As we settle in to watch the worlds best on a Sunday afternoon it is important to remember that there are some things they do that we should not emulate. Their smooth, powerful swings and unmatched short game is definitely worth trying to replicate for obvious reasons. However, their pre-shot routine and methodical play is not always something to mimic. Is it important to have a pre-shot routine and rhythm? Of course, I am not trying to deter you from that but too often have I seen players of all skill levels taking an extraordinary amount of time over every shot on a Saturday morning match with their buddies. Why is this a problem? Because these golfers are poster boys for one of the biggest issues in golf today, slow play. Slow play has become a huge issue in golf as of late and the length of time it take to play a round of golf is one of the main reasons many golfers are playing less or even leaving the game. There are many ways to combat this issue if golfers are simply made aware of habits that are causing these problems.
Play ready golf. This is simple. Whoever is ready to hit, hit the ball. Too many times do I see a guy ready to hit on the tee box when the others are chatting or still marking scores from the last hole but he does not hit because he made a double bogey on the last hole and does not have the honor on the tee. If you're ready, forget honors or who is furthest from the hole, play when ready. That doesn't mean be oblivious to your playing partners and stand in their line on the green, jump in front of them to hit or play speed golf, just be ready to play if those who technically have the honor are not. If you are riding in a cart and your ball is on the opposite side of the fairway from your partner, go to your ball, grab a club to hit the shot required and let your partner take the cart to their ball on the opposite side of the fairway. Simple practices to decrease the length of the round and keep the group behind you happy. Too many times have I seen all of the above practices ignored and rounds unnecessarily lengthened. Play ready golf!
Pre-Shot routines. A pre-shot routine is a must and helps golfers stay in a rhythm and prepare for the shot ahead of them. However, this routine in no way needs to involve 5 practice swings and an eternity of standing over the ball running through a hundred different swing thoughts before pulling the trigger. We all know this guy, don't be that guy. I am not here to tell you what exactly your routine should be but it should not involve much more than lining up your shot, a light swing or two and hitting the golf ball. This carries right through to the green. If you are playing with your buddies for 10 cent snips, is it really necessary to look at every putt from all 4 sides of the ball, plumbob your 3 foot putt or analyze why the putt did or did not break after you've hit the putt? NO, its not!
Looking for golf balls. I heard a great comment/joke from a playing partner this year in regard to the group in front of us looking for their lost golf ball in the long grass while we waited on the tee for upwards of 10 minutes. "I think they've even checked the gopher holes for that ball, must be made of solid gold...". In reality it was probably a Top Flite XL2000 but he was right, they looked for that ball like it was "made of solid gold" and why? By the rules of golf, you have 5 minutes to find your golf ball otherwise it is deemed lost. So why do people look beyond that? Chances are you if you can't find it in the first couple minutes you are not going to have much of a shot so you are not going to improve your score by finding the ball, actually quite the opposite more often than not. If you think you have hit the ball in trouble, hit a provisional. If you can't easily find your original shot, go play the provisional and move on with the round. It reduces the time to play the hole and round and while that two shot penalty for a lost ball sucks, it is not the difference between you making or not making the PGA Tour.
Speaking of the PGA Tour, have you guys seen that Jordan Speith kid? If you have watched any golf over the past year or more there is a good chance you have seen Jordan Speith play a round or two. What stands out to most is his great play and how he holes putts from almost everywhere. What you may not have noticed is how long he takes to hit some shots. He and his caddie methodically analyze every shot he faces whether it is a 200 yard approach or a 20 foot putt. Personally, it agonizes me just watching that and not because its painful to watch. It is because I know there are millions of golfers, young and old watching the same thing and wanting to replicate one of the greatest players in the world. It is not just Jordan Speith that is the cause of the problem. Great players on the PGA Tour over the years have been chronically slow or "methodical" golfers, all the way from Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods. There are also others like Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlory who while appear methodical and slow actually play in half the time of the players labeled "slow" on tour. Like I said earlier, there is much to learn from these great players but pace of play may not be one of them.
Even the PGA Tour is fighting with the issue of slow play. Fortunately for them they have officials monitoring each group and they have the authority to fine and penalize players who do not abide by the pace of play rules. Your average golf club does not have this authority nor do I think they should but since there are really no consequences for playing slow we have to self govern and make sure we keep the pace of play going for your playing partners and the entire golf course. Many people do not play golf strictly because they do not have the time. Golf does not have to take 5 hours to play! Help improve participation and health of our game, pick up the pace!