VSWGA Office - PO Box 4224, Burlington, VT 05406-4224 - info@vswga.org

Posted: 5/29/09

Frequently Asked Questions About the

New Slow Play Policy

The 2009 State Day season is now in full swing, and some of you have become aware of the new Slow Play Policy that has been adopted for 2009.  Some of you may not even know that there is a new policy in effect. 

There are some misconceptions about what this is all about and some questions as to how the guidelines for this policy were determined.  This article will attempt to address your concerns and answer some of the more frequently asked questions about the new policy. 

First, let us make it very clear that:  

A group of 4 players, whether they are walking or riding in carts, whether they are scratch golfers or 40 handicappers shooting 72 or 120, can play golf in 4 ½ hours (or less) comfortably, without rushing their shots or having to wear a pair of track shoes!!!  

All anyone has to do to play golf in 4 ½ hours or less COMFORTABLY is to:

1)      Be ready to play when it is her turn to play

2)      take no more than 40 seconds to play any shot

3)      save the stories and joke telling for the 19th hole or the car ride home

4)      walk to your ball at a reasonable pace – you do not have to run to your ball, but

in the same token, you should not be STROLLING to your ball either!  

The purpose of the new Slow Play Policy is to educate our VSWGA golfers on how to play golf in a reasonable amount of time so that EVERYONE on the golf course can also play golf in a reasonable amount of time.  There is no reason why rounds of golf should take MORE THAN 5 hours.  We are striving to reduce our rounds to 4 ½ hours – that will not always be the case, but if we can keep the rounds below 5 hours, we will have achieved a modicum of success.  

With that being said, let’s answer some of the questions that have already come up:

 Q.  What determines if our group will receive a warning/penalty?

A.      The starting time of every group is being recorded and the finishing time of every group is also being recorded.  If a group finishes/turns in a score card more than 15 minutes after the preceding group, they will be subject to a warning/penalty. 

Q. What if we are the first group of the day and we have “no one to keep up with”?

A. The first group of the day is responsible for setting an acceptable pace – in other words, they need to play in 4 ½ hours or less.

Q. What if we are a group of 4 and there are only 2 players ahead of us – how can we keep up?

A. Any group that plays in 4 ½ hours or less will not be subject to a warning/penalty regardless of when the preceding group finishes.

Q. We were right behind the group ahead of us but we played in 5 hours – are we subject to a warning/penalty?

A. As long as you turned in your scorecard within 15 minutes of the preceding group, you will not be subject to a warning/penalty no matter how long it took you to play.

Q. Where did you come up with this “15 minute” guideline?

A. The standard starting time interval at most State Days is 10 minutes.  At some courses it is less than that.  This means that if each group tees off 10 minutes after the group ahead of them, then ideally they should also finish each hole 10 minutes after that group.  The key word here is ideally.  We know that things “happen” on the golf course to prevent the “ideal” scenario.  So an additional 5 minutes is added to each hole to account for the unknown.

Q. What if I lose a golf ball and search for 5 minutes?

This is why we built in a 15 minute leeway.  If you lose a golf ball and search for 5 minutes, but otherwise play the hole at a reasonable pace, you should now be 15 minutes behind the group in front of you.  When a group has a full 5 minute search, it is their responsibility to make an effort to get back into position!  This can be done with common sense and does not mean that the players have to rush around like maniacs to catch up!  If everyone in the group is ready to play when it is her turn, takes no more than 40 seconds to play a shot, saves the stories and jokes for when the round is over and otherwise follows the guidelines to help speed up play, the group should be back in position within 1 or 2 holes!!

Q. What if we’ve been in position all day and 2 of us lose a golf ball on the 18th hole and we both have a 5 minute search?

A. Ok, the chances of this happening are pretty slim, but it could happen.  If it does, simply report to the scoring table as soon as you leave the 18th green and tell the women at the table what happened.  This will be noted on the timing sheets.  This will actually save the Slow Play Committee from having to contact you for an explanation.  With that being said, if the same group of women keeps losing 2 golf balls on the 17th or 18th hole week after week, we’re going to smell a rat!!One way to help speed up play when one or two members of the group lose a golf ball would be for the other players in the group to go ahead and hit their shots and then go help search for the lost golf ball(s) instead of waiting until the lost balls are found or new balls are put into play.   

Q. What if we go to our car to change our shoes and put our clubs away before turning in the scorecard?

A. If you wish to do this, please be aware that the time taken to do so will be added to your finishing time and could subject you to a warning/penalty. Standard tournament etiquette dictates that scorecards are turned in immediately upon the completion of play – before putting clubs away and changing shoes.  Why?  It is standard practice to turn scorecards in immediately upon completion of play so that scores and results can be calculated in a timely manner.  Even though State Day results are not published at the State Day course, your cooperation with this ensures that the volunteers who help out don’t have to spend any unnecessary time waiting around for scorecards to come in.

Q. What if we are pretty close to being 15 minutes behind the group ahead of us but we still need to add up our scorecards and make sure the scores are correct?

