Slow play – Pace and Flow

As mentioned yesterday, Mike Orloff from Golf Industry Central has be kind enough to share with us an article he wrote on slow golf. Here’s part one.

by Mike Orloff

Slow Play – Who is in control?

We continue to read and hear the endless stories of players complaining about “slow play” at our golf facilities. Just have a look at some of the online golf forums and you read the same story over and over again. “We did not see a Marshall”, “we called the pro shop to tell them about the slow group ahead of us, but they never came out to help”, “the group ahead of us were beginners and were really slow” and on and on…

So who is to blame, the golfer or the facility?

This is a management issue much more than a player issue. If your staff were behaving in an inappropriate way, you would do something about it. If your players (especially members) are not behaving to your expectation you must also do something about it.

Yes, players do need to be educated on pace of play and etiquette best practices, like the need to keep up with the group ahead of them and not ahead of the group behind them, but at the end of the day it is up to management to ensure that everyone has a respectable pace during their golf round.

The strategy lays in three key areas- education of golfers and staff, management of golfers, and general course set-up.

The two concepts that you must also fully understand to properly manage this issue are Pace and Flow.

Pace basically is the measurement of time it takes you to play your round. I.e. it took you 4 hours to play. Pace issues are primarily caused due to lack of player education and improper course setup.

Flow has to do with the consistency of the time it took to play. I.e. it took you four hours to play, but with several delays due to a group ahead of you. Flow issues are primarily caused by improper course setup and overall lack of management of the process.

Early in my career, I managed facilities in California that were generating 100,000 to 120,000 annual rounds on a single 18-hole facility. Due to the extreme amount of demand to play golf, especially on weekends, 5-somes were the norm as was having 60 to 70 people playing 9-holes early in the morning before the 18-hole players made the turn. We had daylight savings so the summer months allowed players to tee off until 5pm each day. Needless to say, it was busy.

It was critical to proactively manage the large number of players each day, most importantly starting with the first groups out each morning. You can envisage the 18-hole round like two spinning wheels, with each nine being a separate wheel. Try to get the early groups to get the front wheel spinning at a great pace, which ultimately will get the second wheel spinning at a greater pace. One group can slow the pace of either wheel, so the quicker you identify this group, the better you will keep the wheels spinning.

Tomorrow: Strategies to manage slow play

Mike Orloff is a golf operations specialist and is director of Golf Industry Central.

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