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USGA Taking On Pace Of Play

As with the PGA Tour, this will be as effective as their efforts are at the most visible championships. There were also some interesting comments from USGA President Glen Nager on the topic at today's press conference in Coronado, but for now, the press release.

A few highlights from the initiative.

Analysis of Key Factors: Factors known to influence pace of play include course design (overall length, green-to-tee walks, location and number of hazards); course management and setup (green speed, hole locations, height and location of rough); player management (most significantly, the proper distribution of starting times); and the effectiveness of player education programs.

Research to Produce Pace-of-Play Modeling: A major study is underway at the USGA’s Research and Test Center to create the first-ever dynamic model of pace of play based on quantifiable data – a model that will be applicable to both competitive and recreational golf. Previous models and programs addressing pace of play have been based largely on observations and anecdotal evidence, while the new USGA model will draw from large-scale real-world inputs, including data from the PGA Tour’s Shotlink system. Once completed, analysis of the model should greatly increase understanding of the key factors affecting pace of play and allow recommendations for improving pace of play on a course-by-course basis.

Pace Rating System: The Test Center model will drive improvements in the USGA Pace Rating System, first developed in 1993 to help players complete a round of golf at an optimum, reasonable pace. The USGA Handicap Department will utilize data from the Test Center model to better customize the Pace Rating System for individual courses

On-site Assistance at Golf Courses: New programs to help golf course managers assess and improve pace of play will be delivered by the USGA Green Section through its Turf Advisory Service. The group will expand its educational efforts about aspects of course management that impact pace of play. The on-site visits will evaluate the overall playing quality of a golf course, of which pace of play is a central component. Recommendations provided by the USGA may also generate economic and environmental benefits, providing additional incentives for course managers to implement new practices.

Player Education Programs: Nager said the Association needs to “double down” on its efforts to educate players on the fundamentals of how to play faster. To this end, the USGA will use its communication channels to reach its Members and the larger golf community with messages on improving pace of play, such as picking up one’s ball on a hole once a player’s Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) limit is reached. Other efforts could include promotion of alternate formats such as match play, foursomes and Stableford scoring that are popular in other parts of the world and that take less time to play than the standard individual stroke-play format. The TEE IT FORWARD campaign, developed in conjunction with The PGA of America, will continue to be promoted as a way to speed play and provide more enjoyment. The Association will support these educational efforts with an online resource center at that contains information to help golfers improve their pace of play.

“Progress in improving pace of play will come only when the entire golf community is committed to working seriously to address the issue,” said Nager. “In this regard, I am pleased that the leadership of the PGA of America shares our concern about this critical issue. As our program develops, we look forward to engaging with the 27,000 members of the PGA, who can play an essential role in supporting our efforts to educate players and facility managers on how to improve pace of play.”

The USGA will also work to promote the nine-hole round of golf as a viable option for golfers who are pressed for time. Contrary to the beliefs of some golfers, a nine-hole round is fully compatible with both the Rules of Golf and the USGA Handicap System. The USGA will work over the coming months with partners across the industry to identify the best opportunities to help golfers and golf facilities embrace and value the nine-hole experience.

“As a governing body, we can look at the Rules of Golf, at the Handicap System, and at many other factors from our unique position within the game to help to advance the contributions made by so many individuals and associations who have addressed this problem in the past,” said Nager. “Significantly improving pace of play in the game is eminently possible, and we welcome the enthusiasm and contributions of the entire golf community as we work together toward this important goal.”

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Reader Comments (41)

"golf course managers..." What a f'n joke. The worst is American Golf.

They manage some pretty good public tracks...

...late Fall '12 went to one I hadn't been to in a while but preceded it with a phone call to the shop and said "back in the day you guys were at least a half hour before 8:30am, what's the deal"? Response was "oh man, don't sweat it, those days are long gone, we run right on time now".

We have 8.15am, get off the 1st tee at 8.50am. When we checked in it was clear they were already behind and the explanation the guy gave us was "American Golf makes us take tee times 20 minutes before it's even light outside'...! I asked him why they didn't just block those times off and got the stock response of "oh man I just work here, they'd fire me if I did that". Shoot me already!

