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In Depth: Are you the problem?

THE always-candid Geoff Ogilvy once remarked that, “a surprising number of slow players don't think they are slow”.

THE always-candid Geoff Ogilvy once remarked that, “a surprising number of slow players don't think they are slow”, and it’s no different in the amateur world of golf that us mere mortals all inhabit either.

Why is it you always seem to be in the group behind the slow golfers and never in front of them? Why do you feel like you’re being rushed when the group behind is waiting? You couldn’t possibly be a slow golfer could you? Could you?

There isn’t a golfer on the planet that hasn’t complained about slow play at some time or another. “It’s a scourge on the game and slow players should be banned” we all fervently decry in the hope that some God of Good Golf will act and rectify the situation before next weekend.

But if slow play really is ubiquitous and everyone is complaining about it, perhaps there are some golfers who just don’t know they are a slow player? Maybe, just maybe that could be you. That’s right, you.

There are many reasons for slow play and some of the possibilities we just can’t do much about – short intervals between tee times, poor course design or a lack of course marshals are issues that need to be addressed by the golf club. But perhaps we should all take a long hard look at ourselves in the locker room mirror (not all at once) and see if each of us can be playing quicker golf. Irrespective of whether you think you are a slow golfer or not.

After all, arguably the greatest golfer of all-time was often accused of slow play, but he didn’t seem to know it either.

Jack Nicklaus was heavily criticised for the amount of time he spent over the golf ball before he played a shot. Some claim that the combination of Nicklaus’s success and golf making its way onto TV sets, led a whole new generation of golfers to spend way too long to play their golf shot.

In January, one of golf’s leading analysts from the United States tweeted that players at the Sony Open were completing their rounds as threesomes in an “acceptable four hours and 40 minutes”. Compared to the usual professional golf celerity where rounds of golf tend towards five hours for threesomes (and sometimes in pairs), he was right, that was acceptable.

But it’s not. Not even when you consider the ridiculous amount of money on offer for the world’s best players, five-hour rounds of golf are not acceptable. And not when you consider their actions are being emulated by the next generation of golfers all over the planet. Nothing longer than four and a half hours for a round of golf should ever be acceptable.

The professional game permeates the amateur one with technology, rules, fashion and style and it’s not unreasonable to suggest slow play on tour is some of the reason for slow play in the Saturday competition.

Given the criticism Nicklaus faced throughout his career for slow play, it is somewhat ironic suggests the golf ball is largely to blame for slow play. His reasoning is that if the golf ball didn’t go as far, we would end up playing shorter – and ultimately golf courses that don’t take as long to play.

While this is most likely to be true, it will only be part of the reason for slow play – and there really isn’t much we can do about it until golf’s governing bodies agree that it’s a problem.

So in the meantime, here is what we need to do.

Even if you aren’t a slow golfer – I’m sure you’re not – have a think about where you can make up some time. Could you take one less practice swing? Could you be ready to play your shot a little quicker? Could you keep that hilarious joke about the golfer on a desert island until you get to the clubhouse?

Like a swing change, a new grip or wearing skinnier pants, it’ll take some time to get used to. Make it one of your ambitions, along with lowering your handicap, buying a new driver or eating fewer pies.

When a slow golfer walks by, it’s suddenly the elephant in the locker room. That’s the golfer you’d rather not be paired with, he has no idea how slow he plays and heaven forbid if you’re stuck in the group behind him.

Make sure that golfer isn’t you.

About the author:

Michael Green

Michael Green founded AussieGolfer.com.au - Australia's #1 golf blog - in 2007, is a member of The Australian Golf Writers Association and has covered some of Australia's biggest golf tournaments, including the Australian Open, the Presidents Cup and World Cup of Golf.

Michael began playing golf as a 10-year-old in Adelaide where his father introduced him to the game.

He has managed to maintain a single-figure handicap while studying, living and working abroad and keeping a close eye on his three children.

Michael has a PhD in Physics and when not writing about golf, he continues to work in medical research in Sydney.

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