Pace of Play Policies

Jeff DeBenedetti is the PGA head professional at Las Positas Golf Course in Livermore, Calif. This Best Practice originally appeared in the Pro to Pro Section of the April 2009 edition of PGA Magazine.

Every PGA Professional has endured slow play when hosting an outing or tournament. During a 2007 event we hosted at Las Positas, I became extremely frustrated when the last group finished in five hours and 55 minutes. My staff and I were at our wit’s end and penalizing the players seemed to have no effect. As anything less than a five-and-a-half-hour round seemed impossible, one of our club members mentioned a pace-of-play policy recently implemented by the Northern California Golf Association. The policy required plotting stations at the ninth and 18th holes where players were shown a green, yellow or red flag, indicating good pace, slow pace or a penalty, respectively. I modified the idea a bit, so we had three checkpoints located at the fifth, 10th and 15th greens – mapping out interval times for each checkpoint: one hour and 15 minutes at the fifth, two hours and 30 minutes at the 10th, and three hours and 41 minutes at the 15th. If players don’t make time, they are penalized. I explained the pace-of-play policy to the players on the first tee, and had them sign stating they understood the policy prior to teeing off. A year later at the same event, the new pace of play policy was successfully implemented with the final group finishing in four hours and 44 minutes, one hour and 11 minutes better than the previous year, making it one of the fastest and hiccup-free tournaments I’ve ever hosted.

Because I have the players managing themselves, I don’t need to have marshals out on the course. And as we all know, slow play can be one of the largest deterrents for participants and outing hosts. By running a smooth and timely event, we have a much better chance of keeping the client and retaining the participants for future outings.