Dr. Riccio offers 'The truth about slow play'

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 15, 2013, 4:56 pm

The Truth About Slow Play: Why clubs, players and the entire golf industry need to improve it in order to set the pace and grow the game


(Note: This article originally appeared in The Met Golfer. It is reprinted with their permission.)

Does a five-hour round make you crazy? Does slow play make you want to bend the shaft of your 3-iron around the heads of the group in front of you? While many issues seem to split the golf world into two camps (one set of rules vs. two; the ball should be ratcheted back vs. it should go longer; anchoring the putter is okay vs. it is evil), the subject of slow play brings all golfers together like no other. Everyone associated with the game understands that slow play is killing the enjoyment of the game and the levels of participation. A 2005 study by former USGA technical director Frank Thomas found it to be the No. 1 obstacle to growing the game.

And yet, if you ask anyone what causes slow play, almost universally the answer is, “the group ahead.” What’s the solution? Some say walk faster. Some say give short putts or make the slow players tee off later in the day. Some say pick up when you’re out of the hole. Some say wave up on par 3s. Others say “tee it forward.”

There is no shortage of suggestions. Everyone has an opinion. But what really works? What will really make a difference? Unfortunately many people believe slow play is somewhat like the weather, which everyone complains about but can’t change. However, something can be done about slow play. The big obstacle to correcting the problem has been the lack of a thorough understanding of what causes slow play. I’ve used my background in statistics and analytics to conduct the research needed to provide that understanding. My research, doing hundreds of simulations and statistical analyses, indicates that the problem of slow play is far more complicated than any of those simple answers. In fact, the data indicate the answer to the question “who is responsible for slow play?”: We all are! Yes, everyone involved in the game contributes in some small (or large) way to slow play. It’s not just “the other guy.”

Some of the causes are within our powers as golfers. Some are not. Some are determined by course management, but not all. Some are caused by course architects and their designs without them knowing it. But no one is free from responsibility.

Dean Knuth, former USGA director of handicapping and now Golf Digest contributing editor, says that in a round of golf, we “play golf” (swing the club) for about 60 minutes and walk for about two hours. Everything else is waiting.

What causes all that waiting? In looking for the answers, I applied factory physics to golf. All factories consist of processes which, when provided with the right resources, produce finished products. In our golf analogy, each hole is an operation and each group of four golfers is a work-in-process product. In factory physics, the time it takes one unit of product to go from raw input to a finished product is called throughput time. In golf, the throughput time is the time it takes one group to play their full round. Cycle time is the time between successive outputs, or completed products, of a factory. In golf, that would be the time between successive groups finishing the 18th hole. Both measures can be defined for each hole as well as the whole course. The capacity of a factory is its maximum production per hour or per day. The lowest capacity operation limits the capacity of the entire factory, and is called the bottleneck. The input rate should not be more than the capacity of the bottleneck. If it is, long waits build up in the factory. All of these have a direct application to the problem at hand.

To explain how this relates to golf, I have divided the major causes of pace problems into three categories: individual player and group behaviors, course management decisions and designer plans. I will discuss them separately, but keep in mind they are all linked. There is no simple silver bullet solution. A solution will only come when we recognize the contribution of each.

The Players

This is the most obvious starting point. Without question a slow player slows down a group and a slow group slows down the whole course. A group can’t finish a hole until the slowest player finishes and a slow group sets the pace for every group behind.

Solution: As an individual, move to your own ball at a speed of at least 3 miles per hour (100 yards a minute) and be ready to hit when it is your turn. At that point, take no more than 45 seconds to hit. Take no more than three minutes to look for a lost ball or to take relief. As a group, your group should take no more than three minutes to clear the tee, fairway landing area (once there) and the green complex. Not moving to your own ball and being ready to hit will add up to one hour to your group’s pace. It is obvious that the slowest group determines the pace for all groups behind. But my research shows something not obvious and more important. If every group was a “fast group” overall but had one or two slow holes (a lost ball, a three putt green etc.), the pace for the course would be them sum of the slow holes for each group on the course. As such, each group, when they have a slow hole, has contributed to a slow pace. This is because it is harder to play fast than to play slowly. It is hard to make up the time you lost especially if while you are trying to make it up, the group ahead is having their slow hole.

Solution: Recognize that you and your group are probably part of the problem even if most of the time you are playing quickly. Do whatever you can to make up for lost time and keep up with the group ahead.

