Let’s Talk Slow Play

By: Tina Mickelson - Sep 14, 2020

Nobody likes slow play. I know….that’s not mind blowing news. But slow play is often mistakenly tied to ability level, or lack thereof. Many players assume that higher handicappers are inevitably slow. Nope. Not the case at all.

Each player has their own idea of what constitutes an ideal pace of play. Somebody’s idea of slow play might feel like a rather quick pace to somebody else.

Speaking for myself, my pace of play is actually quite fast and it’s not because I’m trying to finish in record time or am super sensitive about keeping things moving. Like most players, my pace of play was developed over time and is unique to my experiences.

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. When my brother and I were young….and I mean young…..like 7 and 8 years old, our mom would drop us off at a short local public golf course. She would buy us an all-day pass and let us play our little hearts out while she went to work nearby. (you could do that back then) It was a short little course that was just right for our short little games. She would pick us up after work and we would go for dinner at the Mexican restaurant next door. What I remember from that time in our early lives was how much fun the game of golf was, how delicious the cheeseburgers were at that restaurant, and how I couldn’t wait to do it all again the next day.

Those days shaped my love for the game but something else entirely shaped my pace of play. Candy. Yep. The golf professional in the shop would let Phil and I pick out one item from the snack bar every time we finished a round of golf. We would run inside, proudly present our completed scorecard, jump up on the counter and reach back to snatch a “well deserved” Snickers Bar. So yeah….we played fast. The candy was our main incentive but we also liked to try to break our record for most holes played in one day. I don’t recall what our record stands at, but I can remember clear as day how that Snickers Bar tasted as we sat under the big tree outside the little golf shop and solved all the world’s problems. The first problem we tried to tackle was how to make a Snickers Bar package easier to open. At 7 and 8 years old that is a pressing priority. So yeah….typical kid stuff but it shaped the type of players we are today.

This is all well and good, but I am also aware that being the cause of slow play is one of the things new players fear most….have the most anxiety about….and one of the reasons they are reluctant to go play. They don’t want to hold anyone up. I cannot stress enough that pace of play has nothing to do with ability level. I have played with excellent players who are extremely slow. They take forever to choose their club, take 47 practice swings, stand over their ball for what seems like hours when all you want to do is yell, “Pull the trigger!”, they line up their putts from every angle and instead of putting out that 3-footer they mark their ball instead. I feel myself get fidgety as I write this. Slow play is not my jam.

So if it’s not based on ability, what does cause slow play? One word: Awareness. Just be aware of your surroundings, where your ball is in relation to the other players and whose turn it is. There are so many ways to keep the pace of play moving and the good news for new and inexperienced golfers is: you don’t have to be an excellent player to understand what it takes to maintain a reasonable pace of play. It’s basically common sense so, assuming you have some of that, you don’t need to raise your stress level over something that should be relaxing and fun.

If you are having trouble on a particular hole, don’t be afraid to simply pick up your ball, regroup and try again on the next hole. Nobody remembers what you shot or how you played, but they do remember if they had a good time with you or not.

So going back to that common sense…..if you are on the tee box about to hit your shot, this would not be the time to chit chat or tell a joke. If you hit your ball in the “stuff”, remind yourself that it is just a golf ball and move on instead of compelling your group to search through prickly bushes for 5 minutes. (easier to do if you have a bunch of used or old balls in your bag for holes with trouble) Don’t be afraid to hit out of turn. If a player is held up due to a ruling, bad lie, lost ball, etc., go ahead and let them know you will hit your shot since you are ready. Again, common sense.

New players often ask for a step by step guide for how to avoid slow play. Friend, you don’t need that. Be aware of what is happening around you and just keep things moving. Identify the fastest player in the group and follow their lead. Have fun, relax, take things as they come and just keep moving. You got this.

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