Golf has been slow to respond to its slow play problem.
But at least its efforts are picking up.
Consider a recent gathering at USGA headquarters, where industry leaders met for an energized symposium called "While We're Young: Golf's Pursuit of a New Paradigm of Pace of Play."
You know things are getting serious when a fancy word like "paradigm" is tossed about. Sure enough, as Golfweek reported, respected stat-wonks were part of the discussions. They're trying to bring hard data to illuminate the many causes of slow play, from tee time intervals to course set-ups. That marks a broader way of thinking about a problem that has long been blamed largely on golfers alone.
As pace-of-play consultant Bill Yates told Golfweek: "Management has the largest responsibility. Players are second."
The USGA appears to be coming around to this way of thinking. Though its "While We're Young" campaign is directed at recreational golfers, golf's ruling body is also taking a hard look at how it runs tournaments and the influence those tactics have on pace of play.
For Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director of rules, competitions and amateur status, this broader outlook amounts to----how to put it?----a paradigm shift.
As he told Golfweek: "I've found religion on this (slow-play-business)."
His allusion to religion is apt. All too often, 18 holes takes an eternity.
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.
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)
It's not often we get to see two legends like Arnold Palmer and Clint Eastwood on screen together -- at Pebble Beach's iconic 7th hole, no less. So thanks to the USGA for producing this "While We're Young" commercial as part of its campaign to speed up play. It made our day.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old Chinese sensation who this week became the youngest-ever Masters participant, was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play in the second round of the 2013 Masters.
Guan finished his round with a three-over 75, leaving him at 4-over-par for the tournament, a stroke outside the projected cutline at the time. [Update: Guan ended the day inside the cut line and will play the weekend.]
According to reports, officials gave Guan a warning on the 13th hole, before issuing the penalty four holes later, at the par-4 17th. Guan parred that hole, but was forced to sign for a bogey 5.
The last player to be assessed a slow-play penalty at a major championship was Steve Lowery at the 2004 PGA Championship; the PGA Tour hasn't penalized a player for slow play since Glen Day at the 1995 Honda Classic.
"This isn't going to wind up pretty," said Ben Crenshaw, Guan's playing partner for the first two rounds. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry this happened.
"I'm sick. He's 14 years old."
Augusta National released a statement about the Guan penalty on Friday afternoon:
Tianlang Guan was assessed a one-shot penalty for violation of Rule 6-7 of the Rules of Golf and the Tournament’s Pace of Play Policy. His group, which included Ben Crenshaw and Matteo Manassero, was deemed out of position on No. 10. Guan began being timed on Hole 12 and received his first warning on Hole 13 after his second shot. In keeping with the applicable rules, he was penalized following his 2nd shot on the 17th hole when he again exceeded the 40 second time limit by a considerable margin.
Hunter Mahan said Thursday that he supports stroke penalties on players for slow play because fines have not been effective.
Pace of play is a constant source of hand-wringing on the PGA Tour, but the problem was pushed into the spotlight during the Monday final round at the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago when, due to the glacial pace in front of them, it took winner Tiger Woods' group almost four hours to play 11 holes. (Robert Garrigus played in the morning at Torrey, flew to Phoenix, checked into his hotel, and turned on the TV to watch the end of Tiger's round.)
Mahan, who had four holes to finish at Torrey that morning, said Thursday that players have the ultimate responsibility to pick up the pace at PGA Tour events.
HUNTER MAHAN: I think we would all like to play faster. The pace would be ‑‑ the game would be sort of better if the pace was faster and guys were not standing on tees and just waiting for someone to go play; it doesn't look good when the last group is just standing there with two other groups and waiting on a par 3 or something ridiculous. There's no reason to stop there.
But it comes down to the players. It comes down to all of us making an effort to play faster. It's not a hundred guys playing slow; it's a few guys, and you know, I know that I don't want to be one of those guys. I want to play fast. I want to be ready to go every time it's my shot. There's a handful of guys, and unless those guys make a change, it's just going to be slow. It's a very slight thing that's going to bog everyone down. But it's going to come down to the players making decisions or changing the rules to make the rules for strict and have a heavy penalty.
Q. Do you think the TOUR could be more stringent in its policing of it?
HUNTER MAHAN: There's plenty of things that could be done. You're going to have to I think start giving guys shots because shots will affect the rounds a lot easier. Fines, ten, 15, it doesn't mean much. In the long term, it doesn't matter. Obviously that has not worked. So I think if you start popping shots for guys, they are going to start moving. But honestly it doesn't start on the first tee or the 12th tee; you should be here at this time. Like I said, it the players responsibility.
Q. Does it surprise you sometimes how long it takes some guys, just in watching their routine?
HUNTER MAHAN: What's frustrating is guys when it's their turn, they are the second or third guy and they are not ready to go. That's frustrating to me. There's no reason for that. If you're the last guy, it should take you ten seconds to hit, it shouldn't take you 50 seconds to hit. Even if allotted a certain amount of time, if you're the third guy to go, there shouldn't be much thought.
