WHENEVER I’M STUCK behind creepy crawlers on the golf course or watch with disgust as a 20-handicapper tries to chop down a tree with a 7-iron after duffing a shot, I think of my father. Not because he was the perpetrator of slow play or bad behavior; in contrast, the guy who nipped my poor sportswomanship in the bud by threatening to quit playing tennis with me if I ever again threw a racket set a sprint pace.
When I returned to golf after way too many years ignoring its existence, my dad set out to teach me the oh-so-many dos and don’ts associated with the game — its rules, etiquette and, perhaps most important of all, the never-look-back warp speed at which Milton L. Kay believed one should play his beloved sport.
Indeed, my father — an insurance broker who once notched a hole-in-one, owned a single-digit handicap and helped my brother become a pretty good player — drilled it into me that it matters not what the groups in back of you are doing as long as you stay within a chip shot of the foursome ahead. There I was, a jittery, born-again, wannabe golfer puttering around at the pace Christina Kim likes to describe as “slower than evolution,” and my father was making his way to the next tee, lest we fall an eighth of a shot behind.
IN HONOR OF MY FATHER, I SHARE A FEW OF HIS PACE-OF-PLAY TIPS TO HELP YOU KEEP YOUR GAME ON THE FAST TRACK.
- Ready, set, go! In a friendly round, forget about “honors” and play ready golf. Consider the yardage and what club to use as you walk (or drive) to your ball, hit it and move on. Same holds true on the putting green.
- Let it go. When you hit your Pro V1x into the deep woods, limit your search to about a minute. (The Rules of Golf may give you five, but that grumpy group behind you won’t wait that long before smacking a warning shot over your head.) After all, even at $45 per dozen (far less on eBay), you never really own a golf ball; consider it a rental.
- Be prepared. Stuff your pocket with an extra Srixon so you won’t have to fish around in your bag for a spare after chili-dipping your chip shot into the hazard.
- Re-tee for efficiency. After power-slicing your drive into said deep woods or out of bounds, pull that other ball from your pouch and tell your playing partners you’re hitting a provisional (failure to announce your intention could result in a one-stroke penalty if you’re playing with rules fascists). That’ll save you the embarrassment and extra minutes that result from heading back to the tee to hit another shot after failing to locate the original.
- Move along. Park your cart or bag behind the green so when you finish putting you’ll be walking toward the next tee instead of backtracking to retrieve your luggage. Also, leave the putting area promptly and record your score no sooner than when you arrive at your next destination.
- One per customer. Please, in the name of all that is sacred in the game of golf, take just one practice swing. Better yet, grip it and rip it, like the 85-year-old woman I play with who pushes her cart up and down the hills of the Berkshires every day. Do as Therese does and you’ll save a bucket-load of strokes and have way more energy for golf at the speed of Milt.
- Three strikes and you’re out. Don’t plumb-bob your fourth putt. Even notorious PGA Tour slowpoke and plumb-bobber extraordinaire Kevin Na would likely be chagrined to do that. In non-tournament play, pick up your Polara after three whacks with the flat stick, take your maximum, and get set for your next tee shot.
- Put down the golf club. If you’re playing that same fun round and have no handicap maximum, pocket your ball after double par — preferably a few strokes before that on a par-5. Seriously, no one wants to see you hit your 11th shot.
My father eased up on me after I swore allegiance to these eight principles of speedy golf. But I have no doubt he’s keepin’ ’em movin’ on that great golf course on the other side of life.
This article first appeared in the October 2011 edition of GottaGoGolf Magazine.