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Pace-of-play cards help one club speed up

Pick Up The Pace
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Six years ago, golf was too often a good walk spoiled at H. Smith Richardson Golf Course in the Town of Fairfield, Conn.

The cozy public course was a traffic jam of recreational players.

“It was horrendous,” said Jim Alexander, the head professional. “We’re a pretty high volume golf course, and we were having 5½-hour rounds on weekends. Obviously, everybody was frustrated with the slow play.”

The Town of Fairfield’s golf commission gave Alexander the task of coming up with a system to speed up play.

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Alexander came back with a pace-of-play policy that has changed the culture of play at H. Smith Richardson Golf Course. Rounds are pretty much uniformly 4 hours and 15 minutes or less, even with foursomes. It has been that way since the town accepted Alexander’s new slow-play policy.

Here’s the policy in a nutshell:

• All groups teeing off between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. receive pace-of-play cards.

• The pace-of-play cards match a group’s tee time and provide time par. For example, if you tee off at 7a.m., you should be standing at the No. 2 tee at 7:13 a.m. If you’re on pace, you should be on the No. 3 tee by 7:27 a.m., etc.

• The card is designed so that a round is finished in 4:15.

• If you fall out of position, a ranger issues you one warning. You then have two holes to get back on your pace-of-play time. If you fail to do so, the ranger will instruct your group to pick up their balls and move to the tee box that matches their correct pace-of-play requirement.

Alexander said the policy has worked so well, he rarely ever has more than one ranger on the course now.

“The policy, basically, has deputized every player as a ranger,” Alexander said.

Alexander said regulars now enforce the policy themselves, instructing and encouraging slow groups to keep up with their pace-of-play times. He said nine-minute intervals between tee times was key to making the system work.

“We lost some people who didn’t like the pressure of keeping up with the pace of play, but for every player we lost, we picked up twentyfold,” Alexander said.

Alexander said players like knowing they will get home in time for lunch or dinner when they make their tee times.