Pace of play

No need to play high speed golf. Just be aware of the people around you.

We have a lot of new members, some of which are discovering golf in all its beautiful intricacy. There are so many things to learn when you join a golf club. During our last committee meeting, we tried to work out what we could do to help them get the most out of joining the club and playing golf. We came up with the idea of a welcome pack with the information they’ll need to find their way around. One huge part of the game of golf is etiquette, which all golfers need to learn about. It’s defined as follows by the R and A:

Etiquette is an integral part of the game, defining golf’s core values. It describes the manner in which the game of golf should be played to ensure all players gain maximum enjoyment.

In short, it’s about “respect”:

  • Respect for the course – leave the course as you would like to find it by repairing pitch-marks, replacing divots and raking bunkers
  • Respect for your fellow players – be sportsmanlike and polite, stay by the green to watch them hole out, and avoid distracting them
  • Respect for the game – by knowing the Rules and etiquette of golf

Essentials are deemed to be Care of the course, Keeping pace and Consideration for others. I thought it would be useful to include a short guide on all of them, starting with pace of play. I’m still working on it, as I’m not sure how “formal” the tone should be; this will be discussed with the committee. Also, I want to help beginners without scaring them and I don’t want to alienate experienced players who might see things differently. It’s quite a tricky balancing act, but here’s what I’ve got so far. It’s a starting point, which only covers friendly rounds, as strict rules must be followed in matches and competitions. I’m hoping that feedback will help me improve it.


Pace of play

Summer’s here and the course is getting busy. One of the essential aspects of etiquette on the course is pace of play, which has a knock-on effect on everyone who’s out in the sunshine. This is not about being a great golfer: never forget that nobody cares how well you play, as long as you do it fast. This is the first and last rule in an excellent Golf for Her article titled 10 things to know before your first round ever. The main pace of play indicator is the group in front: as long as you’re keeping up with them, you’re doing fine. If you find yourself regularly struggling to do so, don’t stress! There are few things you can do to speed up and get back on the path of golf righteousness. Follow me, as I give you a few pointers from tee to green.

Have everything ready

Make sure you have all your tools readily accessible: balls, ball marker, pitch fix and a few tees. That way, you’re always ready to take your turn.

Short hitters first

This is not about discriminating against vertically-challenged players. In a friendly round, don’t be too hung up on the order of play. Let the shorter hitters go first, especially if they won’t reach the group in front.

Think about your next shot

As you’re walking to your ball, try and start thinking about you next shot: what club you will use, the hazards you need to avoid, etc. This speeds up the decision process when you get to your ball. Same on the way to the green: as you approach it, pay attention to its general layout to start working out the line of your putt.

You’re not a wildebeest

No need to travel as a pack. Every player should go to her own ball instead of crowding around one ball, then the next, then…

Chatting is great

But hitting the ball is even better! Don’t delay taking your shot because you’re in the middle of a brilliant piece of gossip. Pause, hit, resume conversation.

Don’t take too many practice swings

Most coaches recommend having a pre shot routine to “get in the zone” and focus on your shot. Try and keep yours to a reasonable length.

Hit a provisional ball

Your ball didn’t go exactly in the direction you intended and it might be in trouble? Take a provisional shot so you don’t have to come back to the same spot if you don’t find it. If you’re playing for fun, you can also drop a ball near the place it disappeared.

Look out for your buddies

Try and watch your partners’ shot and to spot where their ball ends up to help them find it quickly. They’ll love you for it, plus this might give you an indication of what might happen to your shot. Maybe you hadn’t realised there was a strong lateral wind. Maybe you hadn’t noticed the bunker on the right. Now you know what to look out for.

Ready? Go!

In a match or a competition, you have to follow the rules when it comes to order of play, but during a friendly round, it’s much quicker to play “ready golf”. This simply means that if you’re ready and it’s safe to do so, take your shot even though it’s not your turn.

Leave your bag in the right place

When you get to the green, have a look at where you’re heading to next and leave the bag so that you can just pick it up on the way to the next tee.

Take all the clubs you need

If you need to chip on to the green, take your putter with you so you won’t need to take unnecessary trips to your golf bag.

No loitering around the green

Don’t stand by the green bemoaning another three putts or filling in your scorecard. This can be done just as satisfyingly at the next tee while someone else is teeing off.

Let the people behind you play through

If, in spite of everything, your pace of play is off, you lose the group ahead of you and the group behind you catches up, let them through. They’ll be happy and you’ll be more relaxed.

More information on the R and A website

Photo credit: Mike Wilson