Slow-Play Study: Watch Tee-Time Intervals

Your timing is off if you’re talking pace of play during the (labored) U.S. Open, but we’ll risk it because the most comprehensive pace-of-play study ever just landed on our desks. The Three/45 GolfAssociation, founded by USGA committeeman and author of “Golf’s Pace of Play Bible” Lou Riccio, used golf GPS data from more than 40,000 rounds over 175 courses to deliver fairly encouraging results.

On average, the study found, we play in less than four-and-a-half hours (4:17). Almost 29 percent of all rounds recorded, including private, took less than four hours. Sixty-three percent of rounds took less than 4:30. Only 10 percent of rounds, most of them public, exceeded five hours.

Riccio’s study determined, not surprisingly, that you play faster in the morning (4:02) than in the afternoon (4:21), faster Monday to Thursday (4:13) than you will Friday to Sunday (4:23), and fastest of all on Wednesdays. (Doctors know what they’re doing!)

More importantly, you play faster at courses that maintain intelligently phased tee times than ones that pack in every player they can. “This study shows that the emphasis on player behaviors may be quite misplaced,” says Riccio. “Tee intervals must be fixed first. If the highway is crowded, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Corvette.” These findings carry additional weight because they’re based on actual rounds-data provided in this case by GPS Industries, which supplies GPS service to courses.

We wish the study had considered green speeds. Riccio believes that every foot over a Stimpmeter measurement of 10 adds 10 minutes to your time, but most golfers know it can be much deadlier at 12 or 13, especially in stroke-play events. It would be beneficial to know what our green speed “obsession,” as colleague Geoff Shackelford calls it, costs us in time and tedium. Especially after we’ve watched our heroes putt Pinehurst greens measuring 12.5.

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