The other problem is they alternate 7 mins and 8 mins between times, just unworkable. American Golf could care less. The thing is I feel like if they went to 10 minute times, at the end of the day the same number of people would play, and the same amount of cash would be collected.

If I had my own facility this would be one of the things I would heavily advertise. The pace of play policy would be very strict but we'd at least give players a fighting chance at a reasonably paced and undelayed round. Bethpage doesn't G.A.S. about it either, intervals are way too close.
02.2.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
wow...that's a lot of stuff that should keep several high paid execs. busy (employed/paid) for quite a while.
02.2.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
If I ran a public course, I would advertise my "rabbit" club promising a pace of play of X each Saturday for the early tee times.
If you can't keep up, you are told to move up and/or banned from taking the early tee times.

If always amazes me that people get 7:30 tee times, then play a 5 hour pace?
02.2.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrad Ford
I can't wait to not read another not released soon to be completed USGA report.
02.2.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJRP
And these are the morons that everyone was defending against that meanie from Taylor made.
02.2.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
So my first thoughts echoed those of Bobby D. -lots of money spent on more execs to make sure the (JRP comments) unpublished studies are in the warehouse shown earlier today by Geoff, where they can remain unread, as per the USGA policy on reports.

And so Joe has a point, that, with the mentioned ( in Geoff's post) 1993 report the USGA did, or alledgedly did, since no one has seen it much less read it, the USGA should be boarding up the windows in about 10 years, when these reports are completed, though unwritten maybe, who the hell knows, or would know.

I was getting a headache wondering who thought this up, maybe the IRS, but then I saw this book sitting on my coffee table, The Rules Of Golf as we call it, and I realized that I KNOW WHO THOUGHT THIS UP- THE FARFUGNUGEN USGA THOUGHT THIS UP.

Anyway, on the bright side, in 10 years Taylor Made will be in charge, and we can look forward to a new improved set of rules every 6 months to a year, with the pages printed white type on black to keep it real. ( I know it's not really ''white type,'' but in case Garragus is reading, or if Pernice is reading to VJ, I wanted them to understand it, vs. ''reversed print''.

I am to scared to comment about ''golf in New York''- so Del, I would carry an extra 9 iron, and ask Elin to escort you, or at least Jack Nickolson if you can't afford her.
02.2.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Slow play just ruins a day at the course.
Corrections needed:
1) The Tour MUST penalize and equally enforce its pace of play and inform the public of doing so. The players on tour are the role-models for amateur golfers and what we see on tv influences so many. How many of times have I watched the 18 hc'er settle into a putt and freeze like Nicklaus, or the 10 capper debate in his head whether it's a 3 or 5 wood when they'll only hit the green with either club 25% of the time. Make the Pro Golfer accountable to time and teach the rest through example. Get on with it!
2) Courses, don't overbook. A 10 minute gap between tee times is fine.
3) Courses: support your marshals and demand that they enforce pace of play. If you can't keep up, get out of my way!
4) Players: You are not Pros, play 'ready' golf (as long as nobody is in the line of play), be aware of your position with respect to the group in front of you, pick up if double par is reached and repair a divot in the green. And, if you must take a cart, especially if you're forced to walk across a fairway to your ball, please, please, please take enough clubs with you to ensure you can play the next shot you wish to play.
02.2.2013 | Unregistered Commentermeefer
The PGA Tour is never going to be concerned with slow play because it's not in the tournament golf industry; it's in the entertainment business with all their players making a gazillion birdies every weekend and going home with boatloads of money. If the USGA is serious about slow play, rolling back the ball would be a good first step so every 15-handicapper can stop waiting for the green to clear on a 330-yard par-4 they think they can drive.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Smith
I have said this before: Pace of play will not improve as long as it is socially acceptable. Public humiliation is the cure, starting at the tour level. The networks should mock slow players with Jeopardy music, timers, anything they can come up with to embarrass a slow player to a nationwide audience. The trickle down effect to the masses would be huge and immediate, no one wants to be the guy that is mocked. At the course level, there are lots of ways to embarrass a slow player, including a Wall of Shame for slow rounds.

