Four Hours… Really?

by Robin Lane

Go Golf Arizona

How long should it take to play a 4 hour round of golf? Who is buried in Grant’s tomb? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Crazy questions?!

As golfers, this question is sure to be a part of every conversation at every party that is ever attended.  Golf Arizona Magazine gets lots and lots of interesting comments on this subject.

Is the elusive 4 hour round of golf gender specific? Do men play faster than women?

It is understood that golf is a game of manners and etiquette. There are some unspoken rules regarding pace of play. As a general rule, it should take four hours to complete a round of golf.

Have you have ever been on the course and watched the player in front of you take a measurement with their handy distance measuring device, throw up some grass, select a club, take two practice swings, change clubs, throw up some more grass, etc.? Holy Cow?! Is it tomorrow yet? We have all been there and it can be painful.

What about the folks who have two different kinds of measuring devices just in case they need extra guidance before taking that all important next shot? What is this? The US Open?

Have you seen the golfer who RUNS down the fairway, has the club in hand before they have placed the golf bag on the ground or before their cart comes to a stop? Swing and run, swing and run. Do not bother to remove the flagstick; they will not be there long. You can hear, “It is good! Pick it up, let’s go!!” When you look back in the fairway behind you and there they stand, hands on hips and scowl on face. Even worse, you stand over your all important putt and a ball rolls right up to your left foot. Oops?! Fore?! Does it make you angry just reading this?

Ever stood behind a group where the fairway and green are wide open in front of them yet the golfer is very busy finishing the story or joke for their buddies before taking the next shot? Watch their hands moving and the laughter arising and no golf balls are in the air? Can you see that empty fairway in front of you? Wait there they are! There is that group of four over there in the bushes with the ball retriever extended and a big pile of golf balls at their feet as they fish out another ball from the sticker bushes. Whew!

Do groups of four have the right of way? How many groups should you let play through before you realize your group is a bit slow? If you hit your shot right over the heads of the group in front of you, is that really playing through? Would you pay extra to play speed golf and finish really, really fast?

It is understood that golf is a game of manners and etiquette. There are some unspoken rules regarding pace of play. As a general rule, it should take four hours to complete a round of golf. Most golfers are aware of themselves and should know that if they have lost sight of the group in front of them, they have fallen behind the pace of play. When the group behind you is playing a bit faster, golfers are courteous, they generally step aside. That is not always possible when playing in a tournament.

The Arizona Women’s Golf Association (AWGA) has developed a system to assist in pace of play. This Checkpoint system has been adapted from the British Colombia Golf Association. The AWGA uses color coded flags to maintain a steady pace of play for all state tournaments. The USGA has begun using this same system for National Championships. It is not higher math but merely a series of checkpoints around the golf course to alert players if they have fallen behind and by how much.

Players love the Checkpoint system. It tells them how far behind the pace they may have fallen and gives them guidance to get back into their allotted time frame. The AWGA Tournament committee claims to have “shaved” an hour off the previous pace of play in all tournaments. This can make the day go smoother and all players get to the lunch table in a timely manner. The AWGA has even instituted their Checkpoint system in shotgun events with huge success.

Summertime is the best and brightest example of pace on our courses. As summertime residents, everyone understands that we can play early and play fast. The early golfers set the pace of play for everyone out there. The other option is to take advantage of afternoon or evening rates to play at a more leisurely pace. Then you can head to the clubhouse for a cocktail.

Even if the questions never get answered, pace of play is a great discussion to have with other golfers.

Four hours…Really?!

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