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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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

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Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”