Adjusting to Slow Play in Golf

Jim FinishThe natural flow of a round of golf is something I think is very important to low scores. This flow includes all aspects of your round and must be flexible. Previously, I mention that I use techniques adjust to a slower round, especially during tournament play. These techniques work for me hopefully you will find them useful.

It is important to understand that staying within your natural flow as much as possible during a slow round is important to great golf. Even though the play is slow, the following things I never change:

  • Preshot routine – regardless of what is happening around me or how long I have to wait, I never change my preshot routine. Same routine and same tempo through each shot.
  • Walking to your ball – I walk to my ball at my normal speed. Keeping my same speed helps with my natural flow and preshot routine. Sometimes I have to wait for others to hit, but that is normal. If I am waiting for quite a while see the points below I use to help pass the time. (Attention – if everyone is always waiting for you….well maybe it is time to speed up a bit)
  • Club Distance – knowing generally how far I hit a specific club never changes. The exact yardage may vary slightly depending on conditions, but for the most part, my club distance will never change.
  • Course Management – I try to play within my capabilities all the time. If I never draw the ball, as an example, I do not attempt in during the middle of my round regardless of how inviting the shot may be.

After ensuring the four points above never change, I still find that I still have lots of time to kill before it is my turn. To lower my frustration in these moments, here is what I do:

  • Carry a wet towel – I use a wet towel to clean my golf ball before I putt. I generally clean my ball every 3 or 4 holes, but now it is at every green.
  • Clean your clubs after every shot – I know most of you will say that I should be doing that anyway, however I am talking about giving it a good cleaning. This takes a few moments longer and allows players to get a head start before I walk to my ball.
  • Examine the conditions – while waiting for my turn to hit, I take a closer look at the wind, my lie, the lay for the hole and the location of the pin. Most of the time I do this while walking to my ball, but when things are slow, I wait until I get to my ball on the fairway.
  • Have a snack or drink– I keep some food in my bag. Just snack food or the odd sandwich. I also carry plenty of water. I find that on slow rounds I need to keep my strength and having liquids or food helps pass the time and keep me energized.
  • Stay mentally focused – I hum a tune in my head. It varies from round to round, but it keeps me in the moment. When I am waiting, I find music helps pass the time way. It keeps me calm and relaxed.

The above mentioned techniques are probably not a big surprise to most of you avid or competitive golfers. They work very well for me and the list is definitely not an all-inclusive one.

I would interested in what techniques to you use to keep the slow play monster from bothering your game?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


10 thoughts on “Adjusting to Slow Play in Golf

  1. All summer long I played 36 holes in 4 hours twice a week. I was by myself of course. The times I played with others were slower to one degree or another but seldom really felt slow. My scores have been ok for me with low eighties on a normal day and the good days just below and my best to date a 75. Until last year, I had played with a terrible set up…hands too strong, bad posture, the works. But somehow I still learned how to draw the ball and shoot low 80’s most of the time. Then my draw turned into a wicked hook and I was struggling to find fairways again. It got so bad I even hooked my wedges. So last year I changed everything to conform to best practices using books from the greats and practiced a bit to try and just hit the ball holding the club properly. Once I started feeling like I could feel somewhat comfortable, I took a lesson so I could be sure what I was doing was proper. They adjusted me a bit and I have taken it from there. Just thinking I needed to get really comfortable and maybe then get more lessons. So I settled in for what I knew would be a long road back to good golf (for me anyway). But I played a lot and managed it. It was easier than I imagined because now that I was holding the club properly my balls flight was dramatically improved. And that made a bigger difference than I had given it credit for.

    Now I’m looking for my first par. After all the fast play I’ve been doing at my normal course, I went someone else today because they had an event when I wanted to play. The course I chose was a short tight course (par 69) I played a lot years ago when I was learning. It’s where a lot of my personal bests have been posted in the past. I broke 90, and 80 there first. I got my first and only hole in one there. It full of fond memories. And better yet, I always have putted well there.

    But today frustrated the crap out of me. I could not keep my rhythm though out the game. Again I was a single. But there was no where to go and the threesome ahead didn’t offer to have me join and it was just too busy to skip a hole or three. Usually in that situation, I just drop another ball and play two, first one counts. And I did today but even that wasn’t enough. I also spent a few minutes practice putting both balls on the green after holing out most of the day. But still I waited for every shot because I had people behind me too though they struggled to keep up themselves. And that waiting showed in my score at the end of the day. I don’t normally get too upset about it. But today it was different. I played some really good golf. Except for two holes on each nine. But during the day I dropped three 20 foot putts in a row. I hit both the par 5’s in two with a driver-4 iron and tap in birdied both. I missed a couple of greens and hit the flag with the pitch back on both times.

    The holes I blew were at choke points. There was two groups on each of those holes when I got to them. I had to wait and watch two groups hit 2 really really bad shots each before I could hit mine. That was probably a mistake. I should have been using your advice instead practice chipping or something. As it was. I played those holes badly and got doubles on two of the four and bogies on the others. And that kept me from getting my first par today. Without those six extra strokes, I was 4 under. So it wasn’t a bad day. It was another record low score for me at just 2 over. So it should have been a great day. But it left me frustrated. Especially with par so close but still missed.

    I usually peak like this about once every three months or so. Sometimes I even get two games out of it so I guess there’s hope for me this Wednesday. For now I guess I just have to be patient some more. It will come if I can only learn patience. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.


    • Kevin

      Great to hear from you. You story is very interesting. Your drive to break par is a quest many of us have. From the sounds of things, your physical game is excellent. Your two minor blow ups would be assessed as mental. I think most of us struggle when the tempo of our game changes dramatically during a round. I guess focusing on your mental side of your game might be your next step to breaking par. Good Luck and keep us informed.



  2. Jim- I like your humming suggestions for staying loose and relaxed.

    I carry a sharpie in my bag and take my time to draw perfect lines on whatever loose ball
    I can find in my bag while waiting on tee boxes.


  3. Jim

    Great suggestions. Giving the clubs a thorough cleaning is a good idea. Obviously most of us give them a quick wipe to get mud off or what not, but getting them shiny when you’re waiting is a good way to distract yourself!

    Yesterday we got caught behind a slow group. They were playing from the back tees on a tough course and much of the time couldn’t even reach the fairway…precede that with very long pre-shot routines and a lot of standing around. it was beyond frustrating. Our focus and desire to score fell by the way side as we were just baffled by the antics of the group ahead, and that they wouldn’t let us through when they were several holes behind. We were in serious need of some go to techniques to stay into our round.

    Great topic



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