As part of its ongoing commitment to promote a more enjoyable and sustainable game, the USGA is leading efforts to identify solutions to slow play. This broad effort comprises five major research and education elements that are now in development:
Analysis of Key Factors
Factors known to influence pace of play include course design (overall length, green-to-tee walks, location and number of hazards), course management and setup (green speed, hole locations, height and location of rough), player management (most significantly, the proper distribution of starting times), and the effectiveness of player education programs.
Research to Produce Pace-of-Play Modeling
A major study is underway at the USGA’s Research and Test Center to create the first-ever dynamic model of pace of play based on quantifiable data – a model that will be applicable to both competitive and recreational golf. Previous models and programs addressing pace of play have been based largely on observations and anecdotal evidence, while the new USGA model will draw from large-scale real-world inputs, including data from the PGA Tour’s Shotlink system.
Once completed, analysis of the model should greatly increase understanding of the key factors affecting pace of play and allow recommendations for improving pace of play on a course-by-course basis.
Pace Rating System
The Test Center model will drive improvements in the USGA Pace Rating System, first developed in 1993 to help players complete a round of golf at an optimal, reasonable pace. The USGA Handicap Department will utilize data from the Test Center model to better customize the Pace Rating System for individual courses
On-site Assistance at Golf Courses
New programs to help golf course managers assess and improve pace of play will be delivered by the USGA Green Section through its Turf Advisory Service. The group will expand its educational efforts about aspects of course management that impact pace of play. The on-site visits will evaluate the overall playing quality of a golf course, of which pace of play is a central component. Recommendations provided by the USGA may also generate economic and environmental benefits, providing additional incentives for course managers to implement new practices.
Player Education Programs
The USGA will use its communication channels to reach its Members and the larger golf community with messages on improving pace of play, such as picking up one’s ball on a hole once a player’s Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) limit is reached. Other efforts could include promotion of alternate formats such as match play, foursomes and Stableford scoring that are popular in other parts of the world and that take less time to play than the standard individual stroke-play format.
The USGA will also work to promote the nine-hole round of golf as a viable option for golfers who are pressed for time. Contrary to the beliefs of some golfers, a nine-hole round is fully compatible with both the Rules of Golf and the USGA Handicap System.
The USGA’s online pace of play resource center will serve as a primary source of information for both players and facilities as this important initiative moves forward.
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