A. If you think you are close to that 15 minute timeline, simply report to the scoring table as soon as you finish the 18th hole, let the volunteers know that you have completed your round and that you need to add up the scores and make sure they are correct.  You don’t have to rush through adding up the scores.  Just let someone at the scoring table know that you are done!  But please, don’t use this as an excuse to now go to your car, put your clubs away, take off your shoes, grab a bite to eat and then turn in your scorecard!!But it’s pouring rain outside!  I’m soaked and I don’t want my clubs to get any wetter while I’m adding up my scores and turning in my scorecard!We don’t want your clubs getting any wetter either!  Have someone in your group run inside, let the volunteers know that you have completed your round, put your clubs away and then come back inside to add your scores and turn in your card.

Q. Where did the 4 ½ hours come from?

A. It’s based on 15 minutes to play each hole.  A group of 4 should be able to play a par 4 hole easily in 15 minutes.  It should take about 13 minutes to play a par 3 and 17 minutes to play a par 5 – thus averaging 15 minutes per hole or 4 ½ hours for 18.

Q. Why do I need to worry about where the group ahead of me is, if the group behind me is nowhere in sight?

A. Fair question.  However, if the group behind you is nowhere in sight, then that probably means that they are also out of position if they teed off immediately behind you.  Your only responsibility is to keep up with the group in front of you!  If the group behind you gets back into position then it isn’t fair to them that they made an effort to catch up and they now have to wait on a slow, out of position group in front of them.  As long as you are in position with the group in front of you, you will never have to worry about receiving a warning or penalty for slow play.

Q. We are a group of 4 players and we have a group of 2 behind us.  They are on our tail and waiting to hit every shot.  Should we let them play through?

A. If your group is out of position and you have more than a hole open in front of you, by all means let that fast group of 2 play through.  However, if you are right up with the group in front of you, there is no reason to let the group play through you because there is nowhere for them to go.  It’s important to be aware that letting groups play through does not necessarily speed up play.  For example, let’s say you have a hole or more open in front of you and you have a group right on your tail and the rest of the field is stacked up right behind them, all in position.  You decide to let the group behind you play through.  The only group who benefits is the group that you let play through.  Now, the rest of the field behind the group you let play through has to wait while you let that group through and they must continue to wait for your group to play once the group you let play through is out of range!  So in effect, the play has slowed down even more for everyone else behind you!  The only way to really help the pace of play is for your group to pick up the pace and catch up to the rest of the field where you belong!

Q. This whole slow play policy makes me nervous – I’m so worried about where the group in front of me is that I can’t concentrate on hitting my shots!

A. We do not expect players to play speed golf and play in an unreasonably fast amount of time!  But, we also do not expect our players to play in an unreasonably slow amount of time!  The purpose of this new policy is an attempt to get our average rounds under 5 hours and to allow ALL of our players the chance to play a round of golf on a State Day in a reasonable amount of time regardless of when they tee off.  The purpose of this new policy is EDUCATION!

I have yet to meet anyone who admits to being a slow player.  And it’s quite possible that there are some slow players who have no idea that they are slow because they don’t know any other way.  However, if this policy makes anyone nervous, then perhaps it is time to re-evaluate how you play a round of golf!  If this policy makes anyone nervous, then it probably means that there are some things you can do to help speed up your round.  It doesn’t mean you have to run between shots.  For example, you can save an amazing amount of time by taking only one practice swing instead of three or four!  There are plenty of articles on both our own website and on golf sites in general on how to speed up play.  Please, re-read them!   

Q. I’m a fast player and I signed up as a single and got paired with these really slow players – why should I be subject to a penalty?

A. It is everyone’s responsibility to play golf in a reasonable amount of time.  If you find that you are in the unfortunate position of being paired with slow people, you have a responsibility to educate them.  You don’t have to single anyone out.  What you can do very diplomatically is announce to the group – “Ladies, it appears that we are out of position – we have a hole (or more) open in front of us.  We need to catch up so that we are not subject to a warning or penalty.  Let’s play ready golf and do whatever it takes!”

If you have made every effort to speed your group up and the rest of the women have ignored you and made no effort to cooperate, then let the volunteers at the scoring table know this!  A note will be made on the timing sheets.  Remember, the new policy says that the group will be subject to a warning/penalty.  The Pace of Play committee reviews all of the timing sheets.  If you receive an email or a phone call informing you that your group received a warning (first offense) or a penalty (subsequent offense), you have the right to state your case.  

The purpose behind this policy is not to hurt anyone or pick on anyone.  The purpose is not to dish out a million penalties.  The purpose is to EDUCATE and make State Days fun and fair for all!  

That being said, no policy is effective if it is not carried out.  Therefore, we will be issuing warnings/penalties when they are warranted.  If the warning or penalty is not warranted, we will listen to your reasons why and take it under advisement!  

Remember, report to the scoring table to let them know you are done as soon as you leave the 18th green.  Then, add up your scores and turn your scorecard in before going to your car.  This will help tremendously!  

The PENALTY for slow play is that you will not be allowed to make an early tee time.  If you like playing slow and time is not important to you, then you will still be allowed to play; however, you will only be allowed to make a tee time later in the day when your “slowness” will affect the least amount of other players! We are not taking away any of your golf privileges!