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Proper Pace of Play for a Round of Golf

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Proper Pace of Play for a Round of Golf

In this era where we have little time for leisure activities and when the emphasis is mostly on perfectly handling the work or most importantly spending time with friends and family and in some recreational activity, there exists a reasonable sense among golfers within the golf community that one should be completely aware of how important game pace is. In this article, we’ll go through the proper pace of play for a round of golf so everyone are on the same page.

A Perfect Balance 

It’s not just important, the key is to maintain a perfect pace of play which is friendly and reasonable at the same time. According to a research conducted by National Golf Foundation, in the United States golf pace is thought to be one of the biggest concerns of today’s golfers.

In general by nature, golf is considered to be a sport which in everyone’s opinion takes a lot of time as compared to other games. So, obviously an increase in time to complete one round will definitely be considered as a barrier for those who are actively involved in it.

The important thing to be noticed here whether or not golfers feel that the time they have spent on a particular day was excessive or if it had an adverse effect on the level of their enjoyment. So, because of the pace of the play, if a particular individual is not enjoying themselves it becomes a problem and there’s something which is needed to be done about it.

Golfers Want To Be Quick

According to a survey conducted in 2015 by R&A, in which 56,000 golfers participated, it was concluded that 60% of those golfers enjoy the game but would so more if they could play a round in less time. Those who participated in the survey played golf twice a week. And still, those who play golf daily share the same reviews. No single solution is designed to work across the board.

Similarly, for everyone there are different targets at which they should focus depending on the type of player (local, national, or international), weather conditions, type of course, level of competition, forms of plays. Well, the thing is it’s important for targets to be realistic and their aim should be to improve customer satisfaction.

Willing To Pay For a Faster Pace

Apart from getting the benefit of secured businesses and retention of members, the research has concluded that golfers are willing to pay 9.1% more to get improved pace experience, and that same figure raised to 14.2% in case of younger golfers (age less than 40).

Its normally thought that players rarely blame management practices for the poor pace of game, rather they focus more on the habits of the other players considering them to be the root cause of the problem. However, that is not the case. Few studies have found that management practices have a positive impact on the game.

A few management practices, policies, and ideas are mentioned below that can improve the pace of the game: 

  • Overcrowding the Course

Those who have actually studied pace of play and have experienced it in action, now considered overcrowding as one of the most common reasons of more than expected longer rounds. This issue can be solved by simply answering the question what length should exist between the starting intervals. The answer to this question is: the wider the better.

A problem arises when the width of the starting interval is increased and the reduction in the number of groups will be decreased, hence decreasing the playing opportunities resulting in a decline in revenues. But nevertheless, if the experience of golfers is good, it is possible that over a period of time, golfers would want to play and of course they will be willing to pay more in case they get a pleasant experience.

  • Empty Starting Intervals or Starter’s Gaps​​​​​

Even if the starting intervals are appropriate, delays still can exist because of a number of factors, that is ball searches a hole that is hard or easy. Well, delays of these types can be alleviated by simply having empty starting intervals, also known as Starter’s gap.

  • Two-Tee Starts

A two tee starts when/if two groups are starting from two tees, mostly 1st and 10th, simultaneously. So, it can be thought of as an effective way of increasing the number of players in a course. It is to be noted here, that not too many groups are to be allowed going to the 1st and 10th tees - it will eventually create hustle and players will have to wait and will eventually affect the time saving process.

Forms of Play

One of the things that make golf a diverse game is the number of forms of play which can be adopted. Regular stroke play competitions are considered to be the slowest form of play, whereas alternative regular stroke competition is considered to be a quicker form. In case of alternate shots played by partners (foursome), pace of play is retained.

Ready Golf

Ready golf works on the fact that players should play when they are ready and not on the rule that farthest from the hole should play. According to a survey of Australian golf clubs, 94% of the clubs who have introduced ready golf concept among their golfers actually enjoys the success in achieving the pace of play whereas 25% mentioned that they have achieved satisfactory results.

There are some ways/tips of improving the pace of the game:

  1. Start smart
  2. Try alternative ways of play to speed up 
  3. Minimizing time on the tee
  4. Planning your shot before getting to the ball
  5. Keeping a pre-shot routine short
  6. Should aim to give shot in 20 seconds
  7. Develop an eye for distance
  8. When sharing a cart, use a buddy system
  9. Be kind and helpful to others in your group
  10. Keep up with the group in front of you
  11. Stay efficient and active on the putting green
  12. Always remember that USGA Handicap System allows picking up your ball  
  13. Don’t Have Time? Play Nine!

Apart from these, there are ten rules for good golf-etiquettes:

  1. Try not to be the slowest player
  2. Controlling temper is important
  3. Always give respect to others (their time)
  4. Repair the ground you play on 
  5. Be a silent observer and partner
  6. Make your golf cart ‘invisible’ 
  7. Be your best/looking best
  8. No use of cell phones
  9. Lending a helping hand
  10. Learn new and little things 

Player Ability

It is thought that the player is solely responsible for slow pace of play, but in reality that’s not the case. But there’s a need to examine the behavior of the player on the course. There’s a factor that some players take longer time to play as compared to others and is considered as player ability. 

