Morgan Pressel paid the penalty last Sunday. Now it’s her picture on the cover of GolfWorld this week.
And there’s the problem with the problem with golf: Nobody has figured out how to speed up play in any way that’s fair. Not the LPGA Tour, not the PGA Tour, and especially not your local golf course.
Pressel, in case you missed the week’s drama, spent too much time on a few shots on the 12th hole of her semifinal match with eventual champion Azahara Munoz, torn between clubs in a gusting wind. Officials penalized her by awarding the hole to Munoz — who admits that it was her commonly known slowness that got the pair put on the clock in the first place. Otherwise, shots ebb and flow — Pressel, not commonly known for slowness, routinely might spend more time on one shot and less on another. Because of Munoz, she could not take extra time once the officials ran the clock.
Obviously, bringing officials in with clocks mid-round is not fair. It penalizes the player who generally does not dawdle. The PGA Tour demonstrated as much a week earlier, when it tried to coax along Kevin Na.
Na, it turned out, kept up with the group in front of him but could not get by it. And that’s the problem at your local course.
Last weekend I had the experience of first holding up the foursome behind me at the Grand Del Mar on Saturday (though finishing in about 4 1/2 hours), and then waiting repeatedly during a torturous round of nearly 6 hours at Hiddenbrooke on Sunday.
In both situations, the pace of play curbed my group’s enthusiasm. At Grand Del Mar, three of our foursome were experienced players who had never played the course. The fourth had not played much golf, and, feeling pressured, she did not play many shots.
Let me tell you, because most golfers even in California are unaware: The Grand Del Mar is a wildly beautiful, uniquely designed Tom Fazio course that most of us will not ever play because we cannot afford lodging at the resort or — the only other way to play — a $30,000 membership. (Super deal right now: $425 for a night at the resort plus unlimited golf.)
The Grand Del Mar is not the kind of course you want to hurry by like scenery on a train — you want to stop and take pictures, and you want to consult with the knowledgable forecaddie on shot selection and putts.
If I had it to do over again, I — someone who believes golf should take no more than four hours — would like to take closer to 5 hours to utterly savor what might have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But the four-group tournament behind us apparently sent their fastest players out on our heels, and so we kept pushing our pace because we saw them waiting. Not until we finished our round did we realize that there were a couple of holes open behind them. (There was one open in front of us after we made the turn and thereafter.)
Were we slow? We didn’t think so, but surely that foursome thought so. What would have been a fair solution? Maybe if we had realized there was room back there, we could have waved them through — but it is not the kind of course where you see more holes than the one you’re playing.
As for Sunday, Hiddenbrooke put two foursomes on each hole of our not-full-field shotgun — even the par 3s, which meant that the second foursome there started out 15 minutes off the pace. After that, there were long consultations about rules and scoring, and long searches for lost balls. It was agony, but we were all bunched up and so there was nowhere to go.
After that contradictory weekend experience, no wonder I was intrigued by an announcement that arrived on Monday: Island Hills Golf Club, in Michigan’s Amish Country near Lake Templene, Centreville, Mich., has renovated to offer four short-course routings in addition to its full 18-hole glory.
Players can choose among a five-hole short routing, two seven-hole routings (one on each side) and a 12-hole “Premier” course that offers six holes on each nine. Weekday rates range from $13 to $36.
Architect Ray Hearn said he did not have to reroute the course he originally designed in 1999 to create this unusual menu, which he hopes will encourage people to play more often.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric about growing the game and making it more attractive to people to bring them back to the game, but Island Hills is doing much more than talking about it,” Hearn said.
Course owner Bob Griffoen seems committed to devising a system that accommodates all.
“We are not going to put a group of golfers playing seven holes out in the middle of a weekend day in which the course is already filled with golfers playing 18 holes,” Griffioen said. “We are going to get this right. We have new cart and walking paths being created, and signs will be posted to communicate to the golfer to lessen confusion. We’re committed to it. We want feedback because we want to make it right.”
Can this solve the problem with golf? Not if players end up having to choose between playing 12 holes in 4 hours and 18 holes in 5 1/2 hours.
The real problem with the problem with golf is that we all have our own idea about what is slow, and we’re all at each other’s mercy. And until the LPGA, PGA and your local course put us all on the clock, every hole and every shot, we’ll be moseying or zipping along accordingly.
For some great pace-of-play guidelines, read Emily Kay’s account of the lessons she learned from her father, at GottaGoGolf Magazine.