Do you have the time?

“Two rounds a day are enough, and these two rounds on three days of the week are as much golf as is good for any player who does not want to become careless and stale” – Harry Vardon 100 years ago

Some of us might welcome the chance to become careless and stale. Six rounds a week? Even six rounds a year has become an ambition many of us struggle to achieve.

Work it out

All down to this basic equation :

Travel there + play golf + travel back =  Have you got long enough ?

If yes, you play golf. If no, you can’t play golf.

The real variable here is, obviously, how long does the golf itself take?

Is it a full round? Or 9 holes?  Or the par 3 course? Or the practice range? Or a session on the putting green?

An hour on the putting green or practice range ? – Easy to fit in.

Hour-and-a-half on the par 3 course?  - No problem.

But how long will 9 holes take? 2½ hours, too often. How long should they take? Even 2 hours  is going to mean a morning or afternoon gone. Does that fit the weekday schedule? Or the weekend one? Maybe an evening would be best?

Getting worse?

Most of us, when it comes down to it, want to play as near to a full round as we can. But around the world, the horror stories get worse. Never mind what happens in TOP golf, how long is it taking REAL golfers to get round?

Consider this:  In 1974, Golf Digest ( Larry Dennis )  reported that in the USA “ The 3-hour round of 25 years ago is gone. Now, 4½  hours is considered speedy,  5 or longer probably is the average and we are headed toward 6.”

Family first

Forty years later, if we’ve finally reached 6 hours, then a round of golf is indeed an all-day affair. In the modern world this increasingly does not fit the “ Hi, honey, I’m home” greeting on any day of the week, not even a weekend. Not for the next generation, anyway, where “honey” often turns out to be the husband.

Does 5 hours work any better? Probably not.  4 hours? Well, that’s still all morning and takes us through lunch – or all afternoon and aim for a late dinner.

This works

OK, what about that fabled 3 hour round from 1949? Better, a lot better, might be back for lunch, afternoon shopping – or in time to put the kids to bed.

The tipping point in this equation seems to be somewhere between 3 and 4 hours.  Not, of course, for those with more time to spare.  But for millions around the world who might like to play a round rather more often, we could find that 3½ hours gets you over the line.  Whereas 4 hours is dodgy, especially if it happens too often.

Try it yourself

So : can we get the 3½ hour round?  Here’s an experiment :

  1. Play a course of sensible length whose routing design allows it a free flow of players, from tees which suit the challenge you want. With the ball which fits that challenge.
  2. Play a course whose set-up is not wrecked by poorly-managed roughs,  unplayable bunkers,  silly green speeds or daft hole locations.
  3. Play a format that does not need every stroke to be holed out.
  4. Play a course where Pace of play is taken seriously enough.

Hard thinking ahead

As you can see above, we’ve put Pace of play last on the list. Valiant efforts have been made to combat slow play over the last 50 years or so – and they’ve not had much effect. Educating players to be ready, to play provisional balls etc. etc. has been the perennial cry.  Well, we think it needs a more inclusive approach – as Jack Nicklaus puts it, we need to “think outside the box”.

If golf gets serious about offering the 3 ½  hour round, and taking all the revenue which would come with that, then the game’s authorities – and many clubs – have some hard thinking to do. We feel sure that solutions exist – but let’s agree on the causes of the problems before we really get stuck into promoting the solutions.

One thing for sure : if you find one of these 3 ½ hour round facilities, keep quiet about it. You’re probably onto a winner – this game might just catch on!

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What they say
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