If there was a stigma for being a slow player, the problem corrects itself in no time. All that touvchy feely stuff ain't gonna work.

Funny thing is 95% of people would play better if they played faster.
Esteemed members of the Geoff Shackelord community. I added some comments to the end of the "Taxes May Rise If Golf Courses Get Tax Break" post (2/1) and am I afraid the commets on this old post will be missed if I do not direct others to it. I am eager to hear if anyone is familiar with the New York City / private golf course real estate tax deal that was struck 20 years ago.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStephenP
I am sure that the USGA wouldn't embrace my humiliation methods because it may hurt a few sensitive people's feelings. But those are the people that are killing the game and getting in the way of increased participation, their feelings need to be hurt. After they get over the their bruised egos and learn that they play better when they play faster, the problem is fixed.

Make me the Slow Play Czar, I have the problem fixed before 2014.
One would think that the marketplace would cure slow play on the public level. Munis are many times private enterprises and pissing off paying customers with 5 hour rounds due to Tour wannabes and stupid tee time allocation should figure in their daily count. But, it doesn't, at least not where I am. I was a 9 year member til' 2011 of a local muni until I decoded it wasn't worth 2/3 of a day off to play with my buds. My group "had" a standing weekend tee time of 8:15 AM and always finished before noon. I have a choice of 3 other nice courses and have checked them out in the last two years. Same result, 5, sometimes 5+ hour rounds. So, my 50-75 rounds/year was less than 10 in 2012. I lose, they lose.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAG
Sorry about the typos (Shackelford and comments).

I play golf in Monmouth County NJ. We have 10 minute intervals at all 5 full length public courses and pace of play is better than most public facilities. The tee time interval really matters in keeping pace of play decent. Once 7 minute tee times are in introduced there is no chance on a crowded day, except for the first few groups, of having a pleasant day. Alternating 8/9 minutes times is the minimum interval in ensuring decent pace of play.

When I am on vacation and choosing between cousees my first question is tee time interval. I just would not play a course on a Saturday or Sunday morning with small tee time intervals. A courses has no respect for the public if they are creating a crammed course due to 7 or 7/8 minute intervals.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStephenP
My top 5 reasons/causes of excessive slow play. I pretty much only play public courses btw:

1. The "Honors" system of determining who tees off. This is especially true when you are with a mixed group (where not all 4 are friends that came together), and people are afraid of offending the low guy by hitting first. First guy on the tee, hit the ball !
2. Cartpath only rules for carts, and especially dopes that either take no clubs when looking for ball, or take one and then switch.
3. Excessive time looking for lost balls. Drop and it after 3 minutes
4. Too much chatting, mostly around the green, either before the putting starts or after. Scorecard updating and discusssion needs to be done while driving or while teeing off on the next hole
5. Too much time lining up putts, reading greens, marking and remarking. Inside the leather, its a gimme.

Please note that really none of these are due to "copycating" the PGA tour. The guys I play with aren't good enough for that.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS

All good suggestions, but someone has to enforce them. Short season here, 60 mi. so. of Montreal, so course owners are afraid of driving fee payers away by having pace rules, not realizing they're pissing off golfers like me.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAG
"Pick up your balls and go to the next tee" should be used more often.

People would soon get the message.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStanley Thompson
@No Longer
I like your platform, and you have my vote for Slow Play Czar.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTom T.
No Longer, you have my vote as well.

