Four Ways to Speed Up the Game of Golf

Published on Wednesday, May 10th, 2017 in News | Slider

At Topgolf, balls embedded with GPS report their location back to the hitting bay from which they were struck.

Earlier this year, the USGA announced a sweeping series of rule changes that would, in some cases, dramatically affect the way we play golf — including removing rocks from bunkers, dropping from mere centimeters above the turf, and leaving the pin in the hole when putting. Over 100 changes to the Rules of Golf were proposed, with the goal being to simplify and streamline what has become a rule book so complicated even the world’s best players can’t follow it (though, apparently, TV viewers still can), and to speed up the pace of play.

The proposed rule changes — which we’ll go into in more detail in next month’s Cascade Golfer — are currently in a review period; if approved, they will become law beginning in the 2018 season.

We’ve often thought about how to speed up the game ourselves — pace of play is the No. 1 complaint of just about every golfers we know, and is a primary deterrent for new golfers. One can go play a game of basketball, soccer or a few innings of baseball in no more than an hour, without having to buy expensive equipment or learn any particularly complicated skills. Golf, on the other hand, eats up a good portion of your day — not to mention your budget and, on most days, your sense of self-confidence.

So, here are a few ideas we’ve come up with. They didn’t make it into the current USGA Rule Changes, but there’s always the next time. Let us know what you think — and if you have any ideas of your own, we’d love to hear ’em!

The basic concept is that you would pay a flat fee at the start of your round — say, 75-80 percent of what a course’s regular greens fees are right now — then carry a receiver with you out onto the course (like the little boxes you get in restaurants that light up when your table is ready). At the end of your round, you turn in the receiver and are automatically billed an additional fee based on how long it took you to get around the course. If you played fast, you pay less (maybe close to, or a little less than, the regular greens fee); if you’re slow, you pay more.

Now, there are a couple of very obvious problems with this proposal. First off, not every group can control how fast it plays. If the group or two in front of you are slow, you could end up paying more at no fault of your own. Plus, the financial pressure to play fast could lead to more problems on the course — arguments, disrespect, pressuring groups to play faster, etc., as fast golfers begin to feel that those slow groups in front of them aren’t only ruining the games, but costing them money as well. Second, people don’t like not knowing how much something is going to cost before they buy it.

But … is it possible that the chance to save a few bucks would inspire everyone to work together to play a little faster? Perhaps. We admit, though, that this is probably an idea that sounds better on paper than it would actually work in practice.

Look, we’re not engineers, so we’re not going to try to tell you how a tiny GPS transmitter will affect ball flight. But you know what? Titleist has A LOT of our money. Figure it out!

This is, in fact, already being done at Topgolf locations throughout the country. Each ball hit on a Topgolf range contains a tiny transmitter that communicates its exact location back to the hitting bay that you played it from. That’s how it can tell your ball from the 40 others being hit at exactly the same time, and ensure that you receive the correct number of points for your shot. If Topgolf can do it, why not Titleist?

In our dream scenario, every ball would contain a GPS that could be tracked by an app on your phone — no more hunting through the woods, scouring the rough or hillsides. You’ll just walk straight to your ball, every time. Heck, you could even know the exact distance to the flag before you walk or drive up. At least 10-15 minutes of every round is spent looking for balls, with another 5-10 spent figuring out distances. That’s 15-30 minutes shaved off of every single round right there.

Mark my words — the first manufacturer to develop these balls, and the accompanying app, will make billions.

We all wish there were more marshals out there pushing those slower groups along. But as courses have had to tighten their belts over the last decade, many have had to cut back to one or even no marshals whatsoever. So, let’s put modern technology to use, shall we? A drone could fly over the course and quickly and easily see which groups are causing the most problems with regard to pace of play, and the marshal/drone operator could drive out to them directly and ask them to speed it up. This way, one person can effectively monitor the entire course, without having to drive around all 18 holes in a continuous loop.

You might argue that this already exists — it’s called “Super Twilight Rates.” But, in our idea, certain blocks of tee times — likely those earliest and latest in the day — would be set aside for golfers who are willing to commit to playing in four hours or less. Should you take more than four hours to complete your round two times, you wouldn’t be able to book those “jackrabbit” times again. Why two times, and not just once? There’s always the chance that, as with the pay-as-you-play scenario above, a slow group could penalize the groups behind them, at no fault of their own. If you’re slow twice, though, at “jackrabbit” times, when you’re supposedly playing with all fast golfers? Then the odds are that the problem is you.

Those are a few of our more radical suggestions — of course, there are plenty of other ways to pick up the pace, too, from writing down scores on the next tee box instead of by the green, to playing ready golf, etc. What are some ways you can think of to pick up the pace?

6 Responses to “Four Ways to Speed Up the Game of Golf”

  1. Roland Rhue Says:

    If your group falls behind simply have each person head to the next tee after putting out instead of waiting for all to finish putting. By the time the last person in your group gets to the next tee at least 2 in your group will have already teed off. Simple. Always worked for us.

  2. KFN Says:

    When two people are using a power cart they should drive to 1 golf ball drop off that player and go to the other golf ball so both people are ready to hit when it is clear. Too many times I see people waiting in the cart until the other person in the cart hits their ball and then drive over to the second persons ball and then hit that ball.

  3. Craig Says:

    Can’t wait for the GPS chip. That will be the biggest timesaver possible. Make it happen golf ball designers. But then some truism will say part of the game is looking for your ball and dealing with lost balls. Nothing worse then knowing your ball is in play and it either plugged (lucky us in the PNW) or under a leaf. You could really track your driving distances as well as other Club distances.

  4. Kent Says:

    Develop an inexpensive single person golf cart (saw them 40 years ago in Arizona). Slowest part of walking the course is getting from 1 shot to the next or taking your cart partner to their ball. Played as a single last week and made it around the course in 2 hours. Playing ready golf with individual carts or golfboards would save lots of time.

  5. Russell Says:

    Agree with Kent’s comment. Single person carts, or even better, motorized push carts, would not only speed up play but could improve the experience for many. Golf carts are ruining the game. If you can’t walk the course due to age or physical issues, then there could be some sort of waiver, but outside of that, force people to walk the course and speed will improve, not to mention scores. Courses are built today with the cart in mind; that’s an abomination and should stop.

  6. Karl Says:

    I created a fast, fun game called Wungolf which helps beginners and casual players keep pace.
    It is a points based game, you pick up after par plus one and then go putt.
    Check it out at

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