13 Tips to Keep Pace of Play

Isn’t it frustrating when you are stuck behind slow golfers? How are you supposed to play when you have to wait for every shot? …..It’s okay, breathe! To answer these questions, we have to first learn the rules of keeping pace of play when playing our round.

What is Pace of Play

The pace of play is the pace in which your group plays each hole on the course. Why is this important? Because at the end of the day, golf is a business and keeping a nice rhythm of players coming in and out is what keeps the course running and the customers happy. Each course has their own guidelines and times that they expect each group to keep up to. Longer courses have a longer expected pace of play, and shorter courses have a shorter expected pace of play.

Here are my tips to help keep the pace of play!

1. Find a Course’s Pace of Play Guidelines

Located on either in the golf cart or scorecard will be the pace of play guidelines that your group will need to follow. (Sometimes located in the pro shop). For example, our courses say that a foursome riding should finish 9 holes in 2 hours and 15 minutes and 18 holes in 4 hours and 30 minutes. It is essential to know this information so that you can determine how fast your group is expected to play and make adjustments if necessary. Obviously, groups that are walking or have 1,2 or 3 players will have a different pace of play duration than what is recommend so modifications will need to be made.

2. Show Up Early for your Tee Time

If you’ve read my article on “how to book a tee time,” you know how important it is to show up on time for your golf round. Showing up early helps the golf course staff position and direct you to the first hole without causing any confusion to the other customers. After all, golf is a business, and it is courteous and professional to show up on time and ready for your round.  Working at a golf course, I too often deal with customers who show up right at, or, after their scheduled tee times. What this does is it pushes back everyone else’s tee times causing a rush towards the first tee.

Some courses may not even let you play if you show up after your tee time so that they can keep the pace of play for their other customers

3. Mark your Golf Ball

Make sure you put some markings on your golf ball, so you know it is yours. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked my beginning students which ball they are playing, and they have no clue! Putting markings on your golf ball lets you know what to look for when you are looking for your ball. To do this, use a colored sharpie on the golf ball.  Some of the favorite markings you can make on your golf ball are:

  • A line under the ball manufacturer’s name
  • Dots around the golf ball
  • A line going all the way around the golf ball
  • I’ve even seen someone write their name on their golf ball before!

Use your creativity but make sure that your golf balls are marked so that you know which ball you are playing. This helps quicken the pace of play and keeps the whole group moving.

4. Choose the Proper Tee

Choosing the proper tee to play from is crucial for maintaining the pace of play and optimizing your experience at a golf course.

You’re not going to have much fun if you are beginner playing from the back tees right?

Playing from the correct tee markers allows you play at “your” skill level and helps level out the game between beginners and more experienced players. Don’t over complicate things and stress yourself out by trying to play the more difficult tees. Just keep practicing and improving, you’ll get there!

If you want to know how to understand which tees to play from on the scorecard, check out my article here!

5. Pair Up

Now don’t freak out! I know a lot of you may be timid about pairing up with other strangers at a golf course. While I understand where you are coming from, sometimes the golf course has no choice but to place you with others just to keep all of the groups moving. At the golf course where I work, we pair up twosomes and singles with other twosomes and singles when it is jam-packed. This keeps the pace of play and makes the tee sheet more organized for the golf course. And the more prepared the tee sheet is at the golf course, the better playing experience you will have at the course!

Some quick guidelines of what tee times to avoid if you DO NOT want to be paired up are:

  • Early Weekend 6:30-12:00 P.M
  • Early Weekday 7:00- 11:00 A.M
  • Just before leagues 2:30- 4:00 PM

These are only guidelines and vary from course to course. However, these times are when most courses need to be the most organized and concerned that all of their customers are grouped and keeping pace.

6. Hit a Provisional

A provisional is a “second” ball you can elect to hit if you believe your shot may be out of bounds or maybe possibly lost.

Playing a provisional helps improve pace of play because if you cannot find your golf ball, you just add a penalty stroke and then continue playing with your new ball. (This saves time from you having to go all the way back and re-hit your previous shot)

To learn more about hitting a provisional and other golf rules you need to know, read here!

7. Keep Up with the Group in Front of You

This tip is probably the most common that is given to you by the pro shop on busy days.

When there are groups before and after your group, it is imperative that you keep up with the group in front of you to limit and gaps between holes.

Now, this doesn’t mean to “rush” through your holes to catch up. Keeping up with the group in front of you means that you should be aware of where the other groups are and to be conscious of your own group’s play time.

