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Friday, September 7, 2012

Crystal Springs Speeds Up The Game

I confess: I am a speed demon. I abhor slow play. A four-hour round of golf is a snail's pace and four-and-a-half puts me into a serious funk. My idea of a great round is about three hours and I've done it walking--in a foursome--plenty of times.

That's why I'm pumped about the Fast Track initiative at Crystal Springs in Sussex County, NJ. The forward-thinking seven-course resort makes it happen in a player-friendly way without losing any of the pleasure of the game.  “We’ve explored a lot of different methods and programs to make golf more appealing and more fun, inclusive, and more enjoyable,” says Director of Golf Art Walton. “It excites those who really like to get around the course. That gives them time to play another round, get home, or enjoy the many other amenities at the resort.”  They started the initiative at Wild Turkey and then added it to Black Bear last year. According to Walton, it's going well.

Crystal Springs Resort
Crystal Springs Resort - photo courtesy of the resort
Tee times from opening to 8 AM at the two courses are reserved for Fast Track players, who pledge to finish in four hours or less. To speed up play, “ready golf” is expected rather than following the strict honors order of play and hunts for lost balls are limited to one minute rather than five. The starters also encourage groups to play from the correct tees and players are asked to pick up his or her ball if seven strokes have been played on any given hole. If a group is slow, the course assistants often declare out of bounds to be played as lateral hazards to eliminate re-teeing.

Player assistance on the golf course is key to the system. The rangers police the pace of play with tracking sheets for each group. “When someone is five minutes off, they’ll communicate with them,” Walton explains. "They get a warning to keep up with the group in front of them. If they can’t, we relocate them to their appropriate position on the course. That’s the only way to do it.” He adds that playing through isn’t a time-saving option since it involves waiting six or seven minutes.

“It was not an easy initiative," Walton says. "The communications chain that has to be executed has many steps along the way. Our central reservations department needs to know what the program is and be able to describe it to those booked into that time zone. They must be able to finish in four hours or less. That has to be fortified along the way. When the player checks into the pro shop, the person greeting them has to re-iterate that and make sure they understand. The same with the starter. What you don’t want is a group that says ‘I wasn’t told.’ The burden also extends to the golfer booking the reservation, who has to make sure everyone in their group understands the expectations.”

I applaud Crystal Springs for making a concerted effort to move the game along. Slow play equals bad golf. But the opposite is also true: fast play equals good golf, just like you'll find at Crystal Springs.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This sounds like a great program! My wife and I often try to grab early tee times with the hope of playing quickly. There's no good reason for rounds taking more than 4 hours. I hope it works for them.