Saturday, May 3, 2014

A new kind of 19th hole - and a solution to slow play

I got this email because I signed up for news about Gaylord, Michigan, a sort of golf mecca in that part of the country:

Black Bear’s 19th hole... for settling bets or warming up.
When most people think about the 19 hole, they think about what their favorite cocktail might be when celebrating a win or a great round, but at Black Bear Golf Club near Gaylord, the 19 hole means one more swing and a few more “shots”, no pun intended.
Whether it’s for warming up, or settling a bet, the 19 hole is becoming a popular addition for golf courses. At Black Bear, check in, warm up with some range balls, and on the way to the first tee you can have the option to warm up before you play, or save it until the end. The 159-yard par 3 warm up hole is a very fun and playable hole featuring an undulating green complex protected by two bunkers on each side. An opening in front of the green allows for run up shots making it fun for all levels of play.
Black Bear’s 19 hole for settling bets or warming up is not alone in golf. Other top rated courses around the country like The Dunes in Myrtle Beach, Streamsong Resort in Florida, and nearby at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Northern Michigan, also include their own game-ending one shot wonders.
Black Bear Golf Club, located just north of Gaylord, offers some of the most diversified terrain in the state by combining Scottish links style holes with traditional tree lined Northern Michigan hardwood holes. Black Bear features wide playable fairways, large green complexes, along with strategic bunkering making it a fun challenge for all levels of golfers. Visit

The 19th hole, an extra par 3, is the infrastructure part of my slow play solution.  The expensive part.  The rest is relatively easy.

The gist of it is that whenever a slow group comes to a par 3 and the group ahead of them has already finished the hole and is teeing off (or has teed off) on the next hole, they skip that par 3 and go directly to the next tee.  Then, after they play the 18th hole, they play the 19th in place of the one they skipped.

The rule should be written on the scorecard, so that it can be enforced by someone in the group, or someone in the group behind the slow group, but a ranger or GPS and messaging technology can also be used.  Until it becomes commonplace, it should also be mentioned in the Pro Shop when greens fees are collected.  It should not be a surprise to anyone.  There would need to be some provision for timing as well, in case a slow group has nobody in front of them.  Obviously, if the slow group in front of you has suddenly disappeared at a par 3, they have skipped it and you should not.  The 19th hole needs lots of teeing grounds, so that it can be a good substitute for any of the other par 3's on the course.  And groups playing the 19th as a make-up hole should have priority over those playing a warm-up or extra hole.

Maybe the only thing more frustrating than constantly waiting for the group in front of you is constantly rushing to try to make up for slow play in your own foursome.  Playing through can work for a twosome or threesome behind a foursome that is out of position, but otherwise is cumbersome and often ineffective, simply shifting the wait from one group to another while not speeding up play overall.  Skipping par 3's, and playing them later,  allows 5-hour golfers to play at their own pace without holding up the 4-hour golfers.

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