So 5 hour rounds are a pretty common occurrence at a public golf course. And honestly, there is no need for it. I do not care if you're a 40 handicap or a 5 handicap, you can play in 4 hours or less, as long as you follow some simple rules …
Play Ready Golf!
How often have you stood on the tee of a par 3, watching the group in front for what looks to be an eternity? Three of the guys are on the green. One is in the bunker. The guy in the bunker was the last to hit … so he's also the last to get to the bunker. The other 3 guys are standing around chatting as bunker guy gets his sand wedge … heads over to the bunker … and thinks about not screwing up his sand shot. He hits his sand shot, which flies over the green, into a bunker on the other side of the green. The other 3 guys chuckle, and continue to chat. Bunker guy rakes his bunker (nice job!), Walks to the other side of the green … and hits an OK shot that ends up on the green, but he's still 'away'. Bunker guy rakes … oops … he forgot his putter in the cart … 3 other guys continue to chit chat..and laugh at bunker guy … you really screwed this hole up Charlie! Bunker guy finally putts, makes a great one … saves his 4. And now the other 3, one by one, take their time reading their putts, lining up the putts, hitting their putts … missing..marking their ball … and begin the routine once again. This is absolutely insane.
This is an 'extreme' example, but I see it happening in so many different circumstances. People do it on the fairway … one by one, completely seriously, people select a club, think about their shot, take some practice swings and then hit the ball … waiting for their playing partner on the complete opposite side of the fairway to hit their ball … watch it fly through the air, and land wherever it went.
You do NOT have to wait for your playing partners. While the guy is hitting his bunker shot, read your putt … heck, use a golf ball with an alignment mark, and line up your putt. While your playing partner is thinking about his shot out of the rough, you should be selecting your club for your approach shot out of the fairway … you can pick your intermediate target, get a clear image of what you are going to do. Just be READY to step right into your pre-shot routine as soon as the other guy hits.
The Ball is Lost … Forget About It
This does not bother me nearly as much as # 1, but if you hook your tee shot into some deep woods, with lots of underbrush … you are not going to find it. Yes, I understand the rules give you 5 minutes to look … but the vast majority of people take more than that … and for the most part it is a fruitless effort. Look for a minute or two … if you seriously think you have a reasonable chance of finding it, sure use your 5 minutes. But, come on … if it looks like a Costa Rican jungle … you are not going to find the ball, do not waste any more time looking for it.
Unless you are playing for $ 100 a hole, please do not spend 5 minutes lining up your 183 putt. Tell your playing partner it is good, and have him pick up. How many times have you watched another 2-5 minutes wasted while the group in front of you is standing in a 5 foot circle surrounding the pin?
Develop a Pre-Shot Routine
If you do not already have one, work on developing a consistent pre-shot routine. Just do not make it a 5 minute one that involves 35 waggles, and constant re-gripping of the club. Mine involves lining up behind the ball, envisioning my shot, walking up to the ball, grip, look up, check alignment, look up … hit. It probably does not take more than 20 seconds. And it's consistent. I do not spend minutes hemming and hawing over what to do. Not only does it help speed up play, but it will clear your mind, and help you stay focused.
Leave Your Bags in the Direction of the Next Tee
I do not see it as often as other slow down mistakes, but it definitely happens. Leave your bags to the side of the green, and in the direction of the next tee, never in front of the green. Nothing worse than watching a slow group take forever to putt out, then all walk back toward me … to get their bags and put away their clubs … then walk BACK over the green toward the next tee.
Play Level Appropriate Tees
I do not worry about this as much as some people do, but you are only doing yourself a disservice if you are a 20 handicap playing off the back tees. But, I'm not going to say that everyone does it slows down play. If you're a high handicapper who plays quickly, by all means, torture yourself from the back tees.
Cart Riders …
Two very simple things. First: drop your cart partner off at their ball … then drive to your ball and get ready for your shot. Second: take at least 2 or 3 clubs with you to your ball.
Last thing I will mention …. I am all for people learning the game … but do it on an executive course or at the driving range. You will have a lot more fun on a shorter course, and will have more time to work on your short game, which is the quickest way to start shooting lower scores. However, if you MUST play that 135 slope game, play off the front tees, and pick up your ball if you have not reached the green in 5 shots