Golf’s Pace of Play Becomes Big Issue

A great deal of evidence suggests that the biggest challenge golf faces these days is in the amount of time it takes to play a round. People just don’t want to set aside five or six hours to play.

I am not surprised. We are a society that no longer enjoys the journey, but expects instant arrival, gratification and rewards. Further, one of the ironies of modern life is that all our time-saving conveniences have just served to make us more time-starved. Computers were supposed to liberate us. All they’ve done for me is generate more reports to file and paperwork to complete and print. (And don’t even get me started on the “paperless” office.)

The USGA recently has undertaken an admirable effort to speed up the pace of play. Their “While We’re Young” campaign takes a riff on the Rodney Dangerfield line from Caddyshack to raise awareness of the slow play issue. Employing Arnold, Annika, Paula Creamer, Tiger and Clint Eastwood, the PSAs add a bit of humor to an otherwise serious problem.

There’s more to the effort than humorous PSAs, though. The USGA offers some very good tips on improving pace of play:

  • Start Smart.
  • “Tee It Forward” unless you are consistently able to reach greens in regulation from the back tees.
  • Try alternate forms of play to speed up your round (Match play, Stableford, etc)
  • Minimize your time on the tee.
  • Plan your shot before you get to your ball.
  • Keep your pre-shot routine short.
  • Develop an eye for distance.
  • When sharing a cart, use a buddy system.
  • Be helpful to others in your group.
  • Keep up with the group in front of you.
  • Be efficient on the putting green.
  • Remember that picking up your ball is permitted by the USGA Handicap System.
  • Don’t Have Time? Play Nine!

    Of these, I am convinced that “Tee It Forward” is by far the most important.

    Playing too far back makes it more likely that you will miss the fairway. Playing too far back ensures that you will need to play a longer club into the green. Playing longer clubs into the green increases the chances of a miss, adding extra strokes and more time chipping and pitching. Playing longer clubs into the green generally means longer—and extra—putts. Longer putts result in more time spent analyzing the green.

    In my mind, it all flows from inappropriate tees.

    During peak golfing hours, clubs can help their pace of play by moving the tees up. Players whose cojones are bigger than their brains might complain initially, but my feeling is that the vast majority will ultimately enjoy a round in which they play quickly and have a chance to score well. I’d like to see a course make a really gutsy move and actually publicize days and times when tees are forward or back, eg.: Saturday and Sunday mornings: forward. Saturday and Sunday later afternoon, back. Weekday mornings, back. Weekday afternoons and evenings, forward. Different courses would have different schedules, based on their knowledge of who plays.

    Press release follows:


    Unveils comprehensive pace-of-play awareness and education campaign during 2013 U.S. Open Championship

    Launches series of new PSAs featuring Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Clint Eastwood, Annika Sorenstam, Paula Creamer and Butch Harmon

    Introduces dedicated Microsite and online Resource Center to help players and facilities expand their knowledge of the causes and solutions to slow play

    Ardmore, Pa., (June 12, 2013) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) today unveiled a new public education campaign around the theme of “While We’re Young,” a new positioning to raise awareness across the golf community of the challenges and solutions to the pace-of-play issues in the game of golf. Borrowing the iconic line from the character played by Rodney Dangerfield in the classic 1980 film Caddyshack®, the campaign takes a lighthearted and comedic approach to encourage golfers of all skill levels and golf course facilities to join a movement to improve pace of play and reduce the time it takes to play the game.

    According to industry research, the time that it takes to play golf is a principal driver that adversely impacts enjoyment of and discourages participation in the game. In a recent study by the National Golf Foundation (NGF), 91 percent of serious golfers are bothered by slow play and say it detracts from their golf experience; more than 70 percent believe pace of play has worsened over time; and half have admitted to walking off the course due to frustration over a marathon round of golf. USGA research shows that the golfer is just one component within a complex, integrated system that determines pace of play in the game. Golf course design, course setup and player management also contribute to longer playing times.

    “Pace of play has become a strategic priority for the USGA, and part of a larger leadership agenda to address the issues that threaten the long-term health of the game,” said USGA President Glen D. Nager. “Our new campaign underscores a commitment to educate golfers and golf facility managers in a fun and engaging manner about all the factors that contribute to pace of play and the role they can have in implementing practical solutions to the problem.”

