Pace of Play and The Four Hour Round

Pace of Play
Pace of Play and the Four Hour Round

Pace of Play and how to get it under control are being discussed all over the internet right now. If you use Twitter, follow the conversation at #usgapaceofplay to listen in on the chatter. Slow play may be keeping some people from taking up the game of golf, or has resulted in people giving up on the game entirely. Among those of us who are active amateur golfers, it’s something we want to find remedies for, to ensure the future of the sport which we love so much and which adds immensely to our lives.

Patrick Mateer published a book a few years ago called “The Return of the 4 Hour Round.” According to his research, seventy-two percent say more golfers would consider taking up the game, and fewer golfers would abandon the game if we could return to the ideal of the four hour round.

Fortunately for us members of Sierra View Country Club, which prides itself as “The Fast Play Club,” pace of play complaints are few and far between. That’s not the case elsewhere. And the recent pace of play campaign called “While We’re Young” with its tongue in cheek approach to the problem, hasn’t seemed to have made any inroads.

Here’s an interesting story from the Weston Golf and Country Club, where they made a concerted effort to get all golfers fully aware of what the course professionals determined was the ideal and manageable time to play 18 holes: 4 hours and 12 minutes. So “4:12” became the mantra at the country club. The bar charged $4.12 for the daily special drink. 4:12 was printed on the cocktail napkins. The code for the locker room was changed to 412. When a foursome was called to the first tee they were given a card showing their tee-off time, which also showed them the time plus 4:12. What happened? Not everyone made the 4:12 time allotment, but everyone’s awareness was raised. Slow golfers started believing they might actually be the slow ones! Read more about this story.

Pace of Play Tips for Golfers

Here are suggestions I’m seeing tossed about by leaders in the industry:

  • On public courses, charge by the hour, not by the round. (This is a new one on me…sounds impossible to administer.)
  • Train marshals on how to tactfully tell slow golfers to play faster.
  • When checking in golfers, show/tell them the lengths from each set of tees and match that with what the golfer states as the length of average drive. Do not let short hitters tee off from inappropriately long tees. Play it Forward must get traction in the sport of golf, but it needs teeth.
  • Mow the rough a shorter height. So much time is spent by golfers looking for balls in the rough. If the rough is cut a wee bit shorter, it could definitely help reduce the minutes spent looking for balls.
  • Space tee times. If you are spacing at 10 minute intervals, try 11 minute intervals. Statistically, this suggestion results in decreasing round time by 18 minutes on average. The issue, of course, is lost revenue. Similar to achieving more leg room in the cabin of an airplane, when you add a minute between tee times, you can accommodate fewer rounds.
  • On checking in golfers, give every golfer a card that says something like, “If you can’t see the group in front of you and you can see the group behind you, you need to pick up and move on.
  • When your foursome is on the green and you are ready to putt and the person who should be putting is walking yet another circle around the green examining every possible nuance, just putt.
  • Clear the green right away. Don’t just saunter off casually, taking your sweet time. Get moving and mark your score card when you have reached the next green.
  • Ready golf on the fairway means it’s ok to remind your partners that they are up, and if you are ready to hit and there is no issue of safety, even though you may be closer to the green, just hit.
  • Talk with your partners while you walk/ride, not while another person is preparing to hit. That player may be waiting for you to stop your yammering.
  • If you have putted out, and the next tee is open, don’t wait for everyone to putt out. Go tee off. Your group will catch up with you.
  • Pros may take four, five, six, twelve practice swings, but us amateurs should limit practice swings to one or two at the most. Check your routine.
  • Watch your partners’ balls. Make a mental note where they land, if off the fairway. Too much time is spent looking for balls in the rough, in the trees, in the barranca. Hit a provisional if the ball has landed in what looks like an impossible spot to hit from.

Weather can be a factor in Pace of Play. In rainy weather, Cart Path Only days mean players are trying to manage the cart and walking zig zag all over the course. It takes a pretty terrific player to always manage placing his or her ball near the cart path! On Cart Path Only days, if you are able, use a push cart and walk. You’ll end up walking less than if you ride. Almost guaranteed.

There are people who believe five-somes should not be allowed in regular play. I used to agree with that until one day, recently, my threesome had a dickens of a time keeping up with the five-some of men in front of us, all walkers. These guys had black belts in Ready Golf!

Personally, my advice for any golfer is to consider joining a private country club, preferably with a walker-friendly golf course like Sierra View Country Club of Roseville, where pace of play is a closely guarded, almost sacred concept. Decide how many rounds of golf you’d ideally like to play every month, and do the math. My hunch is you’ll find that the costs work out quite well. Take into consideration, also, the amount of time you’ll save monthly – time you can spend in other pursuits. Read all about Sierra View at




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