Slow going


The rain was coming down in buckets as we stood on the 11th tee on the Old Course at St Andrews. Even in vile conditions the par three hole is an object of the highest regard with a green that slopes front to back and the notorious Strath bunker sitting, brooding, awaiting its next visitation.
However the hole’s magic starts to recede rapidly when you have a Japanese four-ball on and around the green each studiously putting out for at least seven. One of the party must have taken that many in the Strath but continued, doubtless satisfied to write down a gutsy 13 on his card which he did whilst still standing on the green.
After our 20 minute wait the rain had abated, but we had still spent that absurd amount of time on the tee having been joined midway by another four-ball that had finished on 10 with one more four close behind and putting out.
Given that the Old Course has marshals chivvying slow players up we could only presume that they had all decided to take shelter from the vile conditions as we proceeded at our funereal pace.
Slow play is a curse that does much to deter youngsters from playing the game. Why would any young person want to go off and spend between five and six hours on a golf course, especially if they are paying a sizeable sum to do it?
And this is probably the single most significant reason for getting round more quickly. With golf in the UK becoming an increasingly senior pursuit, attracting young players who will remain members of a golf club is the very essence of survival in uncertain economic times.
Jack Nicklaus says that none of his 13 grandchildren play golf because they get bored by the length of time spent on the course. Nicklaus believes the future course design may lie in two or three loops of six holes thus allowing players to be out for a maximum of two hours before returning to the clubhouse, especially in urban and edge of town developments.
But what else can we do? Well get a move on for a start. It is not necessary to take more than one practice swing before hitting the ball, and that can be done whilst your playing partner or opponent is hitting their ball provided it does not interfere with their shot.
A putt does not need to be studied from every angle before the ball is marked and, anyway, putts can be looked at while others are putting. And please, please, please look where the next tee box is and take your trolley or clubs over there in order to be away quickly. You will then have time to fill in your scorecard walking to the next tee rather than linger on the hole that you have just completed.
These are simple, common sense things but in the long term we hold the very future of the game in our hands. Unless we want subscriptions to continually rise because of the lack of new members one of the easiest things we can do is speed up our rounds. Less penal rough and more tee placements would also help.
The R&A suggests three hours 10 minutes for two-balls, three hours 30 for three-balls, and no more than three hours 50 minutes for four-balls. So let’s just all go and do it!

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