Fossil Trace Golf Club in Golden, Colo., has strict but realistic expectations when it comes to pace of play. The staff of the municipal layout expects all its customers to finish their rounds within the “maximum pace allowed.”
This maximum pace is not an unreachable goal, but rather a reasonable duration based on data recorded from more than 100,000 rounds logged on GPS-equipped carts over the 6,831-yard layout designed by Jim Engh.
“The key thing for us is that we don’t make these numbers up,” says Jim Hajek, Fossil Trace’s director of golf. “We have the average time to the second for each hole.”
Based on these average times, Hajek and his staff have determined that four hours and 40 minutes – including an eight-minute break at the turn – is the longest that a round should take.
The staff of Fossil Trace takes plenty of steps to ensure that all players are aware of the maximum time while also providing tips to make sure all players keep pace. They send emails about the expected pace of play to customers after they have made tee times, talk to them on the first tee, place cards on carts, and display reminders on the cart’s GPS screen.
In addition, the course relies on well-trained player assistants to keep play moving. While the interaction between golfers and roving rangers can be tense or even confrontational at many courses, their relationship at Fossil Trace is amicable.
As they drive around the course, Fossil Trace’s player assistants offer candy, bandages and cold towels to patrons. In addition, they are armed with a cache of balls that they give freely to players who have lost their own.
Player assistants have reported that it is easier to manage pace of play after establishing a friendly atmosphere. When a group falls behind, a player assistant engages the golfers, informing them that they are out of position and allowing the group to get back into position.
If the group remains out of position after a reasonable opportunity, the player assistant remains friendly while providing a final warning – that the golf shop staff will move the group back into position by having them skip a hole.
“It takes a special person to be a player assistant,” says Hajek. “Normally, the golfer only interacts with marshals when there’s an issue. Hopefully, we’re changing that attitude and there’s a light atmosphere. That makes all the difference.”
If the group has not improved its position after two conversations with the player assistant, a member of the golf staff will move the group ahead or offer a rain check.
“If done correctly, the second conversation works about 99 percent of the time,” says Hajek. “The response to our policy has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Because the tee sheets at Fossil Trace are full most days, players won’t play the course in less than four hours. But rounds won’t take five hours either. Pace of play isn’t a problem at Fossil Trace because the course managers have set reasonable expectations and meet them consistently.
“There’s no reason we can’t play in 4:40 if our staff does their jobs,” says Hajek. “There’s a great deal of pride among our regulars that we’re doing something about pace of play.”