During my golf instruction the past 11 years, I’ve heard a consistent theme from my novice students in that they often feel rushed out on the golf course. They don’t feel they can take their time, as others are waiting on them to hit their shot. They aren’t as skilled and proficient, and feel like they are holding up play. Then in their worry to play faster, they wrongly swing faster and hit a bad shot.
Exacerbating this issue is the fact that these golfers are nervous and don’t want to embarrass themselves, feeling as though they are in the spotlight. It is natural to feel this way, but don’t worry, the other golfers in your group are much more concerned and worried about what their own ball is going to be doing, and they aren’t judging you for they were all beginners at one point too.
[TID BIT: Pace is surprisingly an issue on Tour. Occasionally PGA Tour play will slow to molasses but the officials don’t act. LPGA Tour officials enforce stricter rules and give warnings to the players if their group is out of position, putting the whole group on the clock. They then have 30 seconds for each shot, to get their distance, pin location, assess the wind, pick a club, read the green, go through their routine, etc. They also have an extra 10 seconds at the end of the hole to apply if need be. If they go over their total allotment of 30 seconds per shot for the hole, they can be assessed a 2 stroke penalty. On occasion this has cost players prize money and better tournament placement.]
There are some things you can do to feel less overwhelmed out on your local links, enabling you to keep up with the pace of your group. This however entails using your time wisely and preparing ahead of time, so here are some keys:
- If you can’t find your ball, or have hit it a few times and are still in trouble, pick up and move on. When you catch up with your group, throw a ball down where they are.
- If using a Rangefinder, don’t use it when it is your turn to hit, either use it before or after (if after, you can write down the distance from a particular landmark for the next time you play that course, and then run to catch up with your group).
- Know the order of play, who is hitting right ahead of you, or if you are up first.
- Before it is your turn to play, figure out your approximate distance to the hole, assess the wind, and pick what club you are going to hit.
- Before it is your turn to play, get your grip on the club, determine your swing thought, and start visualizing and lining up your shot from the back of the ball, if you’re not in someone’s way. Right after the person before you hits their shot, start moving into your pre-shot routine (access my Feb. 8 article in Feb. 2012 Archives for info on this), and then hit your shot.
For the beginner it takes a long time just to get their grip on the club and to find their stance and posture, so therefore they should practice those things before going on the course that day. See how fast you can get your hands into the correct position on the club and how quick you can find the correct posture and ball position in your set up on the driving range beforehand.
Plan out and size up your shot and swing thoughts well before you get to the ball, even while 50 yards away and walking up to it. By the time you get to the ball and are standing over it, you’ve already done all the prep work, so now you can relax and take your time as you swing it back and through with a nice, smooth tempo.
Just remember, as long as you don’t dilly dally in between shots, but keep walking, you should be fine. There are always going to be the unpleasant, grumpy old men out there who never seem to be in a good mood while playing golf, and whose only goal is to play as fast as possible. Luckily they are usually done playing by 11 a.m. so that they can get to their Dewar’s and Bridge. However, for the enlightened modern day player, the main purpose is to enjoy their time on the course and the challenge of the game, for as they realize, life is too short to be grumpy about speed of play!