Course Architects

The USGA slope system was a huge advance in golf handicapping in the early 1980s, and was developed with the MGA playing a lead role in refining and implementing the new system. Unfortunately course developers decided that to get their money’s worth, they needed to build courses with high slope ratings. As such, architects were pressured to design courses or make renovations with lots of difficulty factors. The harder the course, the more strokes need to be taken, and the longer it takes to play. More difficulty, more lost balls, more time to search. Often these new courses had long walks between green to tee, just adding time but no additional golfing enjoyment. The original Rules of Golf written in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1744 said “ye shall tee your ball no further than a club from the previous hole.” Boy, have times changed. I estimate that modern course design has added 30 to 60 minutes per round.

Solution: Never play a course where the slope rating is more than 142 minus your handicap index. Play it all the way forward if you can’t follow this rule.

Clubs and Courses

Now let’s look at the group that can arguably have the largest impact on pace of play: the leadership at clubs and courses, which for the purposes of this exercise I refer to as “course managers.” There are two avenues by which golf course superintendents, green chairmen, head pros, and other leaders at clubs and courses affect pace of play: First is setup – the height of the rough, the speed of the greens, the tee marker placements all can add up to more shots and more time.

Solution: Course managers should monitor the time it takes for groups of all ability levels to play each hole and make adjustments to their course setup. They should study the USGA’s Course Pace of Play Rating Manual (developed by Knuth) and use consultants such as Bill Yates or Steven Southard who study such concerns. The MGA is also a resource to learn about the pace ratings at courses across the Met Area. The second issue with club personnel is far more complicated, because tee time intervals are the main culprit to slow play. Course managers are naturally inclined to set tee intervals which are too short. They “please” more groups by getting more onto the course. But in the same way in which too many cars on a highway actually slow everyone down, too many groups cause the pace to deteriorate significantly. My research shows that a tee interval shorter than the time it takes to play the longest par 3 will cause the pace to increase well beyond a reasonable four-hour amount. In fact, a four-and-a-half or five-hour round is guaranteed by a too short tee interval no matter how well the individual players and groups play. There is nothing the golfers can do to overcome the fact that there are too many groups on the course. For groups of four, tee intervals less than 10 minutes almost certainly cause pace problems. So why do the course managers do it? Because the pressure to bring in more green fee revenue (at least in the short run) by stuffing more groups on the course is simply too great. Spreading out the tee intervals to a length which would allow a four-hour round would require about a 15 to 20 percent increase in green fees to compensate for the lower number of paying customers. It is a terrible predicament.

Solution: Advocate for proper tee intervals even if it means an increase in green fees. So what will it take for the four-hour round to become the maximum, not the minimum, acceptable pace? There are clubs and courses that have figured out the many factors that must be in place for this to happen. It takes a good course setup, with the proper tee interval, with golfers who move quickly to their own ball, are ready to hit when it is their turn, don’t waste time looking for lost or water logged balls, who pick up the pace when they fall behind, and recognize that we are all in it together. It’s complicated. It will take a comprehensive effort. But there is a hierarchy to the plan. Doing it out of sequence will make subsequent efforts fruitless. 

Here’s the plan:

1. Encourage course managers to set up courses that are challenging but not brutal (pace sensitive.)

2. Set tee intervals appropriately.

3. Institute wave-up policies on par threes.

4. Train and reward all golfers in proper individual pace behaviors.

5. Provide feedback on group behaviors. It’s important to note that this sequence is the reverse of what most people’s intuition would tell them. That has to be recognized or we will make no progress.

One last thing: If you want to be part of the solution, join the Three/45 Golf Association (Three45golf.org) to show your support for pace of play advocacy. The numbers are relevant in multiple ways: We need all golfers to walk or ride the course at an average of 3 miles per hour, and take no more than 45 seconds on any single stroke (not too terribly fast), in order for a round to take about 3 hours and 45 minutes. According to my research, we will only make improvements when we band together and recognize we are all part of the problem, and therefore all part of the solution.

Lou Riccio is a senior lecturer at Columbia Business School in New York, where he has taught since 1995. His passion for golf has fueled his research and his résumé throughout his career. In February, Riccio won the inaugural Shotlink Intelligence Prize from the PGA Tour, and in the past has served on the MGA Executive Committee and the USGA Handicap Research Team. After earning a Ph.D. in engineering from Lehigh University, Riccio was instrumental in helping the USGA develop the Slope Rating System, and received the Ike Grainger Award in recognition of 25 years of volunteer service to the USGA. Riccio is a contributor of statistics-based instruction articles to Golf Digest.

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Dredge, Quiros share early lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 19, 2018, 8:41 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Bradley Dredge reeled off three birdies in his last five holes to share the lead with Alvaro Quiros after the opening round of the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II event Thursday.

