Golf column: Speed of play isn’t new for golfers

“While we’re young.” If you are a golf fan you have seen the new advertisement from the United States Golf Association regarding speed of play.

It is commonly believed that speed of play is one of the biggest problems in the golf industry today,

I disagree.

Larry Norland, director of golf at Greenhaven Golf Course
Larry Norland, director of golf at Greenhaven Golf Course

I have been playing golf for 44 years and yes I too remember playing 63 holes walking in a day on the nine-hole course where I grew up. But I also remember times when if we were playing 18 holes we would wait for 45 minutes to an hour before we could tee off on our second nine.

The course I grew up on didn’t have tee times, except only on the busiest days or tournaments and we still waited and had days that a round was in the five-hour range. Slow play has been around as long as golf has been popular.

We even had games to play when there was a wait on the tees, my favorite was a great game called blocks. There are articles from the 1930s that talked about slow play being a problem in golf, so it is nothing new to the game and golf has been searching for solutions for as long as most of us have been alive.

The newest push for speed of play stems from many courses having five-hour rounds instead of four, as if that is a new thing.

The two factors they say that contribute to these longer rounds are speed of greens and heavier, longer rough.

The faster the putting greens the longer it takes for players to finish the hole. Forty years ago it was only the most exclusive and expensive courses that had green speeds that now even your local municipal course will have them. The improvement of the agronomy and the demand from golfers for faster greens has added to the time it takes to play. Association studies have shown that the faster greens will add approximately 10 minutes to each round.

As the desire for tougher conditions has permeated the industry, the fairways have gotten narrower and due to better irrigation, the grass along the fairways has gotten thicker. This has combined for a double whammy, the narrower fairways and thicker grass makes it harder to find your ball and much harder to play out of. Also with more and better irrigation the grass grows more quickly and more consistently, making it harder for the mowers to keep up and keep it short.

One of the things that I think has added to an average time of a round is that when I grew up most of the courses had a 30-foot walk from the green to the next tee. Now with so many courses in housing developments, you see distances where it will take minutes to drive the golf cart to the next tee. It doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but two minutes per hole over 18 holes can quickly increase the overall play time.

So to end the argument, yeah right, the solutions to quick rounds are as follows – slow greens, no rough or hazards, and smaller, shorter courses. I for one don’t mind the 4.5-hour round, especially if I get to play with my friends. We always talk about how fast and hectic our lives have become so I am glad to love a game that forces me to slow down, enjoy my friends and family and maybe even smell the roses once in a while.

Larry Norling is the director of golf at Greenhaven Golf Course.