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June 21, 2013

Pick it up! New book takes aim at slow play

Posted at 6:53 AM by Josh Sens | Categories: Slow Play
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In the time it usually takes you to complete 18, you could read a new book by Sam Dunn that might help you finish quicker the next time out.

Its title---The Art of Fast Play: Solving Golf’s Maddening Problem of Slow Play---pretty much gives the plot away.

Dunn is an architect, but he designs buildings, not courses, and, as he confesses, “Nothing qualifies me to write about golf except that I truly love the game.”

That love has inspired him to defend golf’s honor.

He’d like you to pick up the f&#@!!! pace.

Slow play, it’s often said, is like the weather. Everybody talks about it, but nobody does much about it. The majority of golfers say they hate glacial rounds. Yet the problem is so widespread that one suspects that the majority of golfers are too darned slow. 

The Art of Fast Play is Dunn’s crack at a cure.

Though he calls it an art, Dunn describes fast play as an acquired skill -- a series of small gestures, habits and routines that add up, roughly, to a brisk round.

Many are skills you should have learned in kindergarten -- being kind and considerate, staying alert, not stopping to flirt with every cart girl you see (ok, Dunn doesn’t talk about that, but I mention it in case my buddy Tom is reading). But others are more subtle, like learning to enter a bunker the right way.

Dunn gives quite a few of them exhaustive treatment (an entire chapter, for instance, on operating golf carts as a team).

You could quarrel with some of his conclusions.

He says, for instance, that a round of golf for a foursome should take close to four hours, and that anyone “who claims less doesn’t care enough about the game to take it seriously.”

(I take the game seriously, and my regular foursome and I routinely play in less than three-hours-and-fifteen minutes, and not just on our home course; we don’t hurry, and not all of us are all that good)

You could also quibble with some of his commands, such as “Keep up with the group ahead, no matter what.” That mandate sounds swell. But, as the respected slow-play consultant Bill Yates has pointed out, issuing that edict is problematic because a lot of golfers misinterpret it (Keeping up doesn’t mean breathing down the necks of the group in front of you, which leads to awkward bunching and only worsens congestion; it means maintain proper spacing throughout the round).

But it’s hard not to agree with the thrust of Dunn’s suggestions or his complaints.

As he rightly points out, pace of play is a function of myriad factors: golfers, course policies, course set-up and design. Carts, paradoxically, often slow pace. A lot of modern architecture has done the game no favors, giving rise as it has to near-impossible forced carries and real-estate-centric layouts that require epic journeys from green to tee. Even the sequence of holes can play a role. On courses that open with a par-5 followed by a long par-3, for instance, it’s pretty much inevitable: a multi-group back-up on the second tee.

Pace of play is a long-simmering issue but lately it’s been pushed to the front-burner with the USGA’s new “While We’re Young” ad campaign

Amusing stuff. Ironically, though, golf’s governing body hasn’t always set the best example. Last week’s U.S. Open is a case in point. On the brutal par-3 third, players were asked to wave up groups behind them, which doesn’t just LOOK bad. It IS bad. Studies have shown that waving-up on par-3s only contributes to a sluggish pace.

Bottom line: the disease of slow play does not discriminate, plaguing tumble-down munis and Tour venues alike. Like a clueless foursome plodding up the 18th fairway, an antidote to the malaise is way, way overdue.

Dunn’s book may not be the silver bullet. But kudos to him for hurrying the conversation along.

The Art of Fast Play: Solving Golf’s Maddening Problem of Slow Play is available at Amazon.com (list price: 14.95)

 

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