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Player Behaviour
Player Behaviour


This Manual has highlighted that it is wrong to think that players are the cause of all issues relating to pace of play, but, nevertheless, the behaviour of the players on the course also needs to be examined. There is no doubt that one group, or even one player, can create issues for all of the other players on the course by demonstrating poor pace of play. The guidance in the following section is intended to assist players in improving their pace of play. That said, it will often require another person, for example another player or an administrator, to advise a player that he or she needs to improve their pace of play. This section should also assist such a person in identifying why the player concerned has an issue with pace of play, and it will allow for solutions to be offered to that player to remedy the situation.

Player Ability

Playing ability is a factor that can result in certain players taking more time to play than others. All other things being equal, it will take longer to play 95 shots than it will to play 75 shots. If four players in a group are playing 95 shots each compared to four players in another group playing 75 shots each, the difference is amplified. However, the beauty of golf is that it is a sport for players of all abilities, and the unique handicapping system means that players of all abilities can compete equitably against one another. Nevertheless, if a course is simply too difficult for players who are not of a certain ability (for example because the distance to carry the “trouble” is too far, the greens are very sloped, the bunkers are very deep, etc.), it becomes impossible for those players to play the course in a reasonable amount of time. In such cases, players should be encouraged to play a course that is more commensurate with their ability and which, realistically, they may enjoy more.
It could be the case that the course itself is not too difficult, but players are playing the course from tees that make it too difficult for them. As mentioned in Section 3.2 (Tees), alternative teeing options should be made available and highlighted to players, but the players themselves have to take responsibility for choosing the correct tees for their ability. It is not always necessary for every player in the group to play from the same set of tees. Handicap adjustments and course ratings can take account of players playing from different tees, while retaining the ability for players to compete against each other equitably for the same prizes and trophies. Related Downloads Longleaf Tee System Pace of Play The Course

Being Aware of Position on the Course

Players need to be aware of their group’s position on the course, and how they are impacting on the pace of play of other groups.
The basic advice in this regard is that if a group keeps up with the group in front, the players in that group will rarely be accused of slow play. Players should always be looking forward to ensure that they are maintaining a good position in relation to the group in front, for example, making sure that they do not have an empty par 4 hole in between them. If ground has been lost on the group in front, then all of the players in the group should take responsibility for making up that ground as quickly as possible. It is inevitable that there will be holes that take longer to play than would normally be the case, either due to bad play or some other delay, but the key is for the all the players in that group to ensure that the group gets back into position promptly. The self-assessed pace of play control system (see Appendix I) can assist in ensuring that players take responsibility for making up lost ground.

Allowing Faster Groups to Play Through

If a group cannot keep its position on the course for whatever reason, and is delaying the group behind, then it should invite the group behind to play through so that group can play at the pace it is capable of. Inviting a group behind to play through means that it will take longer for the group doing the calling through to complete the round. This is due to having to wait for the “playing through” group to get out of range before continuing play. However, while the round time may be slightly increased, it is likely that the “inviting“ group will enjoy its game more without being constantly pressurised by the group behind, and the group that has been allowed to play through will have had their enjoyment enhanced. Sometimes, if a number of groups on the course are playing slowly, playing through does not always achieve its objective, but it remains good etiquette.

Being Ready to Play

The main criticism levelled against slow players in The R&A’s pace of play survey was that such players were not ready to play when it was their turn. Being ready to play should be very easy. While taking care not to distract other players or compromise safety, all that is required is that a player should do the following while waiting for others to play:
  • Walk efficiently to the ball putting their glove on in the process
  • Assess the shot, including any calculation of distance the player wants to make, or line up the putt, and
  • Make a decision on club selection
It is even more important that the first person in a group to play carries out these tasks promptly.
Considerable time will be saved during the course of a round if players do these things efficiently and non-intrusively while others are playing. The frustration comes when a player stands by their ball watching others in the group playing, and only when it is their turn do they begin to prepare for the shot. Combined with an efficient pre-shot routine, the seconds that can be taken off each stroke by being ready to play, multiplied by the number of strokes played each round, multiplied by the number of players in a group, can have a massively positive impact on the time it takes to play a round of golf. For example:
  • Each player in a four-ball takes an average of 5 seconds less to play each shot
  • Each player plays 80 shots
  • 80 shots x 5 seconds x 4 players = 26 minutes and 40 seconds
That means that, ignoring all other variables, the four-ball would play in 26 minutes and 40 seconds less time simply by shaving off an average of 5 seconds per shot. Related Downloads Pace of Play Player Behaviour 

Imitating Elite Golf

While in no way looking to excuse any elite golfers who may take an excessive time to play, it is recognised that tour professionals make their living from the sport and, understandably, may wish to take slightly longer to assess their shots than regular golfers. In addition, the skill level of the elite golfer is such that certain detailed information will have a bearing on shot selection and execution, and it may require more time to assess this information. This is not the case for the vast majority of amateur golfers and, therefore, it is often unnecessary for them to prepare for their shots in the same way as the elite golfer does. The consequence of doing so is simply to increase the time taken to play each shot with no tangible benefit in performance. Therefore, the futile mimicking of elite golfers should be avoided. Common examples of this are:
  • determining precise distances for shots when approximate distances would suffice,
  • studying the line of putt from multiple angles, and
  • marking, lifting and replacing a ball that is close to the hole before holing out.