However, the beauty of golf lies in the fact that it is a sport that all players with different kind of abilities can play, and so they can compete with each other on an equal basis. It is to be noted here that players should always be well-informed of their group’s position on the course and its impact on the pace of play.

Players can take various actions to improve the pace of play:

  1. Position of bags
  2. Marking score cards
  3. Playing a provisional ball
  4. Carefully watching the flight
  5. Choosing the perfect form of play
  6. Choosing the appropriate time for the shot

Though these all are applicable to all golfers, it is important to realize that the pace of play can be affected by certain physical limitations of the golfers i.e. walking speed or someone with disabilities or injuries.

So, whether the issue is with the management or the course or with the player or a combination of all of the above, a solution or set of solution exist for all involving a hit and trial process.

Golf Marshal

A golf marshal is an individual who is responsible for patrolling the golf course and answering golfer’s queries and concerns, keeping the pace of the game at the same time. However during a tournament, his main job is to manage the crowd.

In most courses, marshals are mostly volunteers; slow players are their main concern and even few courses have allowed marshals to compel slow groups to move faster or they might ask them to skip holes to speed up the game.

In case of any disputes arising among groups, or regarding pace of play or etiquettes they should consult a golf marshal. But on the other hand, as mentioned earlier, they are just volunteers who have no legal authority for anything. But it is important that golfers should follow the request and instructions of a marshal.

Marshal Duties (Short List)

  1. Reduction in distractions for maintaining pace of play
  2. Locate and protect errant golf balls
  3. Promotion of safety and enjoyment of the spectators

Extraordinary tact and diplomacy is what is required of a Marshal. What puts the marshal/ranger in a very important position is the enforcement of rules and policies for pace of play to be maintained.

Key Responsibilities of Marshal

  1. Pace of play
  2. Player safety and appropriate behavior

Adherence To

  1. Local rules and policy
  2. USGA golf rules
  3. Rules governing special events, outings, and tournaments
  4. Traditional golf etiquette
  5. Course care
  6. On-course player assistance
  7. Pace of Play
  8. Establishment of lapse time
  9. Monitoring of pace of play
  10. Monitoring time
  11. Ensuring players have completed the course within maximum time limits
  12. Ensuring players advancement once the other group is ready to leave the ground
  13. Encourage “ready golf”
  14. Enforcement of local policy for slow pace
  15. Helping in finding a lost ball
  16. Keep on reminding players to search for the lost ball for 3-5 minutes
  17. Communication with the staff is important to maintain the standards of the game
  18. When there exists a gap of hole, it is the marshal’s duty to ask them to keep up the pace
  19. Threesomes and foursomes to be encouraged instead of singles and double
  20. Application of policy by marshal wherever necessary is important
  21. Make sure that the players don’t skip holes

Player Assistance

  1. Answer questions
  2. Keeping an eye on the ball where it lands – particularly outside in woods, or out of bound area
  3. Telling the players where the ball is when they are looking for it
  4. Helping them in locating balls


  1. Responsible for facilitation of tournaments/outings
  2. Meet up with staff to get a complete list of responsibilities
  3. Go through tournament details and the rules prior to the event
  4. The Rules

Assisting players and accomplishing assigned duties Marshals/Rangers are required to follow a set of rules:

  1. Rules designed specifically for a golf course
  2. Golf program policy
  3. USGA Golf Rules
  4. Following the rules of golf etiquettes
  5. Rules governing tournaments

Slow Play: A headache

In PGA tour circles, it is termed as the prize. It is what a player eventually gets after being timed slow for 10 occasions in a single season. A player gets timed when players he’s playing with lag behind the pace of play.

The term which is used for it is called being on the clock and a player who is on the clock, if he takes long to play a particular shot, he’s either fined or penalized. The price is $20,000. Though tour officials never shared much detail but the price amount was used to be distributed among more than 10 but fewer than 20 players since 2004.

Realistically, slow play is thought to be a longtime problem and you can’t do anything to avoid it. You need to know a couple of factors about slow play:

Clock Blocked

Timepar is an important thing in the PGA tour which is the time needed to play each hole as specified by the rule crew after careful analysis and study.

Penalty Box

Freebie is the first time a player gets into trouble and he will receive a mulligan. If the same thing happens again in the same round, it is a one-shot penalty. After that, third offence is taken as two-penalty strokes and the fourth results in disqualification. An important thing to be noticed here is that all these offences don’t really happen as anyone can beat the system, and everyone knows how to.

The Final Pace

We hope this proper pace of play for a round of golf has cleared things up for you and that you will take the above information and tips into account the next time you’re out on the course. Make sure to tell other golfers with a slower pace what you now know so everyone can get on the same page. Fairways and greens!

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