Looks like it’s Time for a Slow Play Rant

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Nothing like a slow play rant to spice up your Friday

Going back to the beginning of summer, there has been a tidal wave of talks about the downfall of Golf. Talks of how the game is in disarray and the worst is yet to come. Talks of courses shutting down, manufactures falling off the radar and retail outlets closing their doors have been more abundant on the internet of late then chatter of celebrity hacked photos! Apparently, the end is near, and we better enjoy the game while we can.

I’ve been more of an optimist throughout this phase of discouragement and haven’t bought into the notion that the sky is falling. Maybe it’s because I live in a city where there’s rarely a day that goes by where a golf course is hurting for business. I can reluctantly hate and love the touring for that. Nevertheless, I’ve never believed all the hype that the game of golf is doomed. Are there problems? Certainly, there are, but what sport doesn’t have problems?

Maybe my optimism is in part to my limited involvement in Junior Golf. I’ve watched some of the top-rated juniors in the world compete in 2014 and let me tell you; I have been blown away with the skill set and passion these kids possess. I couldn’t believe some of the talents I saw, and this was just in Southern Nevada. Based on what I witnessed within the Junior Golf I can say, without a doubt, that the future of golf in America is going to be OK. There is an entirely new generation of golfers on the way and let me tell you, these kids can play!

Junior golf alone can’t fix the continuing problems the game has. As much as I think I have my finger on the button when it comes to the inner ramblings of the golf industry, the truth is I’m just a simple guy who loves to play the game and write about it. My opinion to the masses has the same effect of adding a drop of Visine to the ocean; it simply goes unnoticed.

For that reason, I have held back my opinion of the state of the game. There are figures out there showing this decline can be justified. It’s a lot of politics and sales figures I couldn’t understand even if Tiger Woods himself sat down with me and tried to explain it, so what good would it do for me to try and voice an uneducated opinion and try and pass it off as journalism?

But, I witnessed something this past weekend that just Grinds my Gears, to take a page from Peter Griffin, and the more I thought about it and the more I mulled it over, the longer my internal rumblings became. So I decided it was time to put my thoughts to paper and knock out a rant. It’s been a while, so I figured why not.

Slow Play Fronds My Gears

Had this been one instance I could have passed it off as an anomaly and gone about the round, but it happened three times! Twice it was just silly, but once the third instance came around, I felt the need to speak up even if this little drop of Visine isn’t going to help one bit.

Slow play is a disaster for the golfing public who understands how the game should be played. It’s happened to everyone that has ever teed it up. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who only gets to play at Cypress Point. Or some of the other exclusive clubs across the world. There will be a time when you’re stuck and have to succumb to the worst people on the planet!

OK, a bit harsh but let me explain. I’m not talking about people who are new to the game. I’ll play with anyone who wants to learn and enjoy their time spent out on the course. I’m most definitely not talking about kids or juniors. I love playing with my daughter, and anytime I see kids out on the course with their parents or even in a group it brings a smile to my face.

Nope, for this rant I’m laying blame on the fun-loving old senior players and a group of friends that had no clue what the hell they were doing.

Generalizing an entire generation of senior who golf might be a tad overzealous so I’ll try to tone it down a bit and refrain from calling out everyone who is over 65.

One of my good friends Dad is a remarkable golfer in the sense that he’s still cranking out rounds in the 70’s in his 70’s! He has surrendered to the notion he can’t blast it 260+ yards anymore, and his bag is filled with more hybrids than the TaylorMade clearance rack at Golf Galaxy. Regardless, he continues to pepper the sprinkler line of every course he plays and could care less if it’s from 6000 or 5800 yards. Ever had your ass handed to you by a guy who plays a 14 hybrid? It’s humbling, to say the least.

Those senior players I could watch and play with ALL day long! The stories, the catch phrases, the jokes, and the cigars all make for a memorable day. I have complete respect for the older players of the world, and hopefully, that quails any notions that I’m a hater when it comes to senior golfers.

ACT I

This particular group my playing partner and I were saddled behind was the worst of the worst though and a great day out on the course in beautiful weather turned rotten faster than I could have ever imagined. To say they were slow is insulting to a tortoise, they moved more like the “Mystics” from The Dark Crystal.

Slow Play

It was mortifying watching them walk off the green. It took over 8 minutes on one hole for the group to “tap in” their triples and make their way off the green. I timed it. That was just when they were in tap-in range; they probably spent more than 12-15 minutes per green per hole. It was beyond awful.

Being a twosome we knew there was a chance we’d get stuck behind a group at some point during the day but not quite this soon and this bad. When we looked to see if we could jump ahead the first time we had a chance we saw the group in front of them was not any further ahead than they should have been and beyond them was still another group playing the hole. We were stuck in slow play hell and not going anywhere.

