Leaders in the sport of golf in Indiana are attempting to initiate change designed to improve the pace of play at the junior league and high school levels.
A committee of eight led by Ted Bishop, general manager at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, was formed in October to devise a plan to prevent the five- and six-hour 18-hole rounds that had been becoming more common.
The committee also includes Indiana IGA/PGA executive director Mike David, IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox and IHSAA assistant commissioner Chris Kaufman.
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Bishop witnessed two events played on his course — the Johnson County boys meet last spring and the Roncalli girls regional in September — that reinforced the need to get something done.
“I had the county boys tournament out here and there were five teams, one of which was the (eventual) state champion (Center Grove), one of which was Franklin, which is also very good — and it took six hours to play,” Bishop said.
“The regional was kind of the tipping point for me.”
A total of 108 girls golfers competed in the regional at The Legends, with play extending from the 8:30 a.m. first tee times (holes Nos. 1 and 10) to the final tee time at 10:50 a.m. The rounds lasted anywhere from five and a half to six hours, Roncalli athletics director David Lauck said.
“The pace of play has to do with the wide disparity and range of players at the sectional and regional level more than anything else, in my opinion,” Lauck said.
The pace of play committee attempts to meet at least once a month.
Initially, members engaged in telephone conferences. More recently, they’ve met face-to-face at the IHSAA offices in Indianapolis.
Kaufman, who oversees girls and boys golf for the IHSAA, is confident the committee can and will make golf more attractive to players and spectators alike.
“One of the things Ted was taken aback by was the slow pace of play, how long it took people to move through during the tournament,” Kaufman said. “Truthfully, it is an issue in all levels of both genders.
“Pace of play has slowed down so much that it is becoming an issue, especially for golf proprietors because you tie up their course longer.”
This, in turn, limits course availability for members as well as nonmembers prepared to pay greens fees for 9 or 18 holes.
The need for such a committee raises the obvious question — why has play slowed down?
A popular response is the time required for some golfers to go through his or her entire pre-shot routine. This can include the number of practice swings being taken to misguided etiquette to excessive walks to and from one’s golf bag to select the proper golf club.
The fact that some high school golfers work with their own swing coach during the season and in the offseason could result in overthinking the next shot.
“Kids’ pre-shot routines, they seem to get longer and longer. It’s like a free-throw shooter in basketball. They have their routine,” Center Grove boys coach Matt Rodman said. “I know from my experiences of playing golf where you would take one or two practice swings and then come up and hit.
“Now kids are actually thinking about it. They’re planning in advance, ‘Where do I want my second shot to be?’ But any athlete overthinks their sport sometimes.”
The pace of play committee plans to film a 20-minute instructional video in June on how to speed up rounds of golf at the high school level. It will attempt to educate in areas such as awareness (walking directly to one’s ball), pre-shot routine, putting green procedures and equipment management.
A video will be sent to every girls and boys high school coach in Indiana by late July. It will be mandatory for each coach to show the video to each of the members in his or her program before the golf season begins.
The upcoming girls high school season, scheduled to begin in July for the majority of programs, is the first opportunity to demonstrate improvements that hopefully lead to faster rounds of golf.
Committee member Ryan Lambert, former assistant executive director of the IGA/PGA, said the goal isn’t to penalize golfers for slow play, but to educate young players so that the problem eventually decreases or goes away altogether.
The committee also will work with high school administrators who host regular-season tournaments on how to run a more efficient event. Potential solutions include the number of teams invited, the manner in which tee times are spread out and the way a course is set up with tee markers and pin placements.
One way pace of play might improve in the postseason is to create one or two additional regionals with fewer individual qualifiers at each site. There are currently five regionals with 18 teams (90 players) and 18 individuals at each.
Kaufman said he thinks educating high school golfers will improve the quality of postseason competition and potentially make the sport more popular.
“I think there’s a feeling out there amongst golfers that if I play too fast, I’m not going to play well, which is probably counter to what is actually the truth,” Kaufman said.
“I think you’re going to see kids have more interest once they start to learn to play a little quicker. They’re going to realize the benefits of playing quicker. But, also, they’re not going to have to devote an entire day to go out and play a round of golf.”
Bishop’s concern as it relates to young players is they’ll believe five to six hours are typically required to complete 18-hole rounds of golf based on their own junior league or high school experiences.
Believing this, will the person choose to continue golfing into their adult years? Or will it become too difficult to fit golf into hectic schedules that include job and family responsibilities?
“On top of that, when these same kids who’ve got these pre-shot routines and are taking that amount of time to play, what are they going to do, just flip a switch when they become adults and suddenly become four-hour players?” Bishop said.
“As a busy public golf course, if my adults come out here and it takes more than four hours and fifteen minutes to play an 18-hole round of golf, they think it’s a death march. If our juniors played in that time they would think it’s a track meet.”
Ted Bishop, executive director of The Legends Golf Club
Bobby Cox, IHSAA commissioner
Mike David, executive director of the IGA/PGA
John Hatter, president of Indiana High School Golf Coaches Association
Ryan Lambert, former assistant executive director of the IGA/PGA
Chris Kaufman, IHSAA assistant commissioner
Tony Pancake, president of the Indiana PGA
Hunki Yun, USGA director of strategic projects
Golf courses taking part in the IHSAA-approved pace of play pilot program are implementing prorated golf scores starting this boys golf season for dual matches. The program is designed to encourage faster play during high school events.
Below is an example of how it would work should a player not finish nine holes in at least 2 hours, 15 minutes:
• Take the score relative to par and divide by the number of holes completed.
• Multiply by nine and then add to par.
• Example: Player is 10 over through six holes. 10/6 x 9 = 15. If par is 36, the prorated score would be 51 for nine holes.