By Keely Levins
It was Monday after Fourth of July weekend, and I was on my way to Montammy Golf Club in Alpine, N.J., for a U.S. Women's Amateur qualifier. Fortunately, a series of impressively mature decisions over the weekend led to me not being hungover. Win. Unfortunately, I had to wake up early enough to beat the traffic. I hit snooze, and thus didn't have time to make coffee. Big loss.
I went through all the motions of warming up, tried not to cry when I hit putts on a practice green that was lightning fast and tried to channel my inner Lexi Thompson off the first tee.
All was going as it should: Pins were impossible to get to and misses of a few yards turned pars into a distant dream. Annoying, but expected. The first six holes were pretty slow, and my group waited on just about every shot. But things opened up after that. Then we made the turn.
We handed in our scores for the first nine so my co-workers could check live-scoring to see how I was doing in a real golf event. (Not well. But thanks for cheering, guys.) An official came up to our group and told us that we were nine minutes behind the group in front of us, 18 minutes off pace, and were being put on the clock. As if the day wasn't hard enough. They'd start timing us, and if we fell off pace, stroke penalties to the whole group would be divvied out.
OK, this one was my bad. When we were put on the clock I could see my two playing partners tense up immediately. Yeah, it is a big deal -- no one wants an unnecessary penalty. But stressing about it isn't going to help your play at all. And if you start hitting bad shots, you're only going to get slower. So, to lighten the mood, I said to my playing partners, "Maybe they'll credit us all the time we spent waiting on the first six holes, then we'll be on pace." The official heard me. And didn't laugh. Whoops.
2. Do start playing ready golf.
Pretty much the easiest way to get things moving along: Whoever's ready should hit. No questions asked. My group did an awesome job of this. We weren't rushing, and we just weren't waiting in unnecessary places.
3. Don't stress about how unfair it is to be on the clock.
Easy to do -- especially when we were a threesome following two twosomes, and being followed by another twosome. Obviously we're going to be slower, we've got a whole extra round of golf going on! I felt myself wanting to explain that to every official who was eyeing us on those next few holes (and there were plenty). But that would've been a waste of energy -- energy that I obviously needed to try and tame the beast of a golf course I'd somehow gotten myself on.
4. Do run.
You know how you're not supposed to run on a golf course? Well, a few holes after being put on the clock we were on the tee of a par 3. We hit our shots and the official said if we didn't finish the hole in four-and-a-half minutes, we'd receive that penalty we were warned about earlier. Yeah, I bolted for that green. No shame.
5. Don't ask for the pin to be put back in when you have three minutes to putt.
One of my playing partners was on the fringe on said par 3 and walked down, but my other playing partner and I had already gotten to the green and pulled the flag. She asked for it to be put back in. Of course you're allowed to have the pin in when you're on the fringe. But when a penalty is on the line, deal with the pin already being out. A pace-of-play penalty is special in that everyone in the group gets strokes. Being selfish in a dire moment like that could've cost everyone. (Which wouldn't have been cool, because the third girl in my group had a good round going and knew she had a chance to qualify -- she eventually did. Woo!)
6. Do be nice to all the officials.
Being put on the clock is miserable, and sometimes feels like it's unwarranted. But in the end, the officials are fighting the good fight for pace of play. Which everyone should support.