Golf Course Architecture - Issue 58 October 2019

WELCOME 1 Time travel L et me first say that my interest in the speed of play at professional level is not high. I don’t watch a lot of pro golf, and except in weeks where the circus fetches up at a particularly interesting course, or to play for a historically important championship, I’m probably doing no more than looking to see who won on a Monday morning, and expressing a little bit of pleasure if a player I like has triumphed. So slow play at pro level is to me like politicians who lie – it’s unfortunate, but what do you expect? The point at which the rubber hits the road, though, is when habits created at pro level spread into recreational golf. In our social game, we don’t have the nuclear button of penalty shots to impose on those who take unbearably long to play. Really, ostracism – declining to play with golfers we know to be slow – is our only comeback. There’s no doubt that most of the characteristics of slow play – lengthy pre-shot routines, stalking putts from all angles, extensive discussion with caddies about options – stem from the pro game. At that level they are an irritation, not even that at times. And yes, they probably do impact on golf ’s popularity as a TV sport. But at recreational level the problem is many times bigger, indeed existential. Lots of people simply do not play golf – or at best play less golf than they would otherwise – because of the pace of play. And we should not believe that tweaking around the edges to save a few seconds here and there would make much difference. We have argued extensively in this column before that golf needs to be a half day, not a full day activity if it is to really prosper. Getting round times down from four hours and fifty minutes to four and a half will not solve any of our difficulties. We need a quantum leap so that the average length taken to play golf is no more than three hours, the way it used to be many years ago. Can we get back there en masse, rather than just at the small number of clubs with a great fast play culture? I don’t know. Maybe it means redefining what it is to play a round of golf. Be radical! ADAM LAWRENCE