Golf Column

This game needs a pacemaker

By Paul Viau | Apr 24, 2013
Photo by: File Golf Columnist Paul Viau.

Be still my heart — can the game of golf get any slower?
I watch more golf than I play these days. Hopefully that will change after I complete the rehab of my foot. But as it stands (and I don’t right now) I see a big problem with the game of golf — It’s too freakin’ slow.
I watched in sympathetic horror recently as the final group at the Farmers Insurance Classic at Torrey Pines, which included Tiger Woods, waited for 10-15 minutes on every single hole. He was clearly peeved.
I’ve had the good fortune to play a round at Torrey Pines, and the views of the California cliffs and hang gliders are wonderful — even awe inspiring. But from Tiger’s (and just about every other golfer’s) perspective, that doesn’t matter.
Golfers have tunnel vision.
No matter how beautiful the surroundings of the course they are playing, golfers focus intently down the fairway, watching (and criticizing) the ever-so-slow meandering of the group ahead of them, as each golfer — walks to his/her ball … then back to the golf cart for the right club …. then checking the yardage on their hand-held GPS … then perhaps changing clubs … then taking four or five practice swings … backing up a few paces behind the ball, sighting to their target … approaching their ball with renewed focus … addressing the ball … and finally hitting their shot.
What follows next is a long freeze frame of the bewildered golfer staring at his ball, often for up to a minute after it has landed, then looking down at his divot for a clue as to why the ball didn’t exactly end up where he/she intended.
Finally again, after some head shaking, club scolding and careful self examination … that one golfer moves on.
Oh yes, did I mention, that was just one golfer in the group. Multiply this painful scenario times three or four, and again times 18 and you’ll get the gist of the problem.
Having watched this slow pace evolve over the past five years — and with the unique perspective of a golf “starter” and “ranger” and “cart boy” — I’d like to offer a few suggestions.
No. 1 — First and foremost, play golf for the fun of it and have fun at it.
No. 2 — Don’t try to imitate the PGA players with their elaborate pre-shot routines and lengthy putting rituals. All that hoopla won’t improve your putting; it only slows the game. Anyway, only about one-half of one percent of golfers can even come close to assuming the Villegas-eye-view of the putting surface.
No. 3 — Just like in baseball, three strikes and you’re out! If your putt hasn’t gone in after three attempts, do everyone a favor — just pick-up the ball and move on.
No. 4 — Don’t stand on the tee box waiting to hit, when the group ahead of you is 250 yards away — especially when you haven’t hit a drive longer than 200 yards — even on the range — for more than a decade.
No. 5 — Don’t spend longer than 5 minutes looking for your ball; have your ball clearly marked so you can identify it; and always have another ball ready to drop from your pocket. (Like,  when no one is looking.)
No. 6 — Multitask! As you walk or drive the cart to your ball, have a rough idea of your yardage from the pin, and have a club or two in mind —better yet, in your hot little hand.
No. 7 — Avoid the dreaded “Snowman” Pickup the ball after seven strokes. If you do that every hole, your score will never exceed 126.
No. 8 — I have to give credit to CBS’s Bill Geist for this one, “The best way to take ten strokes off your game — Every once and a while, skip a hole.”
No. 9 — Quit moaning and groaning about the group of ladies teeing off in front of you. Chances are, they play faster than you, and you’ll never catch them.
No. 10 —  “The turn” (as they call it) is not your personal lunch hour. If you must, use the head, then promptly “head” directly to the #10 tee.
OK, that’s it. I have written this entire column on my iPad waiting for the group ahead of me to play five holes. (Just kidding.) But “For Golf Sake” play as well and as quickly as you can.