Quiros finished with two straight birdies as the big-hitting Spaniard joined Welshman Dredge on 5-under-par 67.

Dredge, who made seven birdies in all, has won twice before but his last triumph came in 2006.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

Quiros, who has claimed seven victories, last won at the Rocco Forte Open in Sicily last year.

The joint leaders have a one-shot advantage over Oliver Fisher, Joakim Lagergren, Erik Van Rooyen and Lorenzo Gagli at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course.

Former U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett, without a win since his victory at Augusta two years ago, opened with a 1-over 73.

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Murray battles wind, takes early Valero lead

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 7:59 pm

Amid a feast-or-famine season, Grayson Murray appears poised for another meal at the Valero Texas Open.

Murray battled windy conditions during the opening round at TPC San Antonio, carding seven birdies against a double bogey to start with a 67. At 5 under, he held a one-shot lead over Chesson Hadley at the end of the morning wave.

There has been no middle ground for Murray this year, as each of his nine starts in full-field events have yielded either a top-15 finish or a result outside the top 70. That includes his two most recent starts, where he finished T-14 at the Houston Open despite putting "terribly" and then missed the cut last week at the RBC Heritage.

But Murray spent time on the range early this week to iron out a swing flaw, and the results were quickly evident during his opening round.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

"When I get off, it's never far off but it seems like I'm always searching for something, and then I start compensating and then I create a new bad habit," Murray told reporters. "Ball-striking for me gives me confidence with every other club in my bag when it comes to putting or chipping or anything. I know if I hit it well, those parts of the game are going to be good, too."

Murray made more headlines for his words than his game for much of his rookie season, but a breakthrough win at the opposite-field Barbasol Championship in July solidified his playing status for the next two years. With swirling winds reaching 25 mph during his round, Murray was pleased to have found 13 of 18 greens in regulation and capitalize on several of his birdie chances.

"The wind bothers me when I'm hitting it like I did last week, when I'm not compressing the ball. That's just the bottom line," Murray said. "But once you start swinging it well, like hitting it into the wind really shows you how you are hitting the golf ball because it's only going to maximize your dispersion. So if you hit a 5-yard cut, it's going to be probably a 10-yard cut into the wind. That tells you when you're hitting it good."

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One year later: Surgery to success for Tiger

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 6:30 pm

So much can happen in a year.

Exactly 365 days ago, Tiger Woods went under the knife. When it comes to Woods, surgery has become a somewhat regular occurrence over the years; his timeline of injuries and procedures stretches nearly as long as the one detailing his on-course accomplishments.

But this one was surprising, both for the timing and the operation in question.

It was only one day prior, after all, that Woods sat in front of a sparse gallery of fans and media to announce his plans to design a new course at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri. He smiled while sitting carefully in a wooden folding chair, then stood up and gingerly hit a short wedge shot to cap the publicity stunt. He needed to re-load and swing again in order to find the makeshift green.

While it was clear that Woods was not firing on all cylinders, at no point in the proceedings did he mention the surgical appointment looming on his calendar.

“The back is progressing,” Woods said on April 18, 2017. “I have good days and bad days. I’ve had three back operations, and that’s just kind of the nature of the business unfortunately. That’s all I can say.”

He added back operation No. 4 the very next day, this time opting for a lumbar fusion that was more serious and invasive than any of its predecessors. The surgery brought with it a six-month recovery window and the very real notion that, at age 41, Woods may have already played his final hole of competitive golf.

“He is looking forward to life without pain, looking forward to day-to-day without pain,” Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, said the day after the surgery. “He’s looking forward to playing with his kids without pain, playing golf without pain. He knows he’s got a long road, but there’s a huge sense of relief right now.”

Fast-forward one year, and Woods returned to Missouri this week to survey the progress of his Payne’s Valley layout that is scheduled to open in 2019. And near the same spot where he swung through pain with wedge in hand, this time around he ripped a driver at full speed to the delight of the estimated 7,000 fans gathered for a junior clinic he hosted.

Given the relative normalcy of his most recent appearance, what Woods endured last April 19 seems like a lifetime ago.

In recapping the subsequent 12 months, keep in mind that the surgery wasn’t even Woods’ lowest point. That would come six weeks later, when he was arrested and cited for driving under the influence in Florida. There was the mugshot photo, and the arrest reports, and of course the police video where one of the greatest athletes of the last 30 years struggled to tie his shoes.

At that point, professional golf was an afterthought.

But Woods entered private treatment over the summer for his use of prescription drugs, and when he re-emerged as an assistant at the Presidents Cup in October the focus was again on his potential return to life inside the ropes – even as Woods himself acknowledged the possibility that he may never return to competition.

