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.


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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.”

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Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

By BRADY COFFIN

My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Woods commits to Wells Fargo and The Players

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods will tee it up each of the next two weeks, having officially committed to both the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

Woods' commitment to next week's event in Charlotte was confirmed by multiple Golf Channel sources and first reported during Thursday's "Golf Central."

The 42-year-old later took to Twitter to formally announce that he is ready for another back-to-back stretch:

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish earlier this month at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods' return to The Players will mark his first trip to TPC Sawgrass since 2015. He won on the Stadium Course in both 2001 and 2013. This will be Woods' second back-to-back of the season, having missed the cut at the Genesis Open before finishing 12th the following week at the Honda Classic.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.