US to tackle slow play14th February, 2013 by Alistair Dunsmuir
The authority that runs golf in the USA is to dramatically address the pace of play issue that it says is hurting the health of golf venues.
A survey last year found that 90 per cent of British golfers want to complete a round in less than four hours, but 41 per cent of rounds take longer than that. More than a fifth of golfers said that the length of time it takes to play a round was so serious that it could deter them from playing the game, and only 15 per cent of golfers feel that golf clubs are doing anything about it.
The United States Golf Association (USGA), the American equivalent of The R&A, is so concerned about the issue that is to introduce a raft of measures to ‘identify challenges and solutions regarding pace of play’.
It will develop a pace-of-play model based on quantifiable data, improve its ‘pace rating’ system and offer on-site assistance at golf courses to help assess and improve pace of play. It will also analyse green-to-tee walks and course layouts including green speeds and hole locations, and it will examine how tee times are distributed, create player education programmes and promote nine-hole golf.
“The cry that pace of play has become one of the most significant threats to the game’s health has become only louder over the last year,” said USGA president Glen Nager. “Industry research clearly shows that slow play and the amount of time it takes to play a round of golf detract from the overall experience and threaten to drive players away from the game.”
USGA executive director Mike Davis added: “Slow play is incompatible with our modern society, in which our personal time for recreation is compressed. This is an issue that demands our complete attention.”
The news comes as an American tee-time provider, GolfNow.com, has revealed that it generated £2.3 million for golf courses via its ‘Let’s Play 9’ initiative in 2012, in which many 18-hole venues sold nine-hole tee times.
The company said it sold 225,000 rounds, for slots early in the morning, late in the afternoon and during evenings or weekends, for time-conscious golfers.
Spokesman Jeff Foster said: “Some people don’t have time for a traditional 18-hole round. Nine-hole rounds appeal to a large segment of golfers and can represent a significant revenue opportunity for operators.”
Earlier this year the chief executive of The R&A urged British golf clubs to offer something shorter than 18 holes of golf in order to attract new players.
“A full round of 18 holes is, and will no doubt continue to be, the norm, but our hectic business and family lives often mean less time for recreation,” said Peter Dawson.
“This is where golf facilities offering a less time consuming and costly alternative can be an effective way of introducing new players to our sport and of retaining their interest and participation in the future.”