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Rounds of Golf Are Taking Less Time - And Golfers Are Loving It

By: | Fri 02 Oct 2020

NOTHING exercises the mind more than the subject of pace of play, whether it be in the professional game or at our local golf club. 

We admire what Bryson DeChambeau has done to change the face of the sport that we all love, but how many of us have screamed at the TV: “Get on with it!’ as he pontificates over club selection, pulls an iron from the bag, replaces it, chooses another and then goes back to his original choice? Can you honestly say that you would rather watch Kevin Na at his very best than Rory McIlroy at his absolute worst? 

Slow play is an issue that has dogged the game for years. In our 2015 survey it emerged as one of the main reasons why so many people had walked away from golf, with 71% of respondents saying that the time it took to play was the main reason they did not play more. 

As we said back then: “Slow play is a problem at almost every golf club in the UK and worldwide. In recent years it seems that the time it takes to complete 18 holes has increased in both social and competitive golf. Sadly, this is drawing people away from the sport to take up other activities and hobbies that take up less of their valuable time, a trend that golf does not need in its current situation with membership declining.” 

The lockdown presented golf with a golden opportunity to set its house in order when the green light was given for us to return to the course. There was a huge appetite for the game among people who had not previously been club members, and thousands of you joined clubs for the first time or rejoined after years as nomadic players. An added bonus was that the new restrictions meant rounds were finally being played more quickly. And it is abundantly clear that this is exactly what you want.

Happy Golfers

In our most recent survey, which was completed in August 2020 by 2,500 regular golfers, we asked you whether your perception was that the pace of play had increased after the resumption. Initially, we all had to play in two-balls, with increased intervals between tee times and, unsurprisingly, rounds were taking about three hours. The four and five-hour drudge became a thing of the past. 

When golf returned most of you rejoiced in the improved pace of play. One of the biggest reasons many people give for walking away from the sport is the time that it takes to play the game, so three-hour rounds were like a breath of fresh air. 

Most of you loved the quicker pace of play, and some even want to stick with two-ball play:

"I loved the two-ball golf in three hours."

“The game was quicker when only two-ball play was allowed.”

“Two-ball should be the future of golf."

So, with the return of four balls, we asked you if the game has speeded up, and 26% of you reported that it has. And many of you put it down to the increased gaps between tee-times.

Pre-lockdown three-ball medal play got to four hours and 15 minutes with eight-minute gaps. Now, four-ball medal play with 12-minute intervals takes four hours - or less.”

"The extended intervals of 10 or 12 mins seems to have helped the pace of play."

But not everybody agrees:

"Games were faster initially, as we had 10-minute spacing and only two and three-balls. But now we are back to four-ball play and everything is so much slower again.”

What more can be done? Some of you would banish four balls forever and reduce golf to two and three-ball play. Golf clubs continue to play their part in trying to speed up play. Some are still restricting play to two and three-balls. And other changes have helped too. Simple measures such as the removal of rakes from bunkers speed things up because players are smoothing down the sand with a club or portable rake rather than fumbling around for a rake that is almost always located in the wrong place. The new rules regarding us not being able to touch the flagstick and putting to holes that are filled in have also quickened things up. Booked tee-times are being strictly enforced, meaning players have to turn up on time and be ready to play. 

So, what do you think? The thing that really emerges here is that it is quite clear that none of you enjoy slow play and believe that the extended gaps between tee-times should be here to stay:

"The three-ball system worked far better than I expected. We were back to three-hour rounds comfortably. I would be very keen to see that as the preferred format."

“We need to learn from post-lockdown experiences and ban four-balls entirely."

"I really enjoyed two-balls! Now we are back to four-balls and as our course has only a one-tee start, we all play at the pace of the slowest four-ball."  

“Two-balls really helped speed up play, with a much more enjoyable pace of play. You don't need to rush shots from rounds in just over three hours, but you keep on the move. The return of four balls has seen more backing up and a return to much slower, and less enjoyable rounds."

"Expanded times between tee-offs has made a big difference - it has all led to a much better flow, with no hold-ups."

“My club is using 10-minute intervals for booking and this means we rarely catch the group in front and can play at a comfortable speed.

“The 10-minute gap in the start times have improved the speed of play."

It is also obvious that many of you have adapted to the changes and see the benefits:

"The rule regarding being able to leave the flags in for putting has made the game much faster when on the greens. I don't think golf needs to be a fast game, but this was a sensible change and definitely positive."

"Dropping a ball if you cannot find the one played, bunkers only now back in play, flagstick stays in for all golfers - it has all led to much quicker play. 18 holes comfortably in three and-a-half hours. Hurrah!”

“Leaving the flag in speeds up the game, as has extended intervals between tee times.”

So, the bottom line is that most of you believe it is taking less time to play. More importantly, you are enjoying faster rounds and the message for golf clubs is that they need to keep this in mind and continue to address the subject when the Covid-19 restrictions are finally lifted.

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Survey Reveals Unprecedented Summer Golf Boom

What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: slow play industry insider daily picks Covid-19

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