Managing pace of play on the golf course is one of the great challenges for golf administrators around the world, so much so the R & A – Pace of Play Manual to provide much needed guidance on the issue. Using that guidance, as well as input from the Match Sub-committee and the General Committee, the Club recently embarked on a renewed pace of play initiative. I would like to thank you for embracing the initiative and for providing feedback where you believe the implementation of the current policy can be improved – it is certainly a topic of vigorous debate and it is satisfying that members are engaged in Club matters.
In the coming weeks, we will publish our analysis of round time data and provide some statistical insights including a breakdown by course, by tee time and by format (stableford, par, stroke, etc). We are also awaiting more data to increase the sample size and ensure the data is adequately representative. However, in the meantime we will continue to listen to feedback and find the right balance to preserve the enjoyment of the game for all members.
Given I have received feedback, I would like to take this opportunity to openly address some of the questions received to date.
We have had no issues with pace of play – why did you change the policy?
The policy has not changed but communication of it has.
When I became Captain one of the recurring requests was to better manage the pace of play and to reduce the frequency of excessively slow rounds. Covid rules (flags remaining in the hole, preferred lies in bunkers, no rakes etc) have assisted to improve round times but these are temporary, and a longer-term strategy is needed – especially given the high number of rounds being played. Upon further review, I discovered the last concerted effort on pace of play occurred almost 12 years ago and this was conveyed to members in a Club newsletter in August 2009. I have Pace of Play – April 2021 News Update from this newsletter and quote the policy of that time, “For members enjoyment the goal is less than four hours each round (existing By Law) and the maximum acceptable time for rounds are 4 hours 10 minutes for a four ball playing stableford and 4 hours 20 minutes for a four ball playing stroke (existing programme)”.
Therefore the only change made in the current pace of play initiative is to put a number to “less than four hours” for stableford rounds, which became 3 hours 50 minutes while the maximum acceptable round times remain unchanged.
Is 3 hours 50 minutes achievable for all members?
No. Some members play well within this time while others, due to a variety of factors including playing ability, physical ability, weather conditions of the day, etc, will find 3 hours 50 minutes unachievable. In fact, this is the reason for having a range between 3 hours 50 minutes to 4 hours and 10 minutes for stableford and 4 hours to 4 hours 20 minutes for stroke. For rounds played outside these maximum times, and with some common-sense applied, the Club may contact members to respectfully advise how to improve their pace of play.
Why are you targeting groups and not the individual?
We are not targeting individuals and instead will focus on groups because we believe each group should be working together as efficiently as possible to play in an appropriate time. We encourage all groups to play when ready rather than the age old “honours” system. This allows the group to co-ordinate faster and slower players, or easier and more difficult shots.
Naturally, as the Club collects more data we will identify those who regularly feature in a slow group and we will contact these members to understand their challenges and provide the necessary support to improve their round times.
I don’t appreciate being contacted to tell me I am slow!
The response from some members who have received an email regarding their pace of play has been emotional and some have taken it very personally – this is a common challenge in managing pace of play. A response to this is best summed up in the R&A manual, “If you, on more than one occasion, have been told that you are a slow player it probably means that you are. This does not make you a bad person, and it does not give someone the right to be impolite towards you. However, it does suggest that you should take steps to do something about it so that the same accusation is not made again.”
Where do you get the round time data and how do you determine a slow group?
We are able to download round times from the MiScore software Application to determine the pace of play of groups on any given day. While there are some nuances to cater for (i.e. when you actually submit your score after your round, the course being played, the difficulty of the conditions of the day, the tees in use, etc) it is relatively easy to determine where the bottlenecks occur and the impact on following groups. In determining a slow group, we seek to identify those that did not keep up with the group in front AND played outside the maximum round time. This means a group playing within the required time but falls behind a fast moving 3-ball will not be contacted by the Club and a group held up by a slow group in front will also not be contacted – they obviously cannot go any faster. We will only contact those groups that have a negative impact on the field.
In this regard I encourage all members to let groups through if common sense suggests this will benefit all.
I hope the above provides some insight into how the Club is looking at this issue. All input from members is being considered to help refine the policy and find the right balance to preserve the enjoyment of the game for all members.
Stay well and enjoy the Club.