Golf is, without a doubt, one of the more popular sports in the United States. However, recent surveys and studies indicate that fewer people are picking up the game and a lot of regular golfers are leaving the sport. Those giving up golf or playing fewer rounds site the increasing amount of time required to play a single round as one of the main reasons behind their choice. It goes without saying that the slow pace of play is a major culprit. As observed in both amateur and professional games, some golfers take far too much time setting up their shots and preparing to hit. This creates bottle necks throughout the course leading to increased frustration and poor play by golfers waiting around endlessly to play their next shot. Needless to say, the viewers and even the players’ start feeling bored after a while. It is apparent that the long term popularity of the game hinges in large part on solving the problem of slow play.
It is heartening to see that the PGA has taken note of this issue and has recently launched a campaign to deal with it. According to the PGA, the pace of the game has to be increased to make it more exciting and attract more people to it. If people start feeling bored, even in the middle of a thrilling contest, they might stop watching or playing golf in the future. The ‘pace of play’ campaign has been titled ‘While We’re Young’, a line taken from the quintessential golf movie Caddyshack.
The interesting aspect of this whole campaign and initiative to eradicate slow play is that this issue has been around for decades. Ever since golf has been played professionally, slow play has been a part of it. Surprisingly, only recently has it become a topic of discussion as more and more people are taking note. The rise of social media has also shed more light onto this growing problem as spectators and golfers alike are sharing their frustrations on Facebook and Twitter.
Earlier this year, two players were penalized strokes for slow play during the Majors. If this is a sign of things to come, it would mean that the professionals would have to play quicker and complete their rounds in less time than before. For golfers who have been around for several years, this could mean changing their technique altogether. The recent heckling of Kevin Na for his slow play at the Bay Hill Invitational has renewed focus on the issue of slow play and divided the golf community.
Though there has been no adverse reaction from the pros, Jack Nicklaus has commented that he believes the golf balls being used today are the main reason why it is taking so long for games to be completed. His point of view is that the modern balls don’t travel the desired distance. This has increased the time taken for a golfer to complete his/her round. While his argument may hold some substance, it remains to be seen whether the PGA takes it into consideration.
As of now, penalizing players for slow play seems to be the preferred form of discouraging slow play but more innovative ideas are needed to eradicate this problem. It remains to be seen if any of this will speed up play but it is clear that it is critical to address this growing problem. So, it is time amateurs and professionals take note and look for ways to improve the pace of the game by speeding up their own routines. The future of the game may well rest on it.