Better signage would help, and ball washers on crt as well as shoe brushes, with both in places where mud is a problem, not just on tees.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Del-the R and A did some testing at sT aNDREWS a few years ago and found that they got MORE people round the course at 10 min intervals-pace of play was improved that much.
Ready golf is the other real improvement that can be made-the European tour is even holding player workshops on this now-mainly on the Challenge tour and times have come down nearly 30 mins.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Increasing tee time intervals doesn't really address pace of play issues, it just allows for the slower pace of play to seem less apparent. If we can get a pace of play down to 3:30 or less, then 8 min tee times will work just fine. Having played a lot of golf in the British Isles, a 3 hour round is pretty common (except on courses frequented by Americans). St. Andrews uses 8 min intervals on all courses but the Old Course, and 3:15 rounds are common and I've never felt rushed playing there. 10 min intervals would likely slow down pace of play (people woudl feel that they had more time) and increase greens fees (fewer players). We need to address pace of play first, then tee time intervals later. Giving people more time between groups to play doesn't address the core problem of slow play...just looks better.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
No Longer:
Your method of ridicule is the most effective means of solving this. I use the ridicule method to the best of my ability.

Just an update on your 3:30 rule, presented last year: I combine No Longer's ridicule method with your 3:30 rule into a couple of videos entitled "The 330 Can" and "Aint Feemy's 330 Rule" and so far it has had little effect except some hate mail from Far Hills New Jersey and the usual from Lawrence Kansas.

But I ain't giving up.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLudell Hogwaller
@ Steve-don't agree-increasing tee times has been proved to work.I'ts not the only cure-but it helps.Our medal times dropped 18 mins when we tried it.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
My nomination for the buried lede:

"Other efforts could include promotion of alternate formats such as match play, foursomes and Stableford scoring that are popular in other parts of the world and that take less time to play than the standard individual stroke-play format."

If only, if only ... this really is a big key to faster play, getting folks off the 18 hole stroke total approach to the game. Once you do that and turn golf into a hole-by-hole contest with the stroke count only mattering up to a point, folks have more fun and play faster. It's a shame they prefix the sentence with "could include" instead of making this the strategic core of the effort.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterF. X. Flinn
Recreational golfers attempting to play stroke play on crowded golf courses is the problem.
The U.S.G.A. needs to promote match play and stableford and the Tour should should play more WGC's and maybe a Major in those formats. If we see it on tour we will play it on the course.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPick it up
"getting folks off the 18 hole stroke total approach to the game."

"Sorry F.X. Flynn...the 18 hole medal play score is still the template for the player...all the other stuff is fine and dandy but comes in second, or third, or fourth.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
True, they want to break 80, 90, or 100 for the 1st time with a couple of foot wedges thrown in. Can't do that in match play.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAG
Bobby D, What do you do when you lose a ball ? Do you go back to the previous spot and hit another ball ? hole out every putt?
The 18 hole medal play score means nothing if not played by the rules and the rules of stroke play are too hard for the average player.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPick it up
We play a regular game in 3:15 - 3:30 unless we get caught behind a group that thinks 4 hours is fine. We play quickly but we never rush. In fact, complaining about slow play does no good at our place since it's a private club and 4:15 is deemed an acceptable pace. Club pros need to hate slow play as much as we do and they don't seem to .

A few suggestions: courses should buy the same meters parking garages have. Starter stamps scorecard on the tee as you go off. Place another meter at 5 green. If you're over an hour, you should pick up the pace. Place another one at the turn - over 1:45 and you're done. You get the idea - we can figure the right intervals. Second, all courses should paint parking areas with big "PARK HERE" signs in the correct place for each green. How much time is wasted by people parked in front of the green, delaying the group behind them from hitting up? Teach people to hit before helping someone look for a ball and remind them that unless all four balls are together there is no reason why all the golfers should be.

Totally agree with the "ready golf" thinking here. Kills me when someone is not in another golfer's line and is just standing around instead of picking out a club or reading a putt.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHacker
chico, I believe it on 10 mins.

