I just finished a 5½+ hour round of golf. No, that is not a typo. 335 minutes to be precise.To be fair, I’m probably more disappointed than anything. Disappointed that the rest of my day is shot. Disappointed that the game I love – the game I turn to for a bit of relaxation and thought-clearing, zen-like meditation — has turned into a nerve-wracking, blood-pressure-raising, mind-scrambling cacophony of hurry-up-and-wait.

Our foursome was fast and efficient. But the group(s) in front were far from it. And therein lies the problem.

Let’s face it, the game is getting longer (and longer) to play. And while many suggest that 9-hole rounds should become the norm (perish the thought!) I’m a firm believer that we need to fix the players – not the format.

So while I stood in the fairway, watching the group in front agonise over every putt, every blade of grass, every subtle nuance of the green while also gauge the wind direction, relative humidity and the Earth’s specific relative angular momentum to the Sun, I began to wonder if I had unknowingly been transported into the middle of a PGA event? Either that, or the group in front were playing a money game with stakes so high that even John Daly would say “Uh, whoa there cowboy… too rich for my blood” (As it turns out, neither scenario was true).

With all this in mind, here is a gentle reminder to that “wearisome foursome” (you know who you are) about some of the more game-speeding rules of course etiquette:

Watch your ball until it stops

After every shot – especially from the tee – keep an eye on your ball until it comes to rest. If it has wandered into the rough or the cabbage, get a clear sight onto a marker or reference point near it – a tree, bush, mound…anything. If there is even the slightest chance that it could go walkabout, play a provisional — resist the rarely-accurate urge to say “Nah, we’ll probably find it.”

If it’s lost, it’s lost

I realise that your brand-new Titleist ProV1 wasn’t cheap (believe me, I empathise with you), but when your five minutes is up, it’s up. Admit that it’s lost and move on. (You DID play a provisional back on the tee, right?)

Always think ahead

As you approach the green, determine where the next tee is, and then park your cart/buggy/bag between the hole and the next tee. That way, when you are done with the hole, you can clear the green quickly. And for heaven’s sake, don’t loiter around the green discussing the scores — record your scores at the next tee!

Be prepared

When on the green, in the fairway, or anywhere else, get prepared for your shot while riding or walking to your ball.

Read the break, check the wind, estimate the yardage or do a pre-shot routine ahead of time, so that when it is your turn, you’re ready to go. (In this case, a GPS device or yardage book is a must). And whenever you have the opportunity, play “ready golf”.

Go directly to your ball

Each member of your group should go directly to their ball. Avoid travelling from one ball to the other (unless helping to search for a lost ball.) When sharing a cart, drop off one player and then proceed to your own ball while he/she does their pre-shot routine.

Take Multiple Clubs

If you need to leave your bag/buggy/ cart away from where your ball is positioned, take a couple of clubs with you. This will save you from having to go back and forth in case of indecision.

Watch the groups around you

If the group in front of you is more than one shot ahead (i.e. if they are on the green of a par-4 before you even tee off) you need to speed it up. Conversely, if there is no one ahead of you, but the group behind is constantly waiting for you to hit, either let them play through, or pick up the pace.

Hold that club

When playing in a cart, do not put your club back in the bag until you arrive at your ball for your next shot. Especially with two players in a cart this practice saves a significant amount of time over the course of a round.

Don’t Wait

If your foursome have fallen behind for whatever reason, the first 2 players to putt out should immediately head over to the next Tee and hit off. This saves time, and can really help you catch up. Filling in score cards for the previous hole can be done as the last 2 players are preparing to Tee off.


About Richard Fellner

A four-time winner of the Australian Golf Media Awards, including Best Photojournalism, Best Opinion, Best Column and Best Photographic Presentation, Inside Golf Group Editor Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic, having played the game for over 50 years (but has never gotten any better!) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Media Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and has been a featured guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others. Follow Richard Fellner on Quora


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