By Chad Napier
Pace of play is something confronting both golf and baseball, which of course are two of the major sports not timed by a game clock.
The MLB has instituted new rules this season in order to speed up the game but the results have somehow caused a longer game. Last week at the Zurich Classic, the PGA handed down the first penalty for slow play penalty since 1995 against Miguel Angel Carballo and Brian Campbell because of two bad times and being out of position. The team kindly mentioned the fact they were playing with a twosome team who were struggling and thus taking up much of the clock.
The Masters penalized 14-year-old amateur Tianlang Guan in 2013 for bad times. Ironic or not, the three names mentioned above are not household names. “Rounds of eternity” is often stated as the number one reason golf participation is declining as we are told “no one has time to spend five hours for a golf round.”
As the PGA Tour tells us about its professional golfers “these guys are good”. The opposite can be said about most amateur golfers, “these guys are bad.”
I am not just talking about bad in a skill, but bad in golf etiquette and how to play the game correctly. When I say play correctly, I am not referring to a straight left arm on backswing and an athletic posture setup.
I am talking about (1) fivesomes being allowed to play, (2) guys hitting multiple mulligans when course is backed up, (3) not repairing pitch marks, (4) excessive time wasted at the turn BS’ing, (5) not being into position to hit after your playing partners are done, (6) starting on the back nine because the front nine is too busy, (7) not parking cart or placing your stand bag strategically for when you exit the green, (8) guys waiting on 350 yard shots who haven’t hit it 250 all day.
My number one pet peeve is the guy who re-putts his six footers to make sure it doesn’t break the same way again! Notice that each of the peeves mentioned except for repairing pitch marks make for a longer round for the people watching.
The Tour professionals do not do a lot to give amateurs guidance in being ready to play. Rickie Fowler has been timed the fastest at a 16 second average and JB Holmes one of the slowest at over 30 seconds.
My regular Saturday morning group can walk 18 holes in an easy three hours. I have timed our swings and no one is above 20 seconds from time tee is in the ground to lift off. Now consider if you put a 30- second guy in the place of a 20-second guy. That is ten extra seconds for an average of 80 swings, which amounts to an additional 13 minutes to a round. If you put two of those guys in the foursome, we have almost an extra half an hour just for an extra ten second pre-shot routine.
It goes without saying every course has those couple of players who are labeled as “human rain delays.” I talked with a local club pro last week as why they changed a par 4 back to a par 5 after the original change helped with pace of play. It is an awkward par 5 with a 190 yard lay up tee shot or risk your chances of it running off a hill into the fairway leaving a 250 yard approach. More times than not, groups spent days looking for balls on the side of the hill. Thus, the course changed the hole to a par 4 eliminating the lay up portion of the hole. When I returned to the course this year, I saw that it was returned to a par 5 and I asked why. Believe it or not, the club received numerous complaints from golfers who said they paid for a par 72, not a par 71 course and were being cheated of their golf value.
Our church is currently looking for a full time pastor and “pace of play” is a factor in this search as well. We were told to turn away from one candidate because he has the reputation of “holding too long.”
I have been blessed for my entire 35-year church life to be with pastors who believe in the “noon time” dismissal. None of them were golfers either. Our interim pastor and the 40-year veteran pastor before him both believed in the philosophy of “say what you need to say and sit down.”
Don’t judge my spiritual condition, but there is nothing worse for my ADHD than a service lengthened by a preacher turning his five-point sermon into a ten-pointer because he repeats himself over and over.
Golf is the same way – “make your stroke and sit down!”
Some things in life are better the longer they last . . . . a golf round is not one of them!
Chad Napier is an attorney who when not in the court room travels around the country playing golf every chance he get’s. Along the way he has made friends with PGA Tour players, caddies, and fan’s like you and me. You can follow Chad on Twitter at @ChaddyNap