Enter Player A – She’s an affluent, educated woman with disposable income looking to have fun with her husband and girlfriends on the weekend. This woman is the absolute target market for the LPGA, PGA of America, and USGA regarding growing the game.
She’s a very typical beginner. She tops the ball, whiffs, and has the occasionally superb shot that keeps her coming back for more; but, for the most part she knocks the ball around the best that she can and she’s getting better every day.
She’s being constantly pushed by players behind her and scolded by marshals; but, she isn’t slow – she picks up after so many shots, calls putts that are close enough, and doesn’t dilly-dally at the cart making a club selection.
She strives to play at the least-busy time (middle of the afternoon during week days or late in the evening) and only plays 9 holes.
She’s doing the best she can as a beginner but she’s just not fast enough to keep up with the pack and it’s driving her away from the game all together.
And this is our point.
When it comes to the issue of growing the game versus speeding up play, the governing bodies of golf want their cake and eat it too.
Recently, campaigns from the LPGA, PGA, and USGA have been focused on growing the game, specifically regarding female participation. And at the same time, they are obsessed with pace-of-play.
They’re pushing for rounds of 18 to be 3 ½ hours. Courses are also guilty; setting tee-times to 5-6 minute intervals and backing up the courses to squeeze in another foursome and another few bucks.
The more pressured players are to speed up, the more stressed they are, the worse they play, and the less they enjoy the game. There’s nothing worse than trying to chip it close when the foursome in the fairway behind you is scouring with their hands on their hips; even though there’s another group on the next tee.
Is this a leisure activity, or isn’t it? Are we trying to welcome more people (specifically women) to the game, or not?
Here’s what Alex Milan, professional golfer, has to say:
“As a tour pro, I value playing a round of golf a fast pace and getting to the rest of my practice session. I was fortunate enough to learn to play as a kid and have no experience as a beginner in the current fast-paced environment.
I am as guilty as the next person in wanting to get through my round, but I generally play as a single, at a private course, with the first tee time of the day. Often, I will even tee off the back for a quick 9 early before practice. I have even been known to brag about my 45 minute 9-hole record; but, when I go out to play in a threesome or a foursome, it is normally for social and networking purposes and I expect a leisurely pace and normal play after 11am. After all, I’m out there to have fun.
I recognize that myself, and those making the policies, have removed themselves from the person just learning golf.
I think it is easy for those familiar with the game to not have patience for those learning, but if we want our sport to remain sustainable and grow, we must remind ourselves and encourage others to be more welcoming.”
Here are Alex Milan’s tips for the experienced golfer on how to welcome a friend to the game:
• Invite them out to play on a weekday in the afternoon when it is not as busy.
• Expect your round to take 4.5 to 5 hours when not playing as a single.
• Have patience and remember that you were a beginner once too.
• Remember that golf is a sport meant for time to socialize between shots.
• Relax and have fun!
And here are some tips for beginners to keep things moving:
• Play in a smaller group.
• Allow faster golfers to play through.
• Play ready-golf and be prepared to hit your next shot.
• Relax the rules until you’re ready to keep score.
• Pick up after a triple-bogey.
The recent trends in golf has been to emphasize speed, but it’s time question whether that goal is valid and to realize that it is ostracizing women with a desire to network on the course. We need to be more welcoming to people who are picking up the game and show them how enjoyable golf can be.
Because if it’s not fun, why do it?