Q. In this economic era, what would get guys's attention more, 5,000 bucks or 20 FedExCup points?
HUNTER MAHAN: I guess FedExCup points. The 5,000 or ten or whatever however it works, it doesn't mean much in the long run. It's not going to make an impact.
But shots in the final round of a tournament, and say, hey, give me two, you guys have to go, you have to be here, it's two shots, that's going to get them moving in a hurry. FedExCup points, that could be huge in the end trying to make it from 125 to 100, that could be very big. Like you said, you'd have to figure out the points and stuff. But 5,000 doesn't obviously make much of an impact, that's for sure.
Photo: Hunter Mahan in the first round of the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am (Getty Images).
Phil's TV Tips Before he began working at ESPN, Scott Van Pelt worked for the Golf Channel in the studio and at tournaments. He's a veteran broadcaster. But as you can see in the video below, Phil Mickelson still had a few tips for Van Pelt to improve his on-camera performance.
British Open of Mini Golf Imagine taking the kids to play putt-putt and being surprised by a caddie, complete with official British Open bib, to help carry your child's yellow ball and sweet red putter. If you had recently been at Pier 25 in New York, it could have happened to you, along with a chance for your youngster to hoist the claret jug as champion of the Mini-Golf Open.
R&A cracking down on slow play Wednesday at major championships are usually fairly quiet, with players getting in a final bit of practice and enjoying some rest. But in a press conference on Wednesday morning, Jim McArthur, chairman of the championship committee at the British Open, raised some eyebrows when he spoke about cracking down on slow players, as the Augusta Chronicle's Scott Michaux wrote on his blog:
“We’ve obviously got to take into account the weather conditions and other mitigating circumstances,” McArthur said. “But we would have no hesitation if we felt the players were over time to take the appropriate action and to tell not only a group of players, but as we have allowed for in the policy to time individual players if we felt that was appropriate.”
Should the group times in the first round grossly exceed the target time, McArthur said “groups that we felt were perhaps not as quick as we would like” would get at least a lecture before the second round.
“I have to say to you, we are intent on doing what we can to improve the pace of play in golf,” he said. “I mean, I think we feel that particularly maybe not so much at professional golf but certainly amateur golf that slow play is, in some ways, if not killing the game, is killing the club membership because of the time it takes to play. ... We’re doing whatever we feel we can in the circumstances to contribute to improving the pace of play.
And there was feasting and dancing throughout the lands!
Nervous flyers may want to skip this item. Nervous golfers, too. On Wednesday afternoon a cabin door ripped off an airborne jet and plummeted thousands of feet onto a golf course north of Miami. Nobody was hurt, according to CNN:
The Canadair CL600 jet was traveling from Opa-Locka to Pompano Beach, Florida, on Wednesday when it was diverted and landed safely at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, according to FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Berge.
The door, with retractable boarding stairs attached, crashed through trees, bouncing onto a golf course near Hallandale Beach, according to CNN affiliate WSVN, which shot video of it being removed by a tow truck.
The golf course, at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, was closed at the time.
Is Kevin Na playing too ... quickly?
Kevin Na, who was pilloried at the Players for his excruciatingly slow play, showcased a new waggle-less pre-shot routine Thursday at Colonial, and he held up just fine en route to en even-par 70, according to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com:
Na's new routine has no waggles and takes little time. He takes one practice swing when he's at the ball, then puts the club behind the ball, looks at the target, sets his feet, and when he feels comfortable -- and it didn't take him long to feel comfortable Thursday -- he takes the club back and hits the ball.
…"Every shot is hard," Na said. "I'm constantly thinking about it. I'm not even thinking about my golf swing. That's kind of hurting me a little bit because I always have a swing thought, but right now, I have no swing thought. I don't have time to have a swing thought. I've just got to think about my pre-shot routine, get ready and go."
Here’s the kicker:
…John Huh, who has played with Na several times this season, told him he thought he was actually quicker than he needed to be.
"I said, 'John, I'm just one of those guys that if I'm going to fix it, I'm going to do it right now,' " Na said. "I'm not going to go little by little. I'm going to change the whole thing."
Sixteen-year-old girl beats up on boys at Bethpage event
Remember this name. Annie Park, a high-school junior on Long Island, won the Nassau boys high school championship Wednesday with a two-round 8-under 134 on the Red and Blue courses at Bethpage State Park. That tally shattered the tournament record by six. Newsday’s Luara Albanese has the story (it’s a pay site, however, so thanks to the extravagantly funded geoffshackelford.com for ponying up and posting the details)…
Park defeated a field of 134 golfers — 133 of whom were boys. She finished six strokes ahead of Farmingdale sophomore Matt Lowe, who was the two-time defending champion and previous record holder. Lowe's younger sister, Alix, was the only other girl in the tournament.
"It feels good, I guess," Park said when asked about her victory over the boys. "I was just thinking about my own game." Lowe, an accomplished golfer who is gunning for a spot in the men's U.S. Open, was thinking about her game, too.
"She's gotta be one of the best female golfers in the world," said Lowe, 16, of Farmingdale. "It's like being hit by a freight train."
