Confessions From a Former Slow Golfer

It’s a rare thing to see.  A golfer who discovers he is slow, and instantly does something about it!  I’ve got a friend who did just that.  Clint is now one of the fastest golfers (and most enjoyable playing companions) I’ve ever played with.

Most slow golfers make excuses, stay in denial, or lash out at the accusers….. Here’s someone who took responsibility and did something about it!  Here’s his story: 

Confessions from a Former Slow Golfer, part I

by Clint

I used to play really slow.  Casual golf was slow, and competitive golf was even slower.

By “competitive golf” I mean high school golf team, local junior tournaments, and then eventually some local amateur tournaments.  This slowness spanned from when I took up the game at 16 to my late 20’s. So that’s over decade.  I was slower than my playing partners in most cases, in all of these playing scenarios. 

One small problem: I had no idea I was playing slow.  This is strange because I pride myself on having a good sense of awareness.

Why was I slow?  When I took up golf, I immediately fell in love with the PGA tour.  Greg Norman was my idol.  Though a dashing, dazzling personality and player, he takes his time on the course, often reading putts from more than two sides.  His pre shot routine on the full swing is also very deliberate, waggling several times, gradually inching the clubface from inside the ball to behind the ball.  No one, including me, seemed to have an issue with Norman, or his idol Jack Nicklaus, for that matter.  So I guess Norman and other tour pros created a model for me, as to what was “normal speed” for a player who took their game seriously.  In truth, I was probably slightly faster than these guys, but that’s not saying much. 

I also recall reading a lot of golf magazines in my early playing days.  One of the things that really stayed with me was the emphasis on course strategy.  For example, don’t just hit the driver on every tee shot.  Don’t just hit every chip shot with a sand wedge.  In fact, don’t even hit every sand shot with a sand wedge (ie, 8 and 9 irons can come in handy on long bunker shots).

Having an analytical streak in me, I really related to this decision-making aspect of the game. I thought playing the percentages would help my scores.  It did.  But deciding to hit a 2-iron instead of a driver or 3-wood takes more time than simply pulling driver without thinking. Deciding to hit a low, punch 6-iron or a full, high 7 iron takes time. 

Thinking takes time.  Strategy takes time.

So this went on for more than a decade…me playing slow golf…oblivious to the fact that I was playing slow.  Strangely, several years of this slow play was alongside an extremely fast player, who had also become a great friend.  He can be an impatient guy at times, so why it took him several years to finally say something is puzzling.  Perhaps it was not wanting to hurt my feelings. Perhaps it was not wanting to throw me off my game.  I don’t know.  I don’t think I ever asked him.  Perhaps I will after sharing all of this.  One day, back in the late 90’s, he, myself and another friend were on our way to play a course out of town.  During the car ride, about halfway to the course, in the middle of our normal pre-round golf talk conversations, my friend told me I was slow.  I’ve blocked out his exact words, but it was something matter-of-fact, like “You’re really slow.” 

“What?!!!!” I retorted.  “You’re slow”, he repeated.

I asked my other buddy, with a sense of extreme incredulity in my voice, “I am??!!”

He nodded, and managed to squeak out a hesitant “Yeah.” 

Being 6’3″, I have a long stride, and I use it when I walk during my round.  I’m like a gazelle.  How could a gazelle play slow? 

“But I walk really fast”, I offered up. 

They both agreed that I walked fast, but that was more than negated by the painstaking time it took to execute my shots.  Multiple practice swings, club choosing….just taking a long time to actually hit the ball.

Well, after getting the news, I was stunned, and embarrassed.  I absolutely hated being considered slow.  I understood what a terrible stigma that was in golf.  I don’t remember what I shot that day.  I do remember trying to play faster once it was my turn.

To be continued….

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