The Two Sides of Slow Play
Several sports organizations have decided to address the problem of slow play this year, including baseball and basketball. The shot clock seems to be the standard target for these tweakings, and in the case of golf, it is hoped that a good ten seconds can be taken off of each shot, which should accumulatively move a tournament along nicely.
Of course, you can’t tell advertisers the same thing. They’ll tell you that without their ads, the tournament wouldn’t take place, and they’re right. However, if they get too much longer, and crowd too many more ads into one break, no one’s going to come back to watch the next part, at least someday they won’t.
For the tour, a huge moneymaking institution, slow play is the death of ratings, and an attack on a viewer’s commitment to watching the whole thing. But, is it better to have a viewer record the entire coverage so that they can fast forward through the ads. The number of shots we see from around the course has dwindled to about four, and it is during these times that we realize that fast-forward is one of the greatest inventions of the century.
Still, all that aside, I’m for a few seconds taken off of each shot. My mother, smarter and more clever than I am, used to watch the group ahead, and wondered aloud whether they were writing academic papers on each of their shots.
On the other hand, even knowing that public courses are also money-making establishments, it is in their best interests for each group going out to enjoy the day, not to feel as though they just ran with the bulls in Pamplona.
I currently boycott two courses, one in Portland, Oregon, and the other in State College, Pennsylvania. We went out in a group of four, with two experienced players, and two less experienced. Further, we committed the sin of walking our round, where almost all others took carts. We concentrated on our pace, and urged each other along. We prepared to hit as another finished, hit out of order when necessary, shortened our time over putts, and let lost balls remain lost. We made ready to walk as soon as the last drive was hit and watched to the levels of normal courtesy. We marched down the fairway, or wherever we were to go, with a fast pace, and arrived at the ball with a club chosen and pulled out of the bag. We would have gladly let people play through, if anyone had caught us, and despite it being a busy day, no one did.
It was while we stood one hundrred and eighty yards from the green, waiting for the next group to putt out that a smug course official in a cart screamed over the hill and parked alongside us, to tell us that we were going too slow, and that he could prove it, having timed us. I could see it in his expression that he thought that those of us who were older couldn’t possibly hit it that far, but he was wrong by about fifty yards. I could almost hear him calculating how many groups he could get through in a round, and how much that would pay. We may have, in his opinion, made his projection fall one short, although I believe it was the group doing everything but using surveying equipment for their four putts, one hundred and eighty yards down the stretch.
I was incensed, furious, insulted, and determined not to play either of these courses again. Our new players, who had been picking up whenever it grew useless, were walking just as fast as the rest of us, and caught the nasty edge in his voice as well.
So, listen up, pro tour – do whatever you want to make things go a little more efficiently. No problem. Advertisers, I know you won’t listen, but consider one less ad per break, or perhaps give them a ten second off clock. Wouldn’t they love that?
But, for you who run munis, I’m going to walk, because that’s an important part of golf for me, part of the game that I love. I’m not going to join a cattle drive spurred on by golf cart police, and yes, I’m going to spend a few seconds reading the green on a putt. While I’m on your property, you’re allowed to get into my face, but I, in return, am allowed to never visit you again, and to speak poorly of you in public. Now back off!