Pace of Play and Golf Course Care

filed in On The Course

September 30, 2019


Mike Mitchell – PGA Head Golf Professional

 Virtually every golf course club professional in the world has, at one time, discussed the pace of play issue at his or her facility. We are no different here at The ACE Club. The USGA has a system for golf courses that is known for establishing a “total round pace rating” for any course. Simply put this is a time figure that it should take four players of average ability to complete a round of golf at any golf course. When establishing this figure three of the main criteria are:

  • Playing length of the golf course
  • Obstacles
  • Green to tee distances

In my career I served at two courses that had very different pace ratings. One, in upstate New York, that was pace rated at 3 hours 52 minutes. Another, in Rhode Island, that was pace rated at 4 hours and 42 minutes. New York course had short/moderate length, not a lot of bunkers, reasonable rough and very short distances from greens to tees. Rhode Island course the exact opposite; high rough and fescue areas, longer overall length, deep difficult bunkers and long distances between greens and tees. When enforcing pace of play policies at those facilities and here at The ACE Club the professional staff and the members must first be in agreement on the pace rating expectation. This number is subject to debate always however at The ACE Club I would suspect “the number” is about 4:05. Many groups will play here in well under 3:40, just as many will play in over 4:30. As members and guests play our course this one hour difference is what causes consternation among our faster players. This issue is exactly the same issue the PGA tour is discussing and trying to figure out how to combat the slow players.

When it comes down to it in order to play at a better pace it is up to the individual. Here are common sense suggestions:

..Get your yardages and club selections done as if your life depended on it, being ready to hit, always. This includes not letting your cell phone interfere with your pace of play. More and more I see players on their cell phones when they should be getting ready to play a shot.

..Read greens early, and putt out.  More time is taken on the green than anywhere.

..Use the cart with common sense. Drop off your cart mate if he is away with 2/3 clubs, then drive to    your ball and be ready to hit as soon as your cart mates ball is gone. You can always spot the slow players, they are the ones driving together, two at a time, to every shot.

..Tee up yours before the previous player’s ball has landed.

.. Don’t always wait for the player furthest away to play. If you are at your ball and ready to play communicate to the player away that you are going to hit it. It saves a lot of time if you and others in your group do this throughout a round.

..Don’t take prolonged stops at the comfort station on 13 and the halfway house. Those stops count as part of your total time for the round.

..Be aware. If you are a foursome and nobody is ahead of you and you have a fast twosome behind you, let them through. You would appreciate the same courtesy if you were in the twosome.

…Do all the other little things during the round which will help you finish your round in at a reasonable pace of play.

Finally, wouldn’t it be great if, for one of their tour events, the PGA Tour installed 36 large shot clocks (18 on every tee and 18 on every green) and allow the players 45 seconds to hit a tee shot and 60 seconds to hit a putt. Put a rules official on every tee and every green who is the time keeper. Any player who gets 2 bad times within a round gets hit with a one shot penalty. I’m thinking that would speed things up and send a statement to the public that the PGA Tour is proactive on improving the pace of play on the tour.



When teaching junior golfers the game I emphasize one simple phrase “Leave the course better than you find it.” Wouldn’t it be great if everybody did this? This means doing all the things that real golfers do to show respect for the game and the course. Things like:

Picking up trash and debris, even though it’s not yours.

Fixing ball marks, even though you didn’t make them.

Replacing your divots, when they are replaceable.

Raking bunkers, yours and others when necessary.

Picking up tees, yours and others.

Hitting balls on the range making a single line of divots, not like a minefield.

Adhering to published golf cart usage rules such as keeping carts on paths on all par 3’s,  cross at 90, rough only, carts on path (all four wheels) while on tees and while putting, avoiding wet areas of the course and always keeping carts out of fescue areas.

People that respect the game do two simple things every time they play. First, they play at a reasonable pace and are aware of those in front and behind them. Second, they take care of the course they are playing on.