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.”

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.