“I don’t know what my future holds for me,” he said. “As I’ve told you guys, I’m hitting 60-yard shots.”

It wasn’t long before those pitch shots gave way to irons and full swings with drivers, one social media video at a time. Woods’ whirlwind renaissance after receiving clearance from his surgeon raised expectations for his return at the Hero World Challenge in December to stratospheric levels.

Now four months into his latest comeback attempt, Woods has exceeded nearly every expectation while re-establishing himself as a regular contender on the PGA Tour. Three straight top-12 finishes in Florida highlighted his spring, and his health is such that questions about the status of his back from the media are now few and far between.

“I think as an athlete, you’re always pushing yourself, right? And the best ones are pushing themselves beyond their limits,” Woods said at the Valspar Championship. “I happened to be one of those guys who pushed my body and my mind to accomplish the things I knew I could. I was able to do it.”

How the next 365 days unfold remains to be seen. Woods is now 42, fighting an undefeated opponent in Father Time, and it wasn’t that long ago that the one-year retrospectives about him had a decidedly different tone.

But heading into the heart of the summer season, Woods’ prospects seem more promising than they have been at any point since his five-win season in 2013. And the winding path from bleak to rosy can be traced back to a fateful decision exactly one year ago to try once more to heal his ailing back where multiple prior attempts had failed.

From limping with a wedge to veering off the road to hinting at a possible return to smashing expectations while staring down players half his age.

So much can happen in a year.

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World Long Drive Association Staging First Live Televised Event of 2018: "Clash in the Canyon," Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 6:15 pm

Open & Women’s Divisions Airing Live in Primetime in Partnership with Golf Mesquite Nevada from Long Drive’s Most Storied Venue

Each of the Top-20 in Open Division World Long Drive Rankings & Five-Time (and Defending) World Champion Sandra Carlborg Headline the Field

Veteran Sports Broadcaster Jonathan Coachman Making Golf Channel Debut; Will Conduct Play-by-Play at Each of the Five Televised WLDA Events in 2018

Coming off record viewership in 2017 and a season fueled by emergent dynamic personalities, the World Long Drive Association (WLDA) will stage its first of five televised events in 2018 with the Clash in the Canyon, airing live and in primetime on Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. Taking place April 21-24 at Mesquite Regional Sports and Event Complex in partnership with Golf Mesquite Nevada, the Clash in the Canyon will culminate with the televised portion Tuesday evening featuring the four women and eight men having advanced from preliminary rounds.

A familiar setting in the Long Drive community, Mesquite previously hosted the Volvik World Long Drive Championship and a number of qualifying events dating back to 1997, including the World Championship having been staged at the same venue as the Clash in the Canyon from 2008-2012. The 480-yard venue is carved out of the adjacent canyon which acts as a scenic backdrop when gazing down the grid from an elevated tee box.

The eventwill feature a 36-man field competing in the Open Division based on World Long Drive rankings, which will include each of the top-20 in the current rankings, along with a Women’s Division field of 18 competitors, led by five-time – and defending – World champion Sandra Carlborg. The Open Division will compete for a $50,000 purse, with a first place prize of $20,000, while the Women’s Division will be vying for a $7,000 first place prize with a $15,000 overall purse. World No. 3 Ryan Reisbeck will be defending his 2017 Clash in the Canyon title, while Chloe Garner won’t have an opportunity to defend on the Women’s side due to her being sidelined for the 2018 season with a shoulder injury. The Clash in the Canyon is the second official event of the 2018 World Long Drive season, as Justin Moose claimed the East Coast Classic in Columbia, South Carolina last month.

COVERAGE: Live coverage of the Clash in the Canyon will air in primetime on Golf Channel from 7-9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, April 24, with Golf Centralpreviewing the event from 6-7 p.m. ET. An encore telecast is scheduled to air on Golf Channel from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. ET.

The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two craned-positioned cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the competitor’s clubface. New to 2018 will be an overlaid graphic line on the grid, the “DXL Big Drive to Beat,” (similar to the “1st & 10 line” made popular in football) displaying the longest drive during a given match to signify the driving distance an opposing competitor will need to surpass to take the lead. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.

Morning Drive and Golf Central will prepare viewers for the Clash in the Canyon through interviews and dedicated segments featuring competitors on-site in Mesquite.

