Playing Faster

Written by Gary Buffington, MD, Golf Addiction Statistics App developer.  

Summary To Playing Fast

There is only one way to speed up the game: BE IMMEDIATE. GET immediately to the ball, and once you've arrived, immediately HIT it. Then immediately get out of there on your immediate route to the next shot! Never cover the same turf twice.  

Parking the cart or your bag in the right place is a major  time saver.  Do not ever retrace your steps.  (General Patton never gave up gained ground.)  Be ready to hit.  Figure it all out before your turn.  Number of practice stokes have little to do with speed of play.  Ride in the cart with your club after your shot.  That is, replace the club into your bag  when you are ready to take out the next club.  This is another major time safer, perhaps 30 minutes in a round per player.  Do not lay your putter on the Flag-stick on the green (often done when the green is wet to protect your putter grip.)  But when your club is on the stick, no one else will pick up the stick to replace it in the hole. 


Golf is a great game that can be played by anybody at any age. This helps make it a great sport! Traditionally a round of golf lasted about three and one half hours or at least less than four hours. But, the pace of play has gotten a lot slower. Many rounds at all levels are taking up to five hours! There is no need for rounds over four hours. Notice that your Golf Addiction Statistics App will congratulate you when your round is under four hours. Why is a round of golf taking so long? Because players waste time during the round, and this time waste is not to better enjoy the day or the round, but is most often related to bad habits and lack of knowledge of time management. Here at the GAS Blog we plan to quicken play with helpful tips. 

One thing to note about a round is that the number of shots hit per player doesn’t usually have much to do with the Time it takes. And although many junior tournaments have limited practice stokes, it is not a few practice strokes that makes a round last five hours! Many old codgers, our App developer included, can hardly break 85 and his group of four routinely plays in less than 3.5 hours; and they often tell a bunch of lies and BS a lot through the whole round! So how do they get around so fast, you say? The time needed for a round of golf is not so much the time used up, but is more often the time wasted. Time is lost for the following reasons:
  1. a player does not know when to hit.
  • For golf to be played its fastest, players have to know who is next to play. This is called “who is up” or is referred to as “honor.” The honor belongs to the player that is farthest away from the hole; but this is a convention for practical purposes as we are trying to get everyone closer to the hole and let the far guy go first. THIS IS NOT A RULE, IT IS A CONVENTION. This convention can and should be often broken.
    • It is better to play “Ready Golf:” That is, if you are ready, play your shot. Don't waste time waiting on the guy who is not yet ready. He may have legitimate reasons to not be ready. Give him a break and speed play.
  1. A player isn't ready when it is his turn to hit. Immediately upon hitting a shot, you should be thinking on what you have to do to make up for or take advantage of what you just did! When you arrive at your ball you should already know what you plan to do with it. You should know the wind, the direction, the distance, and the approximate club requires. Only an immediate assessment of the lie and stance will change the options. To save time: Get to the ball, and once you arrived, hit the ball. Then get out of there on your immediate route to the next shot! 

  2. And the number one reason golf is slow is that players spend too much time covering the same turf more than once.
  • General Paton always said: “I refuse to give up gained ground.” He never retreated. He never went backwards. He never covered the same turf twice. What is the sense in that?
  • There is a race called a “Ride and Tie”in which a team of two people and one horse race against other such teams. The rules are simple: One rider at a time is allowed on the horse, and the other person proceeds on foot to a distance of often ten miles. It is well known that a horse on foot (even with a rider) will go faster than a person on foot. So the rider on the horse, being faster, will get considerably ahead of the second person, so after some distance of riding he stops and ties the horse and proceeds ahead on foot. The second team member, when he arrives at the horse, can untie and mount and proceed as a horse and rider to catch the other team member who is running ahead on foot. The race is won when the first team (all of them) reach the finish line. Well it never takes long for these teams to realize that the horse must be the star of the show. At no times, or the most limited time, should the horse be out of action (tied). The horse and rider team should never get far ahead of the other person or it will take too long to catch up. So let's start our race. We have horse (H), person me (M), and person you (Y) on our team. We start with me riding the horse (Me and Horse or MH), and you (Y) running. MH sprints out about 50 yards and ties the horse and M runs ahead. Y quickly (he only had to go 50 yards) gets to the horse and unties and YM rides 50 yards ahead of M and ties the horse and Y proceeds ahead. It should not take long for Y and M to realize that when one is getting off of the horse, the other should be immediately getting on. Soon the horse is not tied at all (no wasted time between M getting off and Y getting on). We are maximizing our resources and keeping our fasted teammate in action at all times. We also do not park (tie) the horse off the trail where time is lost getting off our trail to find our ride. We do not tie the horse even one step south of our location if we are heading north. Like general Douglas Paton, we “never give up gained ground.” That is, we never cover the same ground twice—what is the sense in that.

  • When driving a cart always proceed as close as you can to your partners ball. Don't drive off and abandon him. Never let your playing partner walk off to his ball and walk back. This is the same ground covered twice and the biggest cause of lost time in a round of golf. Proceed to your ball again as close as possible. Hit the shot and get back into the cart. Move to the next shot location.

  • When arriving at the green let the partner with the longest chip off near his ball with both his chipping club and his putter in hand. Be sure there are NO LONG WALKS here as much time is lost doubling back around the green. The one closest to the hole becomes the cart driver and parks nearest his ball where he will also not need to double back walking the same ground twice. As soon as the cart driver plays his shot he moves the cart to the cart path spot nearest the planned exit from the green. So while the playing partner is playing his next shot, the cart driver has played and parked the cart ready for use immediately after all have holed out. The cart is NEVER left where the players walk to the cart giving up ground already gained!

The rules of golf allow 40 seconds to hit your shot after the person ahead of you has played. That's at least 20 seconds more than you need. Actually from when you start the back stroke and the ball has left the club-face it only takes about 3 seconds. In official events if a player fails to meet this requirement, they are “put on the clock!” That means the official begins to time your play. Now that's a lot of fun! Some jerk you don't know, and wouldn't have invited along if you did know him, is watching your every move with a stop watch, a notebook, and authority to have you arrested! We think the next Mobile Application Game will be called “Shoot the Golfer.” If a player doesn't play within 20 seconds (half the alloted time) you can shoot him. Now obviously nobody would ever shoot a co-competitor(or would we!) but maybe we could offer them our quick play tips and refer them to the GAS blog for some help!
  • Walk with a purpose. There is nothing that wastes time worse than someone that dilly dallies. The purpose is to get to the next shot. Keep up the pace.
  • Park the cart in the proper place. Never have to walk backwards or out of the way to get to it. Always park in the closest legal spot to the ball
  • Many players take an extra club or two to the ball for final decision making. Often times, this club is misplaced or left behind (forgotten)! To avoid this problem, take your towel to the green with them. Towels are easy to spot. This will help you remember where your stuff is. If you chip or pitch, place the clubs down between the hole and your golf bag, not where you chipped from. You will save time in retrieving clubs if they are on your exit path from the green.

Following these tips will lead to faster golf, and probably better golf.