Rulebook: Can We All Just Get Around?

Ever wonder why it takes around 4.5 hours to play a round of golf? There’s actually a pretty simple mathematical reason for it. The USGA says that the handicap of the average golfer is 15. That means that the average golfer is likely to shoot 90 over 18 holes, or “bogey” golf. Now, let’s take that number and multiply it by the average time that a golfer takes to play a stroke when it’s his, or her turn to play. That number is generally around 40 seconds. This gives us a result of 3,600 seconds (1 hour) of actual play per round, per golfer. Now, courses generally put groups of 4 out on the course, plus travel time between holes and shots… You see where I’m going with this.

This 4.5 hour number is an “average”, meaning that some of us play more quickly than this, and some of us play more slowly than this. For all the banging around, and yelling and screaming we do about slow play, we always seem to end up back at this “magical” number. It is what it is, and that’s what it is… Or is it?

I’m going to go out on a limb, here and now, and actually lay blame for slow play. Regardless of any other answer you hear, this reason, above all others is the reason we can’t get around any faster. It’s ALL of us. That’s right, each and every one of us is responsible for the amount of time it takes to get around the golf course in a reasonable time. We all look for excuses, and places to lay blame when our rounds are taking too long. Try this little exercise. Sit where you are and count 40 seconds. Don’t do anything else, just count out the seconds. It’s a LONG time, isn’t it? Imagine if you could take that time down to 30 seconds per shot, or even 25. For the 90’s shooter, that’s a savings of 15 to 22 minutes per round!

Some of you will say, “well that’s not me, I play quickly. It’s the other guy.” For some, this is likely true. Keep it up. But, you should also let your pace and efficiency be a helpful example to others. Far too often when we get paired up with players who are more “deliberate”, it’s easier to mimic their pace, than to keep yours. After all, we don’t want to be seen as Rory Sabbatini leaving Ben Crane behind on the previous green. It doesn’t have to be like that. Just keep moving, and set a fair pace. That’s all it takes.

And for those of us who are on the slower side of average, take a good look at your pre-shot routine. Is there anything you can do to make the time spent over the ball as short as possible? Like anything in golf, it takes practice, but it can actually help your game in the long run.

One question that every golfer should ask themselves regularly is, “Are there things I could be doing out there to get around (even) more efficiently?” – I hate to say “more quickly” because I don’t want golfers to feel like they need to run, or feel rushed – Just the little things like moving quickly between shots, moving to your ball and getting your yardage and club selection done while another player is playing (provided it doesn’t distract anyone), playing a provisional ball if you’re not sure where your first one is, can make a big difference in the amount of time we all spend on the golf course. Oh yeah, EVERYONE should also use continuous putting when possible.

In an era where we hear more and more that the game is suffering, and more and more people are leaving it, we have one simple solution right in front of our noses. And it’s not six holes, or twelve holes, or bigger holes, or whatever the suggestion-of-the-day is. It’s time and motion. That’s it. Remember, we’re all in this together. If we keep putting our best feet forward, we can make the difference.

/ Rich McLean 

Rich McLean is Golf Canada Level 4 Referee from Kanata, Ontario. He calls himself “a lifelong player, and fan of this great game.” You can find him on Twitter, @LobWedge.

“Golf has given me so much joy, and this is my small way of giving back.  Have fun. Play smart. Play well.”

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