8. Play Through

I can guess that you’re probably like me and hate waiting on slow golfers in front of you. It’s tough to get a rhythm going when you have to wait all the time. Don’t Worry! It is proper golf etiquette to let the faster group “play through”to keep the pace moving on the course. This means that if you are a single or two-some and there is a threesome or foursome in front of you, they should allow you to play through because you should be a faster group. So be mindful of how many members each group has and which groups are playing faster than others. It might be beneficial for everyone if you let a group play through or ask the group in front of you if it is alright to go in front of them.

Note: If you are asking a group if it is alright to play through, be respectful and kind. People don’t like to be told that they are slow so by asking nicely, their defenses won’t go up, and they will gladly let you pass in front of them.  Don’t just skip a slow group!

9. Play Ready Golf

Ready Golf is just as it sounds, “Hit your ball when you are ready.” Yes, I know golf etiquette is to let the player who is furthest away from the hole go first. However, for most of us playing at local public courses, feel free to play ready golf so that you can keep the group moving and prevent a delay for yourself and others on the course.

10. Don’t Look for Golf Balls

Searching for lost golf balls can affect a group’s pace of play and cause delays throughout the course.  Now, I’m not trying to tell you to stop looking for golf balls in the woods and creeks. There is a time and place for when you should and shouldn’t look for golf balls.

Should: When you are waiting for the group in front of you to finish out the hole. Feel free to look around and see if you can find any lost balls.

Shouldn’t: On busy days when there are groups ahead and behind you

Remember that for everyone to have a fun experience on the course, you have to keep the proper pace and know when and when not to look for golf balls.

11. GPS Carts

It is becoming more popular these days for golf courses to use GPS systems in their carts.

GPS Golf Carts
If you haven’t seen these, they are tiny screens hanging in the golf cart and are really cool!

These carts feature:

  • Distances to the green on each hole
  • Flyby feature creates a bird’s eye view of each hole
  • USB Ports
  • Order Food and beverages
  • Hazards and ground under repair are geofenced to ensure course policies and procedures
  • Electronic Scorecard
  • Receive weather warnings and alerts from the pro shop
  • Improved playing experience for both the golfer and management

Because of all of these features, the pace of play is easily tracked and monitored from the pro shop. If your group falls behind, you may receive a note on your screen that tells you how many minutes you are behind at the preferred round pace.

12. Listen to the Rangers

Most golf courses have rangers on staff that ride around the course to keep the groups moving, and everyone satisfied. Their jobs are to find any gaps that may exist out on the course and alert groups if they are falling behind the course’s pace of play standards. Now I know that you don’t like strangers telling you to move faster, however, this is a business, and you are required to follow the regulations of the course. Even the pros on TV get told from time to time that they need to pick up the pace of play. (You can get penalized for slow play in competitive golf!)

The opposite is also true. If a group in front of you is too slow, feel free to golf the pro shop or flag down a ranger to alert them of the slow play. Rangers will make it easier for faster groups to play through the slower groups and quicken the pace of play.

13. Don’t Delay at the Turn

I see it too often where groups making the turn after 9 holes come into the pro shop and take too much time before going to hole number 10. To avoid this delay, most courses have beverage carts that ride around the course selling drinks/food.  Take note of where the beverage cart is so that you can stock up on food or drinks while on the course so you don’t have to head into the pro shop at the turn. Also, stock up on golf balls and golf accessories before your round, so you don’t have to scramble going back in the pro shop.


I hope now you understand the importance of pace of play and how it affects how the entire golf course operates.

So the next time you are stuck behind slow players or some of your group members are taking too long, remember these tips to not only make your round more enjoyable but everyone else on the course as well!

  1. Find the Course’s Guidelines for the expected pace of play for your round
  2. Show up early for your tee time so the course can get you off the first tee box on time
  3. Mark your golf ball so you know it’s yours
  4. Choose the proper tee to play from based on your skill level
  5. Pair up with others to play a faster round
  6. When in doubt if you’ve lost your ball, play a provisional
  7. Keep up with the group in front of you
  8. Play through slower groups or let faster groups play through you
  9. Play Ready Golf
  10. Don’t look for golf balls when other groups are behind you
  11. Use GPS carts to your advantage
  12. Listen to the rangers and ask them for help if your round moving too slow
  13. Don’t delay when making the turn

Enjoy your round!

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