In effort to speed up golf, common sense is common denominator


The Kickoff

April 20, 2007|By PAUL MCMULLEN

Hit the ball.

Watch the ball until it comes to a stop.

Go to the ball.

Repeat, until the ball is in the hole.

Advice received long ago resonated last week when I was with my people: folks who love to play golf and loathe taking 4 hours and 30 minutes to get in 18 holes.

Baltimore County surveyed regulars on pace of play and conducted a summit on the topic at the clubhouse that serves Diamond Ridge and The Woodlands. Lynnie Cook, executive director of Baltimore County Golf, which oversees six municipal courses, noted complaints, observations and suggestions from two dozen patrons and a few of his pros.

Patient and polite, the crowd didn't suggest a two-stroke penalty for each use of a cell phone, and all suggestions were reminders of why golf uses the term "etiquette" to describe its code of conduct.

Here are some of their comments, followed by the translation of what the folks fidgeting behind you as you plumb-bob that 3-foot putt are really thinking.

Play ready golf. Honors are vital on Sundays at Augusta, not Tuesdays at Rocky Point. Do not follow your partner to his ball, or sit in a cart and watch while you could be preparing to play your next shot. Ask about life at the 19th hole, on the parking lot or on the tee, while you're waiting for the group in front of you to get in gear.

Be honest with your ability. Pride may be the last of the Seven Deadly Sins, but it's No. 1 on a golf course. You once hit a 3-wood 225 yards - backed by a nor'easter. Now, you have a 240-yard uphill approach and are waiting for the group in front to clear the green. Hit the ball!

Be efficient about where you park your cart. Leave it in the back, genius, not up front. Besides getting a chance to note the hole location before you chip and putt, you'll move to the next hole more quickly and allow the next group to hit up.

Unless it's tournament play, putt until you hole out. Any idea how many minutes "Snakes" - paying for three-putts - adds to a round?

Record scores on the next tee. Don't you love standing in the fairway, hands on hips, as some genius turns your way and points out his strokes? Treat the green like a crime scene. Listen to your inner cop, and move along.

Don't spend too much time looking for a lost ball. You slice your drive into forest as lush as the Amazon. Lewis and Clark could not find this ball, which has unplayable lie written all over it. After dropping $80 on greens fees, $18 for a round of beers and $6.50 for a tuna on rye at the turn, puh-leeze eat the $2 ball, drop another and take the appropriate penalty.

When playing cart golf, carry more than enough clubs. Want to see a foursome on foot play faster than one in carts? Watch play after a rain, when carts must stay on the path. Player hops out of cart, grabs a club and hikes 60 yards to the ball. Once there, he realizes he needs another club, and returns to cart. Remember the Boy Scout motto? Be Prepared. Whatever club you think you need, grab it - plus one more and one less.

Don't kill a lot of time at the turn. Seven Deadly Sins, Part II: See gluttony. If you're going to savor a three-course meal before the second nine, let the group behind you play through.

Thanks for helping us all maintain a reasonable pace of play - and Have A Nice Day.

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