Various Actions Players Can Take to Improve Pace of Play

4.7a Position of Bags or Carts When players are approaching the green, golf bags or carts should be positioned to allow for quick and efficient movement off the green towards the next tee. 4.7b Marking Score Cards While it is strongly recommended that players remain at the green to watch the other players in their group hole out, the marking of score cards should not be done at the green if this may delay play of the group behind. Mark score cards on the way to or at the next tee. That said, the player who is first to play from the next tee should play first and then mark the card.
4.7c Playing a Provisional Ball Ball searches and lost balls are a feature of golf, but they do cause delay. However, the delay can be significantly minimised if the player whose ball might be in danger of being lost has played a provisional ball. A player should play a provisional ball if they think that their ball may be out of bounds or if there is any possibility that it may be lost, other than when it is clearly in a penalty area. The result of playing a provisional ball is that the player will not have to return to the spot of the previous stroke to put another ball into play. Another practical result is that often, having played a provisional ball, the player is less concerned with taking the full three minutes to search for the original ball in the knowledge that the hole can be completed with the provisional ball. 4.7d Watching the Flight of the Ball Carefully The problem of lost balls can be significantly reduced if all players in a group make a conscious effort to watch each other’s shots and their own shots as carefully and as often as possible.  This will result in less searching time and fewer lost balls.
4.7e 'Ready Golf' As referenced in Section 2.5 (“Ready Golf”), playing “ready golf” is permissible in stroke play and can improve pace of play. Even if the management at a course has not made a request for players to play “ready golf”, players in stroke play can agree to do so. 4.7f Choosing an Appropriate Form of Play The vast majority of golf is not overseen by a committee or other administrator, which means it is the golfers themselves who decide how many players will be in their groups and what the form of play will be. The choices that are made will impact on how long it takes to play. If golfers wish to play a form of stroke play, then it is best if they don’t play in four-balls when the time taken to play is a concern. Similarly, pace of play is likely to be better if they use a modified form of stroke play such as Stableford or bogey/par. As stated above, if players wish to play quickly, they should consider playing in smaller groups and/or playing match play, which tends to be a faster form of play. 4.7g Choosing an appropriate time to play If golfers want to play quickly, they should attempt to get one of the first starting times of the day and set the pace or choose a quieter time of the day when the course may be under-utilised. Related Downloads Pace of Play Player Behaviour  RSM Player Performance Study 

Physical Limitations

While all of the guidance in Section 4 (Player Behaviour) relating to being ready to play, positioning of bags and carts, etc. applies to all golfers regardless of physical limitations, it is important to recognise that golfers may be restricted in how quickly they can play due to their maximum walking speed. This may be particularly relevant to elderly golfers or golfers with disabilities or injuries. There is a fine balance between encouraging play at a good pace and excluding those who simply cannot play at the prescribed pace. Common sense expectations need to be adopted.

Have you been told you are a “Slow Player”?

Golfers don’t often accuse other golfers of being slow players without good reason. Telling another player that they are a slow player will often only occur after a considerable period of frustration having observed that player causing pace of play difficulties and consistently failing to act in accordance with the guidance outlined in Section 4 (Player Behaviour). Consequently, if you, on more than one occasion, have been told that you are a slow player it probably means that you are. This does not make you a bad person, and it does not give someone the right to be impolite towards you. However, it does suggest that you should take immediate positive steps to do something about it so that the same accusation is not made again. You can do this by asking for advice from the players you play with on what it is that they believe causes you to be slow. It should then be relatively easy for you to make some minor adjustments to the way you play golf which will make you a quicker player, which will mean you are not negatively impacting on the enjoyment of other players on the course, and which will make you a more enjoyable person to play with. Importantly, you are more likely to enjoy your golf without feeling the pressure of being scrutinised by your fellow players. There is a natural reluctance to tell another golfer that he or she is slow for fear of confrontation or appearing rude. Clubs should foster a culture where feedback is seen to be positive, and golfers welcome that feedback in order to ensure that they can improve their behaviour, routines and pace of play. Establishing a reasonable time par is necessary to enable appropriate feedback to be given, without a time par it is impossible to gauge whether a player or group is fast or slow. Each player should be encouraged to time (and possibly even film) their own pre-shot routine for various shots, e.g. tee, fairway, bunkers, chipping and putting, from the moment they reach their ball to the time of impact, to ascertain how long they take and where seconds can be saved.  Having a Pace of Play Chairperson (see Section 2.7g) can be very useful. It enables players to make any complaints about slow players to the Chairperson who can then assess whether the complaints are justified. If the complaints are justified, the Chairperson can then assist the player in improving their pace.