By Dr. Lou Riccio
Pace of play may not pose a problem for some courses, not because it is under control, but because the venue offers other, very appealing qualities. Consider a great resort course or a major championship venue. Such courses can charge high fees and still bring in lots of patrons. What do golfers expect at those courses? Why do they choose to pay such high fees when there are nearby courses that charge as little as one tenth as much?
First, they want to play where the greats play (or have played) for either a once in a lifetime experience, or just to have some bragging rights. (What? Golfers like to brag and tell tall tales, you say?) Second they want a beautiful course, in perfect condition. Third they want great scenery or special/unique landscape formations.
Those are the critical factors that create the golfing experience as players see it for that type of course. Players on those courses are NOT concerned with the difficulty of the course. At such a course, there is probably no correlation between course difficulty and player skill level of the players who choose to play there. Players are most likely not concerned with the pace either. They are not there to get the round over with quickly.
Pace is not the important factor in making the decision to play such a course. Most golfers on such courses would be happy to take 5 and one half hours to play since the extra time means more time spent enjoying the view and enjoying the fresh outdoors. Many are on vacation and not in a hurry to finish. And for the experience, price is not an issue as well.
But if your course is not one of those, pace is likely an issue. Golfers have to decide whether to play or not, and where to play. Many golfers pick a course to play by location and skill level matching. Other considerations include a combination of course condition and price (value for the price.) Those are important, but pace is certainly part of the equation as well.
How important is pace? Although it is hard to pinpoint precisely, its importance is not zero. Golfers are faced with the problem that if they want to play, can they fit it in? What kind of pace experience do they expect at a specific course? How long will the round take? Are there long waits to hit shots?
Pace of play is likely a significant factor in the two decisions: to play or not to play, and where to play. For private clubs, the first is more important, to play or not to play. For public and daily fee players, it is both whether to play and where to play. If a course owner or manager doesn’t believe that to be true, they just might soon be managing a new real estate development rather than a golf course.
Visit FAIRWAYiQ to find out how we can help your course better manage Pace-of-Play