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Think about where a round of golf always bogs down. It’s on the greens, with the exotic


choreography of marking balls, walking around each other’s lines and staring down putts— ancient rituals that, by the way, scare away plenty of new golfers.


the average 18-hole score for men in this country is 97. Let’s face it, it takes a lot longer to shoot a 97 than a 77. I know you’d like to shoot 77, but you never will. Because, remember, you’re not very good. But that’s OK. It’s not your fault. Just like it’s not your fault that you don’t play faster. No, the bad guys here are the course architects who have built courses that are way too hard for the average golfer. It’s the developers who have turned every new course into a real estate venture, forcing the tees to be a long way from the preced- ing green, so they can cram in more lots to sell. It’s the agronomists who have de- veloped new strains of grass that support extreme course setups. It’s the greenskeepers who make the rough way too long and the greens way too fast. These macro forces have all conspired against you. They are the real cause of slow golf, not you. Guess what slows down


a round a lot more than that cute little waggle of yours? Three-putts. Look- ing for lost balls. Having to keep carts on the path.


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Having to take carts in the first place because so many new courses aren’t friendly to walking. None of these things are your fault. Some time in the last half-century, Pete Dye and Jack Nick- laus and their devil spawn decided that golf courses should be booby-trapped torture chambers, with more sand than the Sahara and more water than the Great Lakes. The game is hard enough on a flat course with pop-up greens. Now every hole forces us to tiptoe through landmines. Fishing balls out of hazards is time-consuming. So is taking three tries to escape a 15-foot deep bunker. But this is only the beginning of the problem.


Think about where a


round of golf always bogs down. It’s on the greens, with the exotic choreog- raphy of marking balls, walking around each other’s lines and staring down putts—ancient rituals that, by the way, scare away plenty of new golfers. It’s on the greens where fun four-hour rounds turn into tedious five-hour rounds, and yet putting surfaces have become ever more extreme in design and speeds. When a putt is a triple-breaker across a trough and down the back a buried elephant, I’m sorry but I’m gonna need some time to study it. When on


every other hole I have to grind over a third putt, that takes time, too. A lot of it. Even flattish


Multiple shots are often needed for the average player to get out of unnecessarily deep bunkers.


harming good players, who will be able to putt more aggressively. Not long ago, I played


the much-ballyhooed new courses at Streamsong, in Florida. On the Blue Course, the greens were very fast despite some of the wildest designs I’ve ever seen. Often my primary goal was simply to not putt off the green. The designer, Tom Doak, recently explained his thinking behind the topsy- turvy surfaces. “The best courses in the world have


greens become pace-of-play quicksand when they’re Stimping at 12.5, and good putts trickle four or five feet by the hole. What are we trying to accomplish here? This ain’t the freak- ing Masters. Slowing down green speeds will help bad players immensely while not


severe greens,” he told Golf Digest. “That’s what makes them cool.” OK, fine, but blame Doak for a round that took 5:15, not me. Another absurdity is all


the juicy rough crowding America’s playing fields. Yo, your rinky-dink course ain’t hosting the U.S. Freaking Open—cut the grass al- ready! Kids and seniors don’t have the strength to play out of it, and neither do a lot of women. That’s not their fault. Even for strapping lads the rough leads to a lot of bad shots, which leads to a lot of long rounds. It’s not your fault you miss so many fairways. Remember, you’re not very good. Greenskeep- ers know this but some sort of macho code compels them to toughen up their courses, which are already too tough to begin with. I’m not advocating that


you dawdle. By all means, show a little hustle out there. Feel free to politely and helpfully point out to others the little ways they can speed up. I do agree that many of you are playing the wrong tees and would encourage you to move up a box—I’ve done it a few times lately and it’s great fun, which, I think, is the point of all this. But no longer will we let those self-important bureaucrats at the USGA and PGA and GCSAA and ASGCA make us feel bad about our pace of play. Remember, it’s their fault, not ours. It’s time for them to fundamentally rethink how golf courses are built and maintained. Hopefully they’ll do it while we’re young.


ALAN SHIPNUCK is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and writes two weekly columns for golf.com.


WINTER 2014 / NCGA.ORG / 33


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