Slow torture

Also published on the Golf Monthly website

Yesterday’s North East Alliance meeting at Montrose witnessed some of the slowest sporting action since the three-toed sloth at London Zoo challenged the slow loris to a staring contest in 1985/6.

The round took very nearly five hours and the latest starters were unable to finish before dark. Now, I know slow play is a very well flogged horse but I can’t think of any way to solve the growing problem other than by continuing to flog.

I simply can’t fathom how it can take people so long to get round a golf course. Perhaps they’ve been watching the pros on TV too much, or maybe they’re just trying to avoid the real world for as long as possible. Whatever it is, it’s unacceptable and I just can’t stand it.

Here below are 10 key pointers for slow players – You know who you are. I recognise you’ll never admit it and will continue to blame it on, “that group three in front of us that you couldn’t see,” but I’d really appreciate it if you’d pay a little heed to the following.

1 – Always be ready to play when it’s your turn. If you’re up on the tee first, be aware of it. Get your glove on as you walk from the previous green and make sure you have a tee ready. If you are off first, do not mark the card for the last hole before you get up to drive, you’ll have plenty of time to do that while your partners are teeing off after you.

When you’re down the fairway, be aware when it will be your turn to hit and prepare accordingly. While your partner is playing, select your club, visualise your shot and get ready to go. As soon as he strikes it, stand up to hit yours.

2 – Watch exactly where your ball goes and walk, as far as it’s possible, directly towards that point. Do not follow the group’s play in pack mentality – going to the nearest ball en masse, then all moving on to find the next player’s ball, etc. If you concentrate on your own ball, there’ll be less need for time-consuming ball searching.

3 – If in doubt, hit a provisional ball. If there’s any chance that your ball might be difficult to find, hit another. It only takes a minute to do, compared to 10 when you have to walk all the way back to play another having failed to find the original.

4 – If your ball is definitely lost, give up on it. If it’s clearly gone 30 yards into impenetrable gorse with nowhere to drop in a line with the flag, you don’t want to find it anyway.

5 – Walk swiftly between shots. It’s not a running race but if you can cover the ground between strokes a few seconds faster, it’ll add up by the end of the round.

6 – Do not have some ludicrously protracted pre-shot routine. Pick the club, see the shot, stand up and hit it. If you have a routine that takes say 30 seconds (way too long) and you have 85 shots a round, that’s basically three quarters of an hour that your playing partners, and those in the group behind, will spend watching you faffing about over 18 holes.

7 – When you’ve played a shot, start moving forward. Do not rehearse your swing to show yourself, “what you should have done.” Do not stand there cleaning your club then carefully putting its headcover back on before you get going – you can do those things while you’re walking.

8 – Leave your bag in the correct place around the green. It’s so obvious and it’s just so annoying when someone consistently fails to do it.

9 – If you’ve hit your drive 210 yards into the wind and have 230 yards left to the front of the green, you cannot get there. Please just hit and move on.

10 – Do not change your entire outfit every time there’s a vague change in the weather. One spot of rain does not require you to don full waterproofs and rain-glove and to put the plastic cover over your bag. When the sun comes out again seven minutes later, you’ll just have to take it all off again.

I played with a chap from Canada a few weeks ago who told me a funny story about an old-school Scottish club that shall remain nameless.

He said he’d struck up a conversation with the wizened old starter as he waited for his tee time and was receiving answers of ever-increasing belligerence as he went on questioning him. Just before it was his turn to go up to the tee, he thought he’d try one more:

“Say, what’s the course record here off the white tees?”

“Oh, I believe it’s 2 hours 21 minutes,” was the deadpan reply.

Brilliant.

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