Pace improving on Chattanooga area golf courses

Pace improving on Chattanooga area golf courses

July 23rd, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sportlocal

Matt Robertson competes in the Chattanooga men's metro, at Brainerd Golf Course in this July 13, 2014, file photo.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

Only the likes of Clint Eastwood can give Arnold Palmer a dirty look for asking him to pick up the pace while playing at Pebble Beach.

The Hollywood legend does so in a USGA commercial, released more than a year ago, in conjunction with other professional golfers encouraging recreational golfers to play the game a little faster.

Pace of play has been a topic for about a decade. Nobody likes rounds that take five hours with a wait on every every teeing ground.

Suggestions from the USGA -- such as its "While we're young" series of television commercials -- in addition to other promotions from the professionals tours and the PGA of America seem to be making a difference in the great Chattanooga area.

The final group -- a threesome -- of the Chattanooga Men's Metro completed its round in less than 3 hours, 30 minutes two Sundays ago at Brainerd Golf Course.

"That's the best tournament I've played as far as pace of play," said champion Matt Robertson who also works at Brainerd. "I know golf is social for recreational golfers who spend time talking instead of playing.

"Our morning low-ball tournaments take about four hours with foursomes, but anything over four hours becomes a long round."

No matter the tournament, from the Men's Metro to a U.S. Amateur qualifier last Monday at Cleveland Country Club to the Southern Amateur at The Honors Course last weekend to the events shown on television like the British Open last weekend, pace is still a topic.

It's not going away because there are players who play slowly and don't adhere to the guidelines of playing "ready-golf."

"It comes and goes," said Cleveland Country Club general manager Lamar Mills. "Overall, this year, from our experience with [charity] tournaments and normal play, we haven't fought much slow play. I think most golfers are being conscientious."

There have been exceptions in recent weeks.

The rounds in 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier surpassed five hours and pushed six. The same for the Southern Amateur last week, but both tournaments require players to walk and the stakes were much greater than a normal weekend forusome.

Those high-level tournaments were different from the everyday rounds at Nob North, Brown Acres, Moccasin Bend, Bear Trace and the other public courses which cater to recreational golfers.

The campaigns are aimed at them. The pitches seem to be working for the most part. There's the occasional group of stragglers playing from tees too far back, spending five minutes to look for a ball (several times per round) and clog up a course.

"I haven't heard much conversation about it this year," Moccasin Bend head professional Devere Keller said. "I think the awareness has been put out enough that people are aware of it."

Keller has played less than 36 holes all year and spent more time watching golfers than competing against them.

"There are a lot of people that are playing it forward. Everybody used to tee up next to the shack and play the blue tees. That's not happening anymore. Look at the wear pattern -- folks are using the white tees and green tees a lot more than they used to."

Mills, also the head pro at Cleveland, has witnessed an increase in rounds played this year due to an increase in club membership. He has not witnessed an increase in slow play.

"The USGA helps us and every golf course to make golfers aware," Mills said. "Nobody wants to be out there for five hours having fun. Really, they've been moving along."

Golfers have picked up on the idea to pick up the pace on both public and private courses.

"People have recognized that to get into a round, you got to pick up the pace," said Chattanooga recreational golfer Woody Bolus. "With the Golf Channel, and social media and celebrities coming on board, the average golfer wants to imitate that and keep the pace up."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.