Recently the United States Golf Association launched a number of major changes to the 2019 Rules of Golf. One of these new edicts comes under the heading: When to Play During a Round. The Association says that rounds of golf are taking too long and slow play detracts from the golf experience. Five-hour rounds, they say, are “incompatible with modern life.”
I understand that pace of play is important in golf and it’s frustrating when the person ahead isn’t ready to play their shot when it’s their turn. But do we really need New Rule 5.6: which encourages prompt pace of play by recommending that: you play “ready golf” and make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds.
Playing golf is good exercise. It can improve your fitness and strength, and it can help you lose weight and body fat. Playing golf can make you feel good because you connect with other people during the game and it can reduce your stress levels (as long as you don’t get completely engrossed in the score.) The five hours or so people spend on their favorite course is a nice way to wind down from a challenging week. There is fresh air to breathe, sunshine to enjoy, wind in your hair, and meditative moments while you focus your attention on your little white ball.
We are harried and stressed humans. There are never enough hours in the day to do all the things we know we should do. We don’t sleep enough, eat well enough, exercise enough, or spend enough quality time with our kids. We have significant demands from our jobs and huge pressure to make ends meet, raise our children and care for our aging parents. Our lives are governed by tight deadlines, constant availability and crushing workloads. As Americans, we are a “No Vacation Nation” (according to CNN). A typical U.S. worker gets two or three weeks “off” per year while a typical German worker gets six weeks of paid vacation plus national holidays every year.
We live in extraordinary times. Technology has streamlined our lives making us routinized, mechanized and efficient modern humans. Never before have we experienced such rapid change in our world. We don’t need more knowledge or faster computers, more scientific analyses or a “dynamic play” golf model that contours the game for us. We need to slow down and reconnect with ourselves every once in a while. And, if we can achieve this by chasing our golf ball around the golf course and taking sufficient time to read our putt, and record our score, then so be it.
Rather than launching a major initiative for playing “ready golf” and for making each stroke in no more than 40 seconds, I suggest that we start a movement for “appreciating golf.” Some visible features of truly appreciating the great game of golf would look something like this. When the guy ahead of you is taking his time to set up his shot, you step back and enjoy the delightful surroundings. When the woman on the next hole is marking her score card, you close your eyes, breathe in the fresh air, and feel gratitude for the lovely day. When the 14-year-old in the group ahead dallies, you enjoy the shade under a beautiful tree and commune with the crickets and squirrels. The art of appreciation is seriously lacking in our world today. It isn’t about keeping a certain pace or even about slowing down. It’s about breaking out of the rhythm of our fast-paced world every once in a while in order to maintain our sanity.
We have to learn to control the rhythms in our lives and determine our own tempos even when we are playing golf. We can’t rely on golf course owners, architects, or the U.S.G.A. to do it for us. If we don’t learn the important skill of appreciating the things in life we enjoy the most, we won’t survive the constant barrage of the world today. While the world keeps getting faster and faster, we’ll become more unconscious, more stressed, more unhealthy and more easily bothered than we already are.