Give props to Lowe, too. He may have just delivered the quote of the year.
Tweet of the Day
Worst traffic I have ever seen around Wentworth, means only 1 thing huge crowds, best golfing gallery in the world. No get in the hole crap
Players champion Matt Kuchar got an up-close look at the PGA Tour's slow-play problem when he was paired with endless waggler Kevin Na on Sunday, and now he's got a solution: a 40-second clock.
MATT KUCHAR: It might be interesting to have a tournament with a shot clock. I think I read an article where there was a throw in an event where there is a full on shot clock on everybody on every shot. You would hope it wouldn't be a hard course. (Chuckles.) On a hard course you're going to find yourself in scenarios, I think in a couple of places, Charlotte, Memorial, the Master's, greens are fast, you have challenging shots. Three footers, it's easy to tap in. In certain places if you have three footers, and you miss, it's seven foot coming back. I would be interested to see a shot clock thrown out there.
Q. What would be a reasonable time?
MATT KUCHAR: Just the rules of golf, 40 seconds.
Always the nice guy, Kuchar said that Na's slow play didn't affect him, but he did watch Na's painful starts and stops instead of looking away as some advised.
"It did not have any affect on me," Kuchar said. "I watched Kevin, some people told me not to watch him, to turn my back to him, but I think even if I decided to turn my back I would still hear him [laughs]."
Tiger Woods is back on the prowl in Vegas. The fallen golf great was surveying bikini-clad girls at the Liquid Pool at Aria Resort and Casino on Saturday. Woods made a low-key entrance through the back door and relaxed in a cabana with a few male friends and “good-looking girls,” said witnesses. Soon a group of women began fighting to get his attention. One source said, “There was a frenzy . . . many girls were trying to get up to his cabana, but were unsuccessful.” Woods, coming off his worst performance ever at the Masters, “seemed to be more interested in the people he was with.”
I was absolutely knocked out by his 11-piece brass band backup sounds in “The Kings of Soul“ and the sweet soul voices of his backup singers singled out for the spotlight. Jon is a superstar who gives his all in concert and for a great cause.
It was the highpoint of an action-packed weekend of golf at Cascada with a private exhibition by Tiger, auctions, parties and poker with Phil Hellmuth, who also served as MC; Phil finished 2nd behind the legendary veteran Doyle Brunson in play. The Bravery entertained winners and sponsors at Moorea Beach Club, and MC Hammer hosted the Tiger Jam After Party at House of Blues.
Tiger was backstage at Mandalay Bay for the camera call casually dressed in a blue Hawaiian shirt, jeans and sneakers. He posed with a gleaming smile alongside Jon, “American Idol” Season 7 winner David Cook and Olympic champion skier Lindsey Vonn. David, who hails from Blue Springs, Mo., performed for 30 minutes before Tiger took the stage ahead of Jon. “Jon has done a lot for our foundation. We are thankful to him and to you all for your support.”
Slow play leads to violence at Jax Beach muni A man allegedly attacked an entire bachelor's party playing in front of him at Jacksonville Beach Municipal Golf Course on Saturday, according to police. James Alonzo Hines, 61, drove his cart into the group and hit one of them with his golf club, igniting a brawl, police said.
They were among six friends celebrating the May 5 wedding of buddy Donald Salsbery. [Murdock] Hampe said the group, some of whom had just learned how to golf, had a few drinks at a nearby bar and joined Salsbery for the mid-afternoon golf outing at his request. Hampe said none of them was intoxicated.
The other group — two older men and two older women — were golfing behind the partygoers, said witness Justin Ravel. Ravel, who saw the initial confrontation from the 18th tee, said one of the women told him they had become incensed with the younger golfers driving on the greens and holding up their game.
"She said they weren't playing the game right and that clearly ticked them [Hines' party] off," Ravel said.
Hines' arrest report said an argument between the groups involved the younger golfers driving, drinking and "malingering" on the greens.
But Hampe said his group was behaving under the watchful eye of a course ranger and had every right to be there. He said they were neither drunk nor driving recklessly.
"It's a public course and we paid just like everybody else," Hampe said.
Columnist: Does Rory McIlroy need to play more? Iain Carter at BBC notes that Rory McIlroy has only played four competitive rounds in more than a month prior to his week's Wells Fargo Championship, and he wonders if McIlroy is really best-served by all this time off.
Perhaps, though, this year's version of McIlroy was undercooked heading into the first major of the year. Certainly there was something missing when he was looking to build on promising opening rounds of 71 and 69. He followed them with scores of 77 and 76.
On a course where a lack of precision is usually brutally exposed there is little room for rustiness and this may have been the root cause behind such a disappointing Masters challenge.
McIlroy's light early season schedule has been tailored to make sure there is plenty in the tank for a more hectic remainder of the year.
His results, though, suggest that he benefits from playing consecutive weeks. In early March when he won the Honda Classic, McIlroy had reached the final of the WGC Matchplay just seven days earlier.
Alligator attacks man at Florida golf course Those ball-retriever devices ought to come with a warning.