    The USGA will debut a total of five public service announcements, featuring three-time U.S. Open champion Tiger Woods, 1960 U.S. Open champion and golf icon Arnold Palmer, Academy Award® winning actor/director Clint Eastwood, three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Annika Sorenstam, 2010 U.S. Women’s Open champion Paula Creamer, and famed American golf instructor Butch Harmon. The series of PSAs can be viewed at

    The USGA campaign is being supported through its partnerships with the LPGA, The PGA of America, and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, who are lending the expertise of their members to develop content for the education program. The campaign also enjoys the support of the state and regional golf associations throughout the country, who play a critical role in educating and engaging four million golfers at the local level.

    The campaign will debut at the 2013 U.S. Open Championship, and will air throughout the summer on broadcast network and national cable channels during coverage of the 2013 U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur on NBC, ESPN and Golf Channel. The TV spots will also run during broadcasts of non-USGA golf events, thanks to promotional support from the LPGA and The PGA of America.

    Each PSA will direct people to, a newly created microsite where golfers and facility managers can sign a pledge to take personal measures to improve pace of play. Those who take the pledge will be enrolled in the USGA Pace of Play Education Program, which includes videos, quizzes and other resources that cover the fundamental causes and solutions to slow play from both a player and golf course facility perspective. Once the education program is completed, participants will receive a downloadable certificate acknowledging their role as a USGA-certified pace of play ambassador.

    In addition to the campaign, the USGA has introduced a new online Pace of Play Resource Center on for golf facilities and players. The Resource Center serves as an authoritative repository for educational information about pace of play, including case studies and best practices on ways golf course facilities can address factors such as hole length, routing, green speeds, rough height, and operations to improve pace of play. The site also provides tips for individual golfers seeking to expand their knowledge of the issue and improve their own playing habits, including information on alternative formats like nine-hole rounds that take less time to play.

    “Although our industry has tried to address pace of play for decades, we believe the issue can be addressed successfully if we collaboratively pursue solutions that consider the full set of factors that influence pace – the actions of golfers, the ways we design and manage golf courses, and the influence of the elite competitive game,” said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis. “This new campaign illustrates the USGA’s energetic and action-oriented approach to pursuing worthwhile endeavors that serve the best interests of the game moving forward.”

    The USGA campaign is part of a larger, multifaceted initiative that was announced in February to identify the causes and solutions regarding pace-of-play issues in the game. This USGA-led program includes: an analysis of key factors known to influence pace of play; the development of a pace-of-play model based on USGA-led research and quantifiable data; improvements to the USGA Pace Rating System; on-site assistance at golf courses to help managers assess and improve pace of play; and the creation of player- and facilities-education programs.

    In addition to broadcast network and cable television, the USGA campaign is being supported by an integrated mix of digital media, social media, and public relations.

    An integrated team of agencies, led by Jimmy Siegel Creative Services, ADDigital, Platinum Rye Talent and Dentino Marketing, worked with the USGA to develop the new campaign and microsite.

    About the USGA

    The USGA conducts the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open, as well as 10 national amateur championships, two state team championships and international matches. Together with The R&A, the USGA governs the game worldwide, jointly administering the Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status, Equipment Standards and World Amateur Golf Rankings. The USGA’s working jurisdiction comprises the United States, its territories and Mexico.

    The USGA is a global leader in the development and support of sustainable golf course management practices. It serves as a primary steward for the game’s history and funds an ongoing “For the Good of the Game” charitable giving program. Additionally, the USGA’s Course Rating and Handicap systems are used on six continents in more than 50 countries.

    For more information about the USGA, visit

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2 thoughts on “Golf’s Pace of Play Becomes Big Issue”

  1. How the greats quickly pass from the scene. I don’t see Jack Nicklaus mentioned in the press release, though he did appear in one of the PSAs. Then again, if the USGA is trying to reach a younger demographic, Jack is less relevant than Eastwood, who has still been active in movies.

  2. There are a any number of slightly younger stars who play golf seriously, starting with Justin Timberlake. Thomas Gibson is not young, but he at least a network television regular. Cameron Diaz plays, too.

    But where is Bill Murray in this? It would be amazing for him to “close the loop” on this inside joke.


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