I wasn’t kidding about the triples either. No one in the group was a “player” by any means, which is fine, but they were playing from 6200 yards. Even worse, not one of them could hit it 200 in the air, which meant they had a ton of approach shots in that 200-yard range. It was just silly.

Why not move up to the senior tee’s and play from 5300 or mix it up some and play 6200 on the short holes and 5300 on the longer ones.

Their lack of length paired with the fact they were playing on the wrong set of tee’s not only made the day for them a lot less enjoyable. Also, it eliminated any chance for some awesome moments on the course, like hitting a green in regulation or dropping a 20’ birdie putt.

The way they made their way around the course was even worse. The group was in the fairway on the 7th hole. Three of the guys stood around empty handed and watched Player A make his swing, which took forever! Player A would then walk the 20’ to his cart, grab the sand bottle, walk back to the divot, add the sand then walk back and put the bottle up, then put his club away, then and only then would Player B, C or D take their turn.

At this rate there was no way we were going to finish on time and when on the 9th hole (a par 5 that plays 493 from tee’s the seniors were playing from) they waited for the green to empty before they hit their approach shots, I had had enough.

They were 300 yards out for Pete’s sake! I figured we’d skip ahead on the next hole (a short par 3) and see if was any better beyond them.

Right, when we approached the 10th hole my frustrations turned from very annoyed to upset beyond a point of no return, the group of seniors asked if they could play through the foursome that was in front of them! WTF?

Could the group ahead of our crabby, old, grumpy seniors (“grumpy” is based on an encounter we had with them when we returned a putter head cover they had lost and were treated like we had inconvenienced them rather than being of any assistance) been the problem this entire time.

I might have believed it had I not seen them wait so long to play on previous holes when there wasn’t a single person holding them up. It was entirely possible though that they were the ones slowing down the old guys and was the reason the seniors were taking their sweet time to play out the holes.

We should have jumped ahead then, skipped that hole entirely and made our way to number 12. My fault for being passive but thankfully, for the sake of this ranting post, we stayed put.

After our group of seniors made their way off the tee (again picture the Mystics from The Dark Crystal and their hypnotic moaning “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”) the second act of awful slow play started.

Slow Play
ACT II

My ears perked when I first heard “Hey man, the blue tee’s are back here you fool.” (the gentleman was referring to the set of tee boxes that play from 6700) The first thought that ran through my head was, whew, at least these guys should be able to get it down the course playing from back here, oh how wrong I was.

It didn’t take long for me to realize this new group was worse than the old guys. Despite their lack of distance, the old fellas could at least get it in the fairway. These guys were all over the place.

After they had hacked up the short par 3 10th, they took their talents to the 11th, nd not one of them managed to get a ball in the air and carry the ravine that’s in front of the tee box. It’s a 75-yard carry top!

Like the seniors that preceded them they were clearly playing from the wrong tee’s and because of this collective decision to take on a course that is much harder at 6,700 than 6,200, they were causing some severe delays.

Two holes later we were done and couldn’t stand waiting anymore. On the par 5 14th, we passed by not only the guys in front of us, who still hadn’t finished teeing off, but we also asked if the old guys didn’t mind if we moved ahead as well. They were at least making their way to the green.

In front of them at the Par, 3 15th was a twosome that welcomed us to tag along and play out the remaining four holes. Hoping to rocket thought the rest of the course and got out of there before sundown, I was again enlightened by the sight of these two new players walking up to the Blue tee’s (the set that plays 6,700)

There was no way it was going to happen again; these guys could play, right?

Slow Play
ACT III

Sure as shit the golf was equally as bad as the previous groups. I think I counted 5 tee shots from them on the first hole we played together a 195-yard par 3 and not one of them came close to hitting the green.

I was hoping that a long iron tee shot to a tucked pin might have just been a daunting challenge and surely they were going to show some signs of real golf when we got to the next tee box, a simple, stress-free par 4 with a wide fairway that’s hard to miss.

One in the bushes directly in front of us, one in the rocks to the left, two in the rocks to the right and then finally one ball was stuck the way it had intended to be and made its way down the fairway about 215 yards.

It took everything in me to not scream out “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING PLAYING BACK HERE?” but I refrained. I had a decent round going, so I kept my ill thoughts to myself and just tried to finish up the round we were already five hours into. I was just ready to get the hell out of there.

As bad as those final two guys were, when they were with us they at least kept up with our pace. They didn’t take any redo’s in the fairways; they didn’t spend any more time than what is considered reasonable looking for lost balls and above all they were very nice.

So what do we do?

It would be easy to place all the blame on the golf course and their management team; they make their fair share of errors that hinder a quick round.

