Earlier this week I wrote about slow play. Readers responded with a variety of ideas about how to speed up the game. At the same time I looked through my file on slow play, and was reminded that the problem has been around for a long time. Too long. Here's some of what I found in the file.
The Victoria Golf Club, otherwise known as Oak Bay, posted a welcome notice some 25 years ago informing golfers they should complete 18 holes three hours and 45 minutes after starting. Golfers were expected to be on the eighth tee 90 minutes after starting, and on the 13th tee two hours and 30 minutes after starting.
Oak Bay is one of the prettiest courses in Canada. I haven't played it in years and can only hope that golfers are getting around in the times suggested in the notice posted when I last visited those 25 years ago. I recall the club as being one in which golfers did move along, so perhaps that's still the case. I hope so.
Then there's a letter I have from September 1989 that the then-captain of the Islington Golf Club in Toronto wrote me. Ah, for those good old days of letters posted in the mail rather than e-mails. Anyway, I'd written a piece about slow play. The good captain informed me that his club was "about to wrap up a season of golf where the primary emphasis" of his committee was "to promote bringing the Pace of Play under control."
He thought the club had done just that, as the average weekend round in 1988 took four and a half to five hours, but was down to an average of three hours and 52 minutes through the end of August 1989. That was a tremendous improvement.
"It didn't just happen," the captain wrote. "We developed an awareness program and catered to the pride of the male membership by challenging them to making the Pace of Play at Islington more than just a rule in the RCGA handbook…and it has worked."
Notice his capitalization in "Pace of Play." Hey, it's an important subject. It was then, and it is now. And notice that he wrote of catering to the pride of the fellows at Islington who play on weekend mornings. That reminded me of an article I wrote in which I mentioned that the women who played at the Mississaugua Golf and Country Club were faster than the men, at least in my experience then. I'd played the course and become aware of this.
My article caused the club's esteemed head professional Gar Hamilton no end of grief. The guys at the club were not happy that I had been at the club, made my observation, and wrote about what I'd seen. Gar had even told me that the women were faster. Poor guy. But really, the club got over it. Gar, one of the classiest head professionals at any club, anywhere, remained in his position until he recently retired.
Speaking of Gar, I interviewed him on Dec. 5, 1989 about slow play. He told me that, in his opinion, "Golf carts and medal play have contributed to slow play." Amen to that. He also pointed to a problem any head professional, excuse me, "executive director" of golf these days, would know.
"If you're catering to an upper end group, how much can you push them? I can't really push them here. Can I tell the president he's a bum?"
Gar wasn't referring specifically to the club's president then. He was making a general comment. I promise.
Further notices from my slow play file:
PGA Tour notice to players on pace of play, posted in locker room during Canadian Open at Glen Abbey, 6/17/91: "We appeal to all players to cooperate with us to protect our game and respect the rights of others." A group was deemed out of position "when starting play of any hole which is clear of all players and the elapsed time for the round averages more than 14 minutes per hole."
Press release, Aug. 8/91, American Society of Golf Course Architects: "Architects designing golf courses to speed play." Oh, really?
"Tour threatens slow pokes," an article from Dec. 12, 1992 in Golfweek.
And so on. And on. And on. Slow play is, well, slow to change. In fact, it hasn't. The game has gotten slower, not faster. I wonder what the slow play file will reveal in another 20 years.
RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein