Speeding Up Play

"Ready Golf" Is a Ready Answer for Slow Play

One catch-all way to speed up play to is to play "ready golf." Golfers have always based order of play on the concept of "away" or "out," terms that refer to the golfer whose ball is farthest from the hole. That golfer — the one who is away — is supposed to play first, followed by the next-farthest away and so on. That has always been a matter of etiquette (and, in match play, a matter of rules).

"Ready golf" means that each golfer in a group plays when ready. If you are not the one who is out or away, but you are ready to play your stroke while the others in your group are not, go ahead and hit.

Not only is ready golf now allowed in the rules in stroke play, but the governing bodies of the sport (the R&A and USGA) encourage it.

Begin reading the green and lining up putts as soon as you reach the green. Don't wait until it's your turn to putt to start the process of reading the green. Do it as soon as you reach the green so that when it is your turn you can step right up and putt.

Never delay making a stroke because you're having a conversation with a playing partner. Put the conversation on hold, make your stroke, then pick up the conversation again.

If using a cart on a cart-path-only day, take more than one club with you when you walk from the cart to your ball. Getting to the ball only to find out you don't have the right club is a huge time-waster on the golf course.

After putting out, don't stand around the green chatting or take any practice putting strokes. Leave the green quickly so the group behind can play. After returning to your golf cart, don't stand there fussing with your putter or other clubs. Get in the cart, drive to the next tee, and then stow your putter. Likewise, mark your scorecard after reaching the next tee, not while lingering on or near the just-completed green.

Don't ask your playing partners to help you search for a lost ball, unless you are absolutely certain there is time for them to do so (e.g., there is no group behind waiting). If the course is crowded, your partners should continue moving forward, not slow things down further by stopping to help your search.

When waiting on the tee for the group in front to clear the fairway, don't be so strict about order of play. Let the shorter hitters — who can't reach the group ahead anyway — go ahead and hit. Also, pay attention to your fellow-competitors' drives. If they lose sight of their ball, you can help direct them to it and minimize searching.

Carry extra tees, ball markers and an extra golf ball in your pockets so you never have to return to your golf bag to find one when needed. And when chipping around the green, carry both the club you'll be chipping with plus your putter so you don't have to return to the bag.

When your group reaches the putting green, consider leaving the flagstick in and putting that way. That is now allowed under the Rules of Golf, and it saves a little time by not requiring that golfers deal with removing the flagstick, placing it off to the side, then retrieving it and putting it back.

These are all simple tips that can help your golf group move around the course at a better pace!