It’s about time that the PGA Tour instituted slow-play penalties that appear to have some teeth in them. Let’s hope Tour officials make the bite of the new rules really hurt when they go into effect after the Masters.
But the problem of slow play on public golf courses remains an issue, and you and I can’t be treated the same way.
Imagine playing a casual round with your usual foursome on a Saturday morning and being told this by a marshal:
“OK, buddy, you’re out of position. I saw you take a minute to line up that last putt. Two holes ago, I witnessed you taking four practice swings and then waggling the club for what seemed like an eternity.
“Your fine for your sins is $500. Oh, and that par you made? It’s now a bogey. One-shot penalty. Let me see your scorecard and I’ll change it for you.
“Furthermore, if you don’t speed up, we’re going to ban you from playing here for the rest of the year. Your picture will be posted in the clubhouse, like a ‘Most Wanted’ sign. We’ll be watching to make sure you don’t get in, and don’t try any disguises – we have detectives who watch for people like you.
“Now how would you like to pay your fine? We take credit cards. You even could write a check although I realize that no one writes checks anymore – but then, we’re way behind the times with our slow-play policies, so a check might feel more appropriate.
“Thanks for your business. Now play on … more quickly! Chop chop, as I like to say, and I’m not referring to your game! Well, maybe I am. I’ve seen your swing.”
The only way to get us hackers to speed it up is to take a positive approach. It’s going to take a PGA Tour marketing campaign that’s as appealing as the “These guys are good” ads the Tour featured several years ago.
And I have a slogan for it:
“Play the right way.”
Think about it. You could have some fun with that.
The ads could be musical. A four-syllable slogan will fit in many tunes. Imagine happy golfers dancing up the fairway to some snappy tune. Maybe some of the pros can dance.
The ads could be funny. Get a well-known pro – now that could be hilarious – to dress up like a dork and exaggerate all the ridiculous deliberations of slow players, then put him in his normal outfit moving right along. Brandt Snedeker has shown some personality in the ads he’s done, and he might be the fastest player on Tour. Have him do it.
The ads could feature plays on words. For example, “the right way” could be turned into “right-of-way” to signify the idea that fast players should have the right-of-way on the golf course, like a road without a stop sign.
The ads could have slow players in slow motion, fast players in fast motion – anything to accentuate the joys of staying on pace and the misery of being in a group that slows everyone down.
It would be a way for the Tour to show off the effectiveness of its new rules and its commitment to improving our great game across the country.
But we’re not getting anywhere with warnings. As I’ve said before, we need incentives – a free Gatorade, a free sleeve of balls, 10% off the next round, something.
It’s done all the time in retail to get customers to come back. Golf needs more than just repeat business – it needs returning customers who are truly excited about playing 18 holes in less than four hours.
It needs people who want to play the right way.