For years Bethpage had a terrific manager who recently retired. We once had a chat about slow play and he told me he was ready, willing, able and prepared to enforce the pick your ball up and move forward policy and then provide a refund on the second or third violation (can't remember).....well the Parks Commissioner at the time, Bernadette Castro, would not allow him to do this as she thought it might be politically uncomfortable for her. I'm still irritated about that!
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Lifetime NYer. I believe it. Reckon Bernie wasn't a golfer. Played Williston CC near Burlington, VT behind some turtles once. Marshall came over and told them to pick up and go to the next tee. We almost broke into spontaneous applause. Problem is many public courses have dropped marshals for cost saving or the ones they have just scope the woods for balls.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAG
Of the 25 plus commenters here, none of us appear to be the slow players. We've identified someone or something else; it's course set up or it's the Pro shop or the marshals or not enough signage or the professional with a lengthy pre-shot routine.

When I started to play golf my Dad told me to be ready to hit when it's my turn and to keep up with the group ahead. That was my responsibility.

Anyone here old enough to remember the comic strip, Pogo? Well Pogo was right when he said, " I have met the enemy and he is us."

How many times have you been in a cart and sat there while your partner hits rather than walking over to your own ball? Do you wait while your playing companions hit when it's their turn to play? Is your ball not down on the green, while the other guy is putting so you're ready to putt when it's your turn? Have you never gone back to your bag to get a different club when you've just seen the guy ahead of you blow the green? I know I'm guilty of all of these. Not on every hole in every round, but certainly on occasion.

There are a lot of good ideas out there about improving Pace of Play, and many should be implemented. But as a player, I just need to be ready to hit when it's my turn and keep up with the group ahead of me. Still good advice after 50+ years.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterOPgolfer
I am 100% certain that I am not the least in terms of slow play ;0)
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
The European Tour penalises with strokes as well as money. Not surprising you don't see many Euros on the PGA Tour worst offender lists.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGhillie
Ghillie for years Paddy was the poster child! Glad to see him have a good finish this week.

When was the last time the Euro Tour assessed a stroke penalty? Certainly not suggesting they don't just curious about it. Generally speaking is play on the Euro Tour conducted at a noticeably speedier pace than the PGA Tour? I've not seen enough of the Euro Tour to know.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I will believe the USGA when they make it so a player can play the first round of the open in 4:15. If I remember correctly from my rules classes, the open dose split tees on day 1 and 2, and has tee times scheduled for 2 hours and 22 minuets each side. Meaning if you got the first time and played in 2 hours, you got to wait for 30 minuets to tee of of #10. They also used 11 minuet intervals witch it weird. Remember this is the same group that switched to split tees because rounds were taking to long.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark
Last ET stroke (and fine) penalty I know of was Ross Fisher at Celtic Manor last June. It pretty well cost him the Tournament -- IIRC he was leading at the time and ended up second. There had been another within a year previously, and I have seen others over the years -- I remember Seve, in one of the last events he played in, kicking up hell for his penalty.

And you often see groups put on the clock. I still have a problem with the clock, as the other player or players in the group are usually victims of one slow player.

There are slow players from Europe, but not as many as over on the PGAT. John Paramor runs a fairly speedy ship. Harrington is such an obsessive about everything golf that he stands out among Euros.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGhillie
Thanks for the details Ghillie. Love it!
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
"a couple of foot wedges thrown in."

so true :o)
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
You know it's not just the golf course. I think it's a general lack of awareness and respect for your fellow man.

In the grocery store the other day I was moving down an aisle with my cart when a blockage occurred. A big dude and I assume his wife were standing dead center in the middle of the aisle staring at the food like they were waiting for it to levitate. It took the 3rd "ahem" for them to move to let me through and remember to give me the nasty look. Totally oblivious to anything other than their own hunger pangs.

My first forays on a golf course were with my father. He only played a handful of times per year and breaking 100 was the goal. But, he drenched me in etiquette and respect for other golfers. If he saw me dawdling I'd hear about it, or feel it.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAG club did a member survey and a had each person rate their personal pace of play and pace of play of fellow members in general. On a 1 to 10 scale (10 being best), the average personal rating was over 9...but the average score people gave fellow members was less than 5. So essentially everyone blamed everyone else for slow play.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

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