I just signed the USGA’s Pace of Play Pledge, which means I am in for lots of emails over the coming weeks about how to play faster and how to encourage those around me to do so. If I’m a good girl and I complete the program, I will get a certificate!
This might seem absurd to longtime golfers and newbies. But last Friday at Truckee’s beautiful Coyote Moon, I was paired with a man from Germany who is doing his best to sample the top 100 golf courses in the world. Along the way, he told me that no one gets to play golf in Germany without an established handicap. Golfers are required to take lessons, join a club, even to pass a nine-hole playing test before they set foot on a championship golf course!
We don’t do that in the capitalist U.S. of A. because golf courses want to make money. And in fact if your group plays twice a week, every week, at a local municipal or semiprivate golf course, the folks running the show are never going to move you along.
But, at least now you might hear from the folks behind you. The funny and charming ad campaign of public service announcements by Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Clint Eastwood, Annika Sorenstam and Paula Creamer — just 30 seconds each, and you can see them all at the USGA’s new While We’re Young site — adds a new phrase to the golf lexicon. Now we have not only “Fore!” and “Get legs!” and “Sit down!” to holler out, we have “While We’re Young!”
This is a fine addition to the golf vocabulary, especially for women, who want to enjoy themselves on the golf course and tend not to want to say anything that might be construed as rude. Now instead of playing the etiquette diva and mumbling, “We’re a little behind, let’s pick it up a little,” the alert woman golfer can smile and use a Rodney Dangerfield line.
GottaGoGolf Magazine is all for improving the pace of play, and articles on the topic by Gail Rogers and Emily Kay have been among the most viewed at GottaGoGolfMag.com. We take the corporate, media pledge.
But there are a few problems with “While We’re Young.” For one thing, although “Caddyshack” is an iconic golf movie, it takes more than one human’s fingers and toes to date it. More than two bags of clubs, even. That movie is 33 years old. Many of the people who need this message — particularly high school and college players — have not ever seen it. So particularly the Paula Creamer spot may bomb; though she is cute and funny in the Rodney role, it must be noted, sadly, that Rodney is dead.
For another thing, the average golfer takes 100 shots in a round of golf. If you have a foursome that takes 100 shots each and you allow just 30 seconds per shot, that is a five-hour round. The National Golf Foundation surveyed “serious” golfers and found that 91 percent of them complained about slow play — but, at least those serious golfers are playing golf. Many more people don’t play because they don’t have anywhere near that kind of time. Faster play will not change that. Systemically, golf is just a slow game.
And about that pledge: One of my 10 commitments — yes, 10, just like the commandments — binds me to “Play It Forward.” But as golf course architect Alice Dye noted in this space recently, the average woman has nowhere forward to go.
Another pledge commitment requires me to seek out a club professional who will improve my game and help me speed up my play. I have had many lessons from many teachers, and none has ever addressed the concept of pace of play. Few ever have ventured onto the golf course with me. The ones I have played with took much more time than I did.
Which segues perfectly into the biggest chink in the “While We’re Young” armor: These spots will be airing over the weekend, when the U.S. Open will bring to us the ultimate in slow, ponderous golf. So even as we laugh at the kids saying to Tiger, “While we’re young?” we will have to endure poor examples between public service announcements.
Let’s hope everyone isn’t watching on a DVR that skips the commercials!