The fastest players at my club in Connecticut fight for the earliest rounds. I never like to be the first off the tee at 7 a.m. unless I am playing by myself. Then I can stay comfortably ahead of the rabbits behind me, without the pressure of rushing. But if I am in a foursome and one or more of us is playing deliberately or taking a while to look for wayward balls, the pressure builds, I rush my shots, and I invariably play poorly.
This is on my mind today for a few reasons. First my own golf club has sent members a letter asking us to pick up the pace of play this season. Then on Monday, I read a letter to the editor of the Hartford (CT) Courant tying the reduction in rounds played in the U.S. to slow pace of play. I couldn't resist responding, and today the Courant printed my letter, which I include below:
Obsessed by Fast Pace
We Americans are obsessed with doing things fast, even if it means spoiling a good walk. Golf is a game that should be savored every step of the way, whether a round takes four hours to play or five and a half.
Yesterday I received a letter from my country club about new regulations to speed up play. Then Tracey Baldwin's letter (May 15, "Slow Pace is Killing Golf") took me back to a conversation 10 years ago in Japan.
I was on the train from Tokyo to Osaka and noticed my Japanese "chaperone" reading a golf magazine. I asked him if he played. "Oh, yes, every Saturday morning," he replied. Mindful that golf memberships in Japan at the time were $1 million and higher, and public courses were scarce, I asked where he played. He mentioned a course two hours away by train.
I empathized that the travel made for a long day after a long week of work. "Yes," he said without irritation, "and golf takes about six and a half hours to play." Noting my look of surprise, he added: "But we do stop for a 20-minute lunch after nine holes."