PACE OF PLAY
Pace of Play Symposium Produces Potential Solutions November 6, 2013 By Dan Hubbard, USGA

USGA Technical Director Dr. Matthew Pringle provided statistical and scientific data on what causes pace of play issues on the golf course. (USGA/Jonathan Kolbe)

FAR HILLS, N.J. – Enthusiasm was the buzzword of the day at the USGA-sponsored Pace of Play Symposium, as a range of golf industry leaders outlined various research findings and made recommendations that they expect will collectively help to bring the game closer to solving one of its long-standing challenges.

USGA Executive Director Mike Davis opened the day with a reaffirmation of the importance of pace of play to the future health of the game. “We don’t see this simply as a USGA initiative,” said Davis. “Pace of play is an issue that we need to address collectively in order to develop a road map.”

Matt Pringle, the USGA’s technical director, and Jim Moore, the USGA Green Section’s education director, discussed the findings of their continuing studies of pace of play based on real-world data. Pringle outlined some fundamental causes and advocated for more comprehensive measurement of key factors that most influence pace of play, while Moore concentrated on specific maintenance practices that golf courses can employ to combat the problem.

Representatives from the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour discussed the importance of proper pace of play at some of the game’s most important and visible championships. John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of Rules, Competitions & Equipment Standards, spoke specifically about the Association’s efforts throughout 2013 to monitor and improve pace of play at its championships.

Lou Riccio, a professor at Columbia University and a longtime pace-of-play analyst, noted that pace-of-play discussions typically focus on the behavior of individual golfers, yet the role of facility owners, course managers and others is of equal if not greater importance. “This is an integrated challenge, and one with many stakeholders,” said Riccio. David Hueber, a professor at Clemson University, provided an analysis of golf course design and construction from the 1990s through today, noting that courses built during this period are generally longer and more difficult to play – both direct contributors to increased pace of play.

Other representation came from some of the USGA’s most important industry partners, including The PGA of America, the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), and the Southern California Golf Association. Stephen Hamblin, the executive director of the AJGA, offered an encouraging look at the progress made at the junior levels of the game through institution of an aggressive checkpoint system at its tournaments.

The day concluded with a lively roundtable discussion focusing on the high-profile examples of pace of play set by the game’s best players.

The symposium is part of an ongoing, multi-year pace-of-play initiative introduced by the USGA in February 2013, when the Association identified pace of play as a significant threat to the game’s health. It caps nearly a year of measurable progress toward addressing one of golf’s long-standing challenges – one that impacts participation in, and enjoyment of, the game.

A recap of the pace of play symposium, including the reporting of research findings, photos and video clips, will be available after Nov. 7 on www.usga.org. The USGA’s Pace of Play Resource Center (www.usga.org/whilewereyoung) is an ongoing source of research and information for facilities and players alike.