OPEN DIVISION FIELD (in order of World Long Drive ranking): Justin James, Maurice Allen, Ryan Reisbeck, Tim Burke, Trent Scruggs, Will Hogue, Mitch Grassing, Ryan Steenberg, Paul Howell, Glenn Wilson Jr., Landon Gentry, Joe Miller, Tommy Hug, Justin Moose, Kyle Berkshire, Kevin Shook, Jason Eslinger, Nick Kiefer, Steve Monroe, Troy Teal, Jeff Gavin, Brady Torbitt, Dan McIntosh, Eddie Fernandes, Spencer McDaniel, Scott Kalamar, Stephen Kois, Jim Waldron, Jeff Crittenden, Jeff Flagg, Mark Costello, Mitch Dobbyn, Josh Cassaday, Press LaBrie, Dan Lambert, Wes Patterson.

WOMEN’S DIVISION FIELD: Hollie Bartsch, Alexis Belton, Monica Borowicz, Sandra Carlborg, Shelby Crider, Irene Crowchild, Erin Hess, Jana Jones, Heather Manfredda, Phillis Meti, Troy Mullins, Debbie Peever, Alex Phillips, Ashley Pinion, Jessika Shelton, Erin Shireman, Haley Vandenberg, Katherine Wills.

FORMAT: The Open Division field will consist of 36 men broken into four “pods” of nine competitors across four three-minute sets of eight balls each, with a points system being used to identify four from each pod advancing to the Round of 16. From there, five sets of eight balls will determine the eight competitors advancing to take part in the single elimination match play bracket during the live telecast on Golf Channel. The Women’s Division will feature 18 competitors broken into two groups of nine taking part in four sets of eight balls. The top four point-earners from each pod will advance to the single-elimination match play competition beginning with the quarterfinals, with the winners moving on to the semifinals which will play out on Tuesday night’s telecast.

BROADCAST TEAM: A new voice to World Long Drive, veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will conduct play-by-play at each of the five WLDA televised events on Golf Channel in 2018, beginning with the Clash in the Canyon.Art Sellinger – World Long Drive pioneer and two-time World champion – will provide analysis, and Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz will offer reports from the teeing platform and conduct interviews with competitors in the field.

2018 VOLVIK WLD CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING & MASTERS DIVISION: As part of the event, the WLDA will stage preliminary and final qualifying for the Open Division on Saturday-Sunday, April 21-22, which will award six exemptions into the 2018 Volvik World Long Drive Championship field later this year. Also taking place on Sunday, April 22 will be a Masters Division (ages 45+) competition, with a field of 16 that includes several individuals who have greatly contributed to the success and sustainability of the sport over the past few decades. The Masters Division format will feature a points system, with each competitor completing five sets of eight balls each. The top eight will advance to the single-elimination, match play head-to-head quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

MASTERS DIVISION FIELD:  Mike Bauman, Don Beck, Kyle Blenkhorn, Vince Ciurluini, Jeff Crittenden, Pat Dempsey, Eddie Fernandes, Jeff Gavin, Chris Hall, Dan Lambert, Brian Lawler, Tom Peppard, Lance Reader, Richard Smith, Scott Smith and Roy Studley.

DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay up-to-date on all of the action surrounding the Clash in the Canyon by following @GolfChannel and @WorldLongDrive on social media. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will be on-site contributing to the social conversation as the event unfolds, and, the telecast will integrate social media-generated content during live coverage on Tuesday, April 24 using the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive.

In addition to the latest video and highlights from on-site in Mesquite, WorldLongDrive.com will feature real-time scoring for the duration of the event, April 21-24. Golf Channel Digital also will feature content from the Clash in the Canyon leading up to and immediately following the live telecast.





March 15-17

East Coast Classic

West Columbia, S.C.

April 21-24

Clash in the Canyon (*Golf Channel*)

Mesquite, Nev.

May 11-15

Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (*Golf Channel*)

Maricopa, Ariz.

June 4-5

Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (*Golf Channel*)

Atlantic City, N.J.

June 21-23

Bluff City Shootout

Memphis, Tenn.

July 6-8

Bash For Cash

Port Robinson, Ont., Canada

August 2-4

WinStar Midwest Slam

Thackerville, Okla.

August 12-13

Tennessee Big Shots benefitting Niswonger Children’s Hospital (*Golf Channel*)

Kingsport, Tenn.

September 1-5

Volvik World Long Drive Championship (*Golf Channel*)

Thackerville, Okla.

One additional event is scheduled to be staged in the fall, being contested as part of the 2018-2019 season:

  • Catawba Classic – Hickory, N.C. (November 3-4)

Showcasing the truly global nature of World Long Drive, several events will be staged in 2018 through officially sanctioned WLDA international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Additionally, an all-encompassing international qualifier will be staged (late summer) featuring a minimum of four exemptions into the Open Division of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September.