Golf, one of the most — if not the most — diverse games in the world!
Played on every continent, and in most countries around the world, the game of golf has almost no boundaries.
No matter of your age, physical ability, mental capacity or status within society, the game of golf offers and affords opportunity for all who wish challenge themselves on the links.
At one time, the word ‘Golf’ was synonymous with elitism! Only the very wealthy, those that had status within society, had the opportunity to play.
Equipment was expensive, locations limited, there were very few public golf courses, and rather you had to belong to a country club to be able to book a tee time or play a round of golf.
Evolution of golf has come full circle over the years.
The game has grown, popularity has increased, and the availability of courses and cost to play is affordable for all. The opportunity for all audiences and demographic ranges to take up the game is out there.
Having said this, taking up the game is still intimidating for many. The game of golf is entrenched in tradition and has been built around many basic rules and regulations.
These are called etiquette. Golf course etiquette is the foundation that the game of golf is built around. Best described is the way we conduct ourselves on the golf course.
Although there are many rules of etiquette, and possibly too many to write about in this article, one of the most important and therefore intimidating for many new golfers is speed of play.
Speed of play is simply defined as the amount of time allocated to reasonably play a round of golf.
A round of golf is determined by whether you are on a nine- or 18-hole golf course. This is of course is determined by the difficulty of the course you are playing, but a reasonable amount of time to play golf for nine holes is two hours and for 18 holes is four hours.
Golf course staff monitors play by a few different methods, but the most common method to monitor speed of play is to employ a course marshal. The job of the golf course marshal is to drive around the course to ensure each and every group is in position. A group is in position if they are within a half hole of the group in front of them.
It is my opinion that marshals have the most difficult job on the golf course. Their primary role is one of conflict as they only seem to approach a group when that group is out of position and needs to speed up. This in some cases can cause conflict and create hostilities, therefore making your golfing experience less enjoyable.
In the next few paragraphs, I shall give a few tips on how to keep up with the speed of play. Some of these tips include the appropriate number of practice swings, where to leave your equipment around the green, and walking and talking.
First of all, the best solution to increasing your speed of play is to walk faster. I find that players have a tendency to walk at a slow pace while they are out playing with friends. Their main focus is on the social aspect of the day and the speed at which they are walking can be slower than what is required to keep up with the group in front of them.
I understand that in many cases that golf is the excuse, but the main reason some are on the course is to enjoy the company of friends.
The social aspect of the game is undeniable, but can still be enjoyed while walking quickly and directly to your ball.
The next step is to be prepared when it is your turn to hit the ball. I find that many golfers spend too much time waiting and watching their playing partners hit their shot when they can be preparing for their turn to hit.
This preparation is needed to correctly choose the golf club needed to hit the ball towards your target.
Some of the information is the distance you need the ball to travel, the lie your ball is on, plus wind conditions and hazards that may be ahead of you. Preparation is the key to hitting a successful shot and being prepared when it is your turn to hit will most certainly assist you in improving your speed of play.
Practice swings are an important part of your pre-shot routine. A practice swing assists golfers in simulating that prefect swing.
It also helps you loosen up and get rid of any tension you may have in your body. One or two practice swings prior to hitting your ball is appropriate but five or six becomes counter productive and slows down speed of play.
Lastly, where you position your golf clubs while you are on the green can also improve the speed at which a round of golf takes.
Many golfers will leave their golf clubs too far away from where they are hitting their ball from, causing them to walk back towards the group to retrieve them.
This is most obvious when golfers reach the green. Many players will leave their equipment in front of the green. This is OK if you are walking off in that direction after you have holed out your putt. In most cases you will be walking off the green towards the side or back and will have to walk back towards the group behind you before traveling to the next tee.
When reaching the green, you should always leave your equipment on the side of the green that is closest to the next tee box.
It may not seem like a big deal, but if you do this for all 18 holes and it takes 30 seconds per hole, that translates to an extra nine minutes it will take you to play your game. Put this together with taking five practice swings or not being prepared when it is your turn to hit the ball, and you can see how your speed can slow down.
Improving your speed of play on the golf course comes down to awareness in most cases. Although these are only a few of many helpful speed of play tips, applying them the next time your are on the course will most certainly assist you and your group keep up to the group in front of you and allow your course marshal to drive by with a smile on his/her face.
Scott Bergdahl is the head professional at Lakewood Golf Resort near Sylvan Lake