There is no doubt that slow play can detract from the enjoyment of the game for many golfers. An 18-hole round taking five hours is starting to push the limit. A fourball taking a fair chunk of time upwards of this spoils the day for pretty much everyone as the whole field is held up. Six hours is criminal.
This is why Randpark has instituted at the club what the R&A have termed “time par” or “time allowed”, which is more or less what “par” should be, time-wise, for each hole on the two courses. So, depending on which hole, on Firethorn the par-4s should take, on average, 14 or 15 minutes to complete, the par-3s 12 or 13 minutes and the par-5s 18 minutes or 20 minutes. It all adds up to 2hr 13min for the first nine, and 2hr 12min for the back nine. Therefore, allowing 15 minutes for the halfway house, an ideal round should take 4hr 40min.
“For slightly shorter Bushwillow we’re also looking at 14 minutes for the par-4s and 12 minutes for the par-3s, and 17 minutes for each of the par-5s,” says the club’s Senior Golf Manager, Rikert Schalkwyk. “And with 15 minutes at halfway, the ideal round in Bushwillow’s instance would, therefore, be 4 hours 31 minutes.”
These details are already printed on the back of the new scorecards.
Of course, golf can never work out exactly like this in practice. But for the enjoyment of all “time par” is more or less what we should all aim to achieve.
Also, on the back of the scorecards are further hints to achieve an acceptable pace of play. One of these, importantly, is by playing “ready golf”, which both the R&A and USGA have found to have speeded up and revolutionised the pace of play worldwide. In the old days, it wasn’t etiquette to play out of turn, but now, as Randpark members are discovering, “ready golf” is the perfect way to speed up play. If it’s safe for you to play, and you’re not interfering with your playing partner or endangering anyone, even if it’s technically not your turn, go ahead and play. It’s for everyone’s benefit.
“Another very important factor,” says Rikert, “is to be fully aware of when your starting time is and to give yourself plenty of time to get yourself and your equipment ready to be able to tee off promptly on time. A delay of five minutes will cause a snowball effect and hold up the whole field behind you by five minutes.”
Rikert adds that for the most part, Randpark’s members are very much aware of the importance of pace of play, as are the starters and marshals. But juniors and newcomers to the game, for instance, may need help and encouragement to fall into line.
Professional golfers tend to play faster than us mere mortals – mainly because they don’t hack around in the bush looking for balls like we do! – and here’s an interesting fact: The great South African golfer of the 1940s and 1950s, four-time British Open champion Bobby Locke, was castigated throughout his career for what was seen as his slow play. He won the 1952 Open at Royal Lytham, but after the third round the Australian, Norman von Nida, complained to the Championship Committee about Locke’s “funeral-like pace”. Locke’s crime? Playing the third round in 3hr 30min! Let’s just say times have changed because today that would be considered fairly brisk.
At Randpark there’s no urgency to have to clock 3 hours 30 minutes for a round. “It’s not a race,” says Rikert. “We want all our golfers to enjoy the whole experience of a day out at the Club, the company, the halfway house (be it ‘grab and go’ because of Covid protocols), the courses, the service, the booking procedure, the pro shop, whatever …”
Stick to the ‘time allowed’ guidelines, and we’ll all enjoy our day and our golf that much better.
For further information on pace of play visit the R&A website and their “Pace of Play” manual.
Written by Randpark Member, Grant Winter