Ever hear the words, “Excuse me, May I Play Through!” Most courses want foursomes to play their round in approximately 4 hours. This is a reasonable pace and it allows everyone to enjoy his or her time on the links. Unfortunately, this is not always possible and golf etiquette suggests that when a hole behind, either speed up or let the group behind play through.
There are many definitions of playing through. A reasonable definition is allowing a faster group to proceed through a slower group if the hole ahead of the slower group is open (having no golfers playing it). The USGA suggests that it is best if the slower group invites the faster group to play through; however it is not uncommon for the faster group to politely ask the play through.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club talks about the pace of play and how to move quicker around the links and is a very good ready, but that discussion is for another day.
How exactly does a faster group play through. Of course, there are no written rules, but after discussion with many amateur golfers (who live this experience routinely), the following seems to be a consensus.
The first thing is to identity that your group is playing slowly and it is time to let the group behind play through. This may seem like an obvious statement, but some amateur players, to the chagrin of those waiting, just do not get it. I suggest your read the stories at about.com / golf about poor etiquette and slow play if you think that the first step is too obvious!
Second, once the decision is made to let them go through, which hole is best to expedite the passing. Many players say a par 3 is best; others suggest a par 4 or 5. I recommend a par 5 because it allows for the two groups and the groups behind to keep moving. If a par 5 is not possible, then a par 4 is your next best option. Lastly, a par 3.
Third, the best place is at the tee box. While waiting for the other group to arrive, the slow group should all tee off. Then, the fater group should tee off as well. I know, most of you are saying that there are 8 ball is play, but not for long.
Fourth, everyone walks to his or her ball. This is important; everyone walks to his or her ball. The slow group will wait at their ball until the faster group hits and gets out of range. Then the slow group will proceed as normal. This important step is often overlooked and if not followed, usually causes congestion for the groups coming up behind.
If on a par 3 and already in play, the slow group should wave the faster group forward. After the faster group has hit, the slow group should putt out until the faster group arrives. Then, the slow group should stop; allow the faster group to finish. Once finished, the slow group should finish and proceed to the next tee box. Usually, the faster group is gone and the slow group has a very short, if any, wait on the tee box.
A couple of questions that are continually asked about lower handicappers and professionals. If the round of golf is supposed to be 4 hours, why does it take “the good players” 5-6 hours to play around of golf? When “the good players” are taking their time, they never seem hurried by the Marshall; why is that? How come “the good players” are less likely to let faster amateurs play through…ego maybe?
It is important to understand the allowing faster groups to pass through is golf etiquette for everyone! It does not mean that things have gone wrong with your game, but it does suggest that learning to play a little faster may be in your future. Additionally, the above simple process will ensure that everyone enjoys their round of golf and within a reasonable time.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!