Teed Off (Aug. 4, 2013)
with Robert Bicknell
In a recent article, Jack Nicklaus was quoted as saying he thinks the modern golf ball is to blame for slow play on the Tours. OK, maybe not the golf ball itself, but what has been done with the ball and the consequences for golf course designers and the way players approach the game.
Personally, I think that idea is a truckload of bullfeathers, but let's look at the reasoning anyway.
According to the Golden Bear, the new golf ball flies a lot further, which has resulted in designers making the courses longer, tournament directors bringing in the rough to narrow the fairways and players taking more time to consider their shot.
The result is pro rounds of golf lasting five hours instead of the expected four hours and 10 minutes. Nicklaus also mentioned the Open Championship taking over five hours to finish a round, instead of the usual three plus hours during the final round.
Hmm… if memory serves, wasn't Jack Nicklaus one of the biggest slow play offenders on Tour during his heyday? I remember him walking from 150 yards out to the green, then back again just to check the pin position and the slope of the green.
Yes, Nicklaus is one of the reasons why slow play penalties were adopted in the first place.
I wouldn't blame the ball before looking at other potential reasons, such as the size of the prize purse they are playing for. In Nicklaus's day, first place earned around US$140,000 whereas today it's well over a million dollars. That alone is enough to give the strongest player pause.
Tour players today also have more information at their fingertips thanks to internet, computer topography and savvy caddies. All this takes a bit longer to mentally process.
In fairness, golf courses are longer and tighter nowadays and that means it takes longer to walk the extra distance, but overall, the total extra distance is about 300 yards. That shouldn't take more a than a few minutes, not an extra hour. So, we can write that excuse off.
Let us also not forget that players are so highly strung that any disturbance to their rhythm or pre-shot routine will result in the player backing off the shot and starting all over again. Sure, they dance on the time limit allowed, but don't break it…too often.
Personally speaking, I think the last thing anyone needs is another ridiculous excuse for slow play. How long will it be until members at local clubs start using the "hotter ball" excuse to the marshals when they get warned about slow play?
You send me, Rick, Lars and Andrew out on the course, Gold Tees, with nobody in front of us, and I'll be willing to bet we can finish 18 holes in under four hours. Even less if there is an important rugby or football tournament on TV in the clubhouse which is scheduled to start in under four hours.
And we're not as young as springtime anymore either.
In my opinion, the biggest culprit which contributes to slow play is gambling. The bigger the bets, the slower the players get on the green. Every putt becomes a major event which could result in substantial gains or losses to the wallet.
Yes, there are a few of these high rollers running around our local clubs and, whenever you're stuck behind them; you wish bazookas were allowed as part of the standard golf equipment.
The other contributing factor is that local players watch the Tour players, who seemingly take forever to play each shot. They are not setting a great example for amateur players and the biggest thing that amateurs forget is that the professionals have the course to themselves after the cut.
There are less groups out there, but they still take close to five hours to finish, so you KNOW they are taking their damned sweet time about it.
If we want to eliminate slow play, the only thing that needs to be done is to educate the players and help them develop a sense of responsibility. They don't want to be inconvenienced, so they should not inconvenience others.
Slow play hurts everyone, but it can be avoided… — VNS