Speed of Play


Nobody enjoys being called a slow player and often a fiery response will follow such an allegation. The purpose of this article is not to accuse any player of slow play but to remind players of their obligations with regard to speed of play in competition rounds. It is not to get players to quit playing but to make them aware of their relative position in the field and to make the day more enjoyable for all.

As Captain I have been receiving many complaints from members about slow play in competitions, especially by some groups who hit off between 7.30 and 8.30 in the morning.

Initially I reminded members of the ‘Play Ready Golf ’ ideas with notices about the club and in the daily cow. Ready Golf means BEING READY to play, not playing when you are ready.

It seems that quite a few failed to read and act on this as the complaints continued to come, although some improved their pace of play.

To investigate this further I asked all groups to put down their start and finish times on their score cards. Most groups obliged and a noticeable pattern arose with a trend for some rounds to take 4.5 hours instead of the expected 4 hours maximum. I was able to check the starter’s sheet and see which groups were causing the delay for the following groups. In each case there was a leading group causing the delay that had not obliged with my request for times.

The statistics pointed to stableford rounds taking on average between 3.45 and 4 hours. I also found out that Wednesday rounds seem to be longer than those on a Saturday.

Again I suggested to members that they should follow the ’ready golf’ ideas and to use the start and end times to monitor their playing times, to self-regulate!

Everybody from time to time will lose a ball requiring a reload, have a series of bad shots requiring ball searches, and extra putts. These are inevitable. When this happens, it is your responsibility to make up the lost ground. Remember your place in the field is immediately behind the group in front and not before the group behind. If you are continuously holding up following groups then let them through. There is no loss of prestige if you do so.

As a guide, in a stableford event, you group should take about 1 hour 50 minutes to complete the front nine and about 2 hours to complete the back nine. This means if you hit-off at 7.30 then you should finish the front nine before 9.20 and complete your round by 11.20 if not sooner. A stroke round may take 15 minutes longer.

Wait for your tee time on the first and give the group in front the full 7 minutes before you hit off.

The lowest marker in each group has the responsibility of keeping their group in place and should remind his partners to be ready to play if necessary.

I’d much prefer to see members take responsibility for themselves, however, my next step will be to have members of the match committee, Stuart Potter, Pat Paris or myself act as course rangers.

A slow group will be given every opportunity to speed up their play. A gentle reminder at first, then a final warning, followed by a two-shot penalty if action has not been taken after this.

Do not be offended if a suggestion is made to your group to catch up with the group ahead. No excuses will be necessary, just act on it.

I have some hints below to help your group catch up if you find you are failing to keep up.

Helping To Find Lost Balls

It is important that everyone try to help find a lost ball in order to keep the match moving. But players should do it AFTER hitting their shots, not BEFORE. How often do you see four players searching for a lost ball, while NONE of them are getting ready to hit?
Use common sense. The player who is closest to the pin and scheduled to hit last should be the first to help the player whose ball is lost, while the players who are farthest away from the pin should PLAY THEIR SHOTS FIRST. When the players farthest away have played their shots, they should resume looking for the lost ball, while the players who are closest should get ready to PLAY THEIR SHOTS. In this way, slow play is not compounded because of a lost ball.

Entering and Exiting Greens

How many times do you see players leave their clubs in front of a Green? ALWAYS leave clubs at the back or side of the Green closest to the next tee. If a shot is played in front of the Green first, the player should move his or her clubs to the back or side of the Green before playing the next shot.  Also, please don’t stand around after you’ve finished the hole to write down the scores. You can do that at the next tee or when you wait for others in the next fairway.


Playing Ready Golf around the Greens means getting READY to putt BEFORE it is your turn! Players should line up their putts WHILE other players are putting, so they’re ready to putt when it’s their turn.
Ready Golf also means putting CONTINUOUSLY if the bail is not in someone else’s line, and if the player does not have to spend a lot of time surveying the putt. If you miss a putt by one or two feet for example, and have an open stance to make the next putt, you should MAKE the putt instead of marking the ball and waiting for another turn – unless it is a tricky putt and you want extra time to survey it. In that case, mark the ball and survey the putt while someone else putts.
When it is your turn, walk up to the ball, take your stance and make your putt.
While there are no time rules associated with putting, a rule of thumb is to get off your putt within 20 seconds from when it is your turn. This means you should be able to approach the ball, take your stance and make your putt within 20 seconds. Obviously, you can only do this if you SURVEY the putt WHILE other players are putting.
When you putt, you should always take your time, so you make a smooth, unhurried stroke. Ready Golf DOES NOT mean RUSHING. If you prepare in advance to putt, you can take your time AND play Ready Golf.

Ready Driving

If your group is behind, there is no reason why a player can’t proceed to the next hole and tee off while others are still putting. Remember, when you are behind, you’ve lost your right to play with honors until you catch up to the group in front of you.
If your group does have to wait for the group in front of you on a tee box, the shortest hitter could hit as soon as those in front of you are out of his way.
If you’re on a par 3 that you can’t reach, there’s really no need to wait for the group in front of you to hole out. In the interest of time you should tee off as soon as it’s safe to do so.

On the Fairway

Walk to your ball as soon as possible, so that you can choose your club and think about the shot in ADVANCE- not when it is your turn, so that you are ready to play when it is your turn.


4 thoughts on “Speed of Play

  1. As a regular player around the times mentioned I must sincerely thank you in your efforts to help speed up play, I know that the groups sometimes have legitimate reasons for their disregard for the other players, BUT you have no chance of these MEN ever changing their attitude.Maybe they could be covinced to play after 9.30 , or only play in a group of 3. Goodluck and thanks for at least trying.

  2. Well written Dave. Maybe some of these hints go with score cards for a couple of weeks..Very good points, and some of these are simple remedies that some members really do not think about..

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