A few years back I had a terrible outing at Tuscany Golf Club (Now called Chimera) here in Henderson. After making the turn in three hours (yes THREE hours) and nearly three and a half on the back I went into to Pro Shop to voice my displeasure with the round and for their ineffective course management. I asked a simple question “When did a six-hour round of golf become the norm?” the gentleman behind the counter without hesitation replied “You don’t like, don’t come back.” I’m happy to say I haven’t been back and I will never go back.*

This is a problem I think a destination city like Vegas has because of the overwhelming number of players who won’t be back mainly because their flight leaves the next day and in reality they’re more than likely going to be hammered at the Black Jack table within 30minutes of leaving the course.

Golf is available for nearly 12 months out of the year, and the courses out here rarely have days where the booking pages are not full of paying patrons. That makes it easy for a course to lose sight of the wrong taking place on their property.

What irritated me most, above everything else, during this most recent round was the complete lack of course official’s to help speed things along. All three groups I encountered were playing tee’s they had zero business playing and I didn’t see a single marshal for the entire 18 holes. Which, in my opinion, was a complete failure on behalf of the course. To not maintain some level of decency for the players who know and understand how to get around a golf course is irresponsible and sad.

Equally upsetting was that it happened at a course I frequent and enjoy playing!

Along with the other whys, I mentioned earlier the main reason I’ve kept my trap shut on the decline of the game is mainly that I don’t have a solution I think will open the eyes to the golfing public and make it all peachy.

It’s evident that someone needs to educate these players and let them know they’re not only making the game less enjoyable for themselves, but it’s ruining the experience for so many others as well.

It’s taken me a while to fully understand this. I used to be one of those guys who, because of the testosterone my body produces, felt the need to play from tee’s I had no business playing.

A while back I started looking at the course from the green to the tee and saw the majority of my approach shots were taking place from 185 to 215 yards. Not ideal for high teen HDCP. So I started playing up, instead of 6,700 I started playing from 6,200. Instead of 6,800, I played 6,500 and so on.

I believe this responsibility can’t rest solely on the hands of current players that get it. There’s no way I was going to go up to a group and tell them they were making a mistake by playing the wrong tee’s and in doing so were ruining my experience. I pretty much like my teeth where they are so I abstained.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have the golf courses step up and help educate these types of groups. How hard would it be to have a marshal watch a group for one or two holes and say “Hey guys, I’ve been watching your group for a few holes and your play is starting to back up the course? On the next hole, please move up a set of tees and let see what happens.”

Is there a possibility for some backlash? Sure there is, but wouldn’t a course rather have the anger coming from a group that needs to be educated rather than a golfer or several golfers that are ticked off at the slow play? Who knows, maybe the group that listens and moves up a tee or two ends up having a much better experience the rest of the round and the next time they come out they don’t even consider the wrong tees. Isn’t that a risk worth taking?

It’s all a pipe dream, though, and unfortunately, I’m doomed to get stuck again until the day I can afford a private membership somewhere down the line in say 2040.

Have a suggestion? Leave a comment and let’s see if we can collectively come up with some ideas that might help squash the slow play epidemic.

To give you a little push to voice your opinion I’m going to be giving away a Breakfast Ball hat to one lucky person who leaves a comment. Content and creativity will be looked upon to determine a winner. So now it’s your turn! Rant away and win some swag!

Good luck!

 

Follow Mathew Wangrycht:

Writer and founder of the golf blog The Breakfast Ball. My wife will tell you I'm obsessed with the game, she's right! It's that obsession which drives me to become a better player and make this site enjoyable for everyone.

2 Responses

  1. Joe Arndt
    | Reply

    This might be hard to believe but the Skramble crew and myself are very fast players despite the fact that the best of the group is a 12 handicap and some are as high as 24! All the hi jinx you see are always done when we are at least a full hole ahead of the group behind this and are still keeping pace with the group ahead. The first thing I would do is require anyone playing the back tees to verify that they are a single digit handicap, if you can’t produce the proof the middle tees it is. You are so right about the lack of player assistance on the course. If you are lucky enough to even see a Marshall they are not doing anything. Each course has a couple of problem spots where the probability of losing a ball increases significantly. Thats where the marshalls need to be. Spot balls, move people along or even make people skip a hole if they fall that far out of position. Clearly I love golf and the only thing that can get me upset on the course is unnecesary slow play! I can deal with bad shots and bad rounds but not slow play due to stubbornness and inconsideration.

    • Mathew Wangrycht
      | Reply

      Thanks for the comment Joe! I think the lack of “Marshalling” is a huge problem. Some courses out here they get a little crazy asking you to “Speed it up” when there’s nothing you can do but play to the speed of the group in front of you. Actually helping people on the course though would be something I would love to see!

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