Pace of play not an issue in speed golf

By Jason SobelJune 19, 2013, 9:32 pm

Chris Walker is a professional golfer. A 2012 graduate of Notre Dame University, he turned pro soon thereafter and embarked on a journey playing mini-tour golf.

That journey took him last October to Bandon Dunes, the mystical, ethereal set of acclaimed courses in the Pacific Northwest. Competing in a two-day tournament – one round at Old Macdonald; the other at Bandon Dunes – Walker posted scores of 130 and 133.

Those totals alone may suggest that Walker should find another line of work, but the reality is quite the contrary. In fact, he won the tournament.

Walker triumphed at the inaugural Speed Golf World Championship, defeating a field of 13 other professionals in a game that tests not only golf talent, but pace of play, as well.

In speed golf, competitors run the course in between shots. Their final score is an added total of both strokes taken and the time in which it takes to finish. For example, in Walker’s case he opened with a 77 in 53 minutes, 29 seconds, then followed with a 76 in 56 minutes, 59 seconds, for a two-day total of 263.28.

Pace of play: Articles, videos and photos

It’s hardly a new concept. Speed golf took off – quite literally – during the running boom of the late-1970s. By 1982, it was earning national attention, as Steve Scott, a track and field athlete who held the American outdoor record in the mile for more than 26 years, used two golf clubs to shoot a 95 – in 29 minutes, 33 seconds.

That mark still stands as the world record for the fastest round of golf. It wasn’t until some two decades later when scores were amended as a combination of total strokes and total time. Today the game is growing, but still finds plenty of challenges.

“It’s so out of left field,” says Tim Scott (no relation to Steve), co-founder and executive director of Speed Golf International. “Speed and golf are two polar opposites – you never think of that.”

Scott had played in tournaments from Atlanta to Austria, but those started fizzling out, so in 2002 he and two others formed the organization which now has about 20 leagues throughout the country and includes three tour events with pro and amateur divisions, including the championship at Bandon Dunes, plus 10 other tournaments during the year.

The rules conform to those of any other sanctioned golf tour and the goal is simple: Shoot the lowest score possible in the fastest amount of time possible. While there are no standard minimums or maximums for number of clubs, Scott says that most competitors will use five or six clubs in a lightweight golf bag that can be carried while running.

“We try to highlight pace of play, going with first instinct a bit more,” he contends. “Speed golf is an extreme version of playing a bit quicker.”

“It’s a very freeing experience to play speed golf,” maintains Walker, who first played while training for last year’s championship. “You’re in your own group, nothing ahead of you. …. People can’t wrap their head around playing golf in 53 minutes. They think that’s more impressive than the score.”

The appeal is easy to understand. Those who only have time to choose golf or a workout in a given day can combine two passions into a single activity.

“I play at 6 a.m., run five miles, get in 18 holes, get home by 8 a.m. and my wife and kid are just getting out of bed. That’s very appealing to me,” Scott says. “You go to a gym at 6 in the morning and there are people there. Some of them are golfers dreading that they’re on a treadmill. If they had an opportunity to play 18 holes instead, they’d jump at it.”

“The best quality is that it reminds people that golf need not be five hours,” says Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser, whose facility will again host the speed golf championship later this year. “If 18 holes takes 52 minutes, then I can play three holes in 10 minutes or nine in half-an-hour. Now, all of a sudden, we have time for golf. And I get a cardio workout, to boot.

“Anyone with a busy job plus children will see it as a way – no, the only way – to keep playing golf.”

Not that speed golf isn’t without its issues.

Scott estimates that if you polled 100 golfers randomly, only 50 would have a passing interest or could physically play, maybe 10 would be very interested and just one would actually follow through on trying the idea.

One thing holding it back is the fact that it must be played either first thing in the morning or late in the evening due to other golfers on the course. Another is that people have trouble grasping the concept; is it for golfers who want to keep in shape or for runners who want to take up golf?

“We’ve always concentrated our efforts on the golf angle; I think we need to focus a bit more on the running angle,” Scott admits. Then again, despite the name of the game, it’s about more than just speed. “You don’t want to Happy Gilmore it, because if you miss a one-foot putt, that’s like wasting a minute. You really want to play your best golf, then run in between shots.”

While this may not be the answer to all pace of play problems in golf, speed golf can provide a few revelations that may help slower players pick up the pace.

“Here these guys are with five or six clubs, doing it in under an hour and shooting about the same as they usually do,” Scott says. “We take so much time on the course and we can get so analytical. Does it really help us? Maybe we’d all play better if we played quicker.”

Getty Images

Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.

Getty Images

Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 10:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’

“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.

“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”

Getty Images

Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.

Getty Images

Hahn: 'My fault for not expecting the worst from fans'

By Grill Room TeamMarch 24, 2018, 8:35 pm

Fan behavior has made headlines all year long on the PGA Tour, and the topic of conversation doesn't look like it’s going away anytime soon.

The latest example came on Friday at the WGC-Dell Technologies March Play, when James Hahn took to Twitter to complain that a fan deliberately yelled in his backswing on the 15th hole during his match with Jason Dufner, which he lost 3 and 2.

“Whether we like it or not, this is where the game is going,” he tweeted. “My fault for not expecting the worst from fans. Just sucks to lose a match that way.”

The two-time PGA Tour winner followed up his original tweet, clarifying that he can expect bad behavior from all golf fans while still loving and respecting them.

He also pointed out a major difference in comparing golf to other sports, saying some PGA Tour players go to far greater lengths than the typical NFL star to engage with fans on a daily basis.

The incident comes on the heels of several recent player run-ins with fans, including Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic, Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Sergio Garcia earlier this week at Austin Country Club.

On Wednesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that inappropriate fan behavior related to alcohol sales is something his staff is monitoring.