Around the Traditions Club at Texas A&M, the mere mention of “pace of play” can raise hairs and make even the fastest player cringe. With a creek fronting 12 of 18 greens creating long walks and difficult approach shots, not a single competitive round had been played in less than five hours, prior to Easter Weekend. Not a single round.
Though the stories of six-hour rounds were daunting, the course’s pace of play history did not discourage tournament staff as they prepared for the AJGA Championship at Traditions. Instead, it set the bar and instantly became a goal.
Not only did the AJGA record the first 119 sub-five hour competitive rounds at the Traditions Club at Texas A&M (that’s 90 percent of the tournament’s competitive rounds), but it also served as a reminder that pace of play is a correctable problem.
“By teaching them proper pace of play early, the AJGA is setting its members up for success when they play throughout the ranks,” said Jeremy Freyman, AJGA tournament director of the AJGA Championship at Traditions. “It’s important to the AJGA to teach these kids at an early age, and teaching them about all aspects of golf is going to help them out even more down the road.”
With the tournament’s time par established at an aggressive 4 hours, 32 minutes, players met the AJGA’s policy and exceeded the course’s expectations. During the 54-hole tournament, which featured 44 groups each day, the average pace of play was 4 hours, 47 minutes. The fastest round was 4 hours, 20 minutes.
“In a tournament, players spend more time with each shot, but ideally you play the way you practice,” said Jim Baetge, Junior Golf Director at the Traditions Club at Texas A&M. “And people don’t practice playing five-hour rounds.”
Introduced in 2002, the AJGA’s Get Crackin' Pace of Play Policy holds players responsible for their group’s position on the golf course during the entire round, which is indicated by a system of red cards and green cards.
The AJGA takes into account the course’s difficulty, walking distance between holes, and many other playing factors in order create an overall time par – the amount of time in which the AJGA expects each group to finish a round.
“The AJGA enforces its policy and the kids respect it,” Baetge said. “As long as the kids understand what is expected of them, they can keep up the pace of play.”
In 2007, the AJGA conducted 81 tournaments and 221 tournament rounds. The average pace of play for the year was 4 hours, 29 minutes.
“In the corporate world, nobody wants to play with a guy who takes five practice swings and takes forever to play,” Baetge said. “You have to get around the course in a timely manner in order for people to enjoy playing with you.”