be a seesaw. Even a group playing along at a nice pace may get into trouble on a particular hole, and you might find yourself waiting on them while they sort it out and get back on track. It happens, and like you said, no need to get excited. Or sometimes everyone will play a particular hole really well and you scurry up to the next hole quicker than normal. That doesn’t mean the group ahead is being slow, so relax and give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Having said that, the extremes can be a problem, and it’s unfortunate that a few bad apples (in one group) can set off a chain reaction and throw off the flow of an entire golf course full of people. These people more than any others should realize that their time is not more valuable than the rest of the people on the golf course. It seems to be a fine balance between the quicker players being the ignorant ones by pushing the ones going at an average pace, versus becoming slow enough that now you’re the ignorant one and being pushed for good reason.

    In my experience, playing at a “reasonable” pace has little to do with skill and all to do with awareness. We have a group of 5 old ladies at our club, with handicaps ranging from 15 to 30 who always play in a fivesome together. We have a 4 hour pace of play policy and they are never an issue and they never fall behind. It’s all about finding a flow and being aware/ready, while still being able to enjoy the day, IMHO.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Josh! It really is case-by-case, and it’s so hard to know what’s really going on. Placing blame (skill level, group in front, course, etc.) is arbitrary…it’s all relative, and everyone just needs to find a way to have a good time.

      I hope I’m still on the course when I’m an old lady!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicely written and completely agree. Many variables are at play that may contribute to slow play. Your advice is great though. Enjoying reading your work.

    Liked by 1 person

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