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Waving a Group Through in Golf

Learn when to wave a group through and navigate the delicate balance of pace of play on the golf course.
Waving a Group Through in Golf

Golf, often heralded as a gentleman’s game, is not just about swinging clubs and sinking putts; it’s a delicate mix of etiquette and sportsmanship. Recently, golf has been more about how fast you can play compared to how you play.  I have noticed that golfers will complain more about the pace of play well more than how they are stinking up the golf course.  They use pace of play as an excuse of why they play bad instead of their actual golf game.

Being a golf professional is the reason why we know what is best for everyone on the course when there is a slower group. Our goal is to make sure the pace of play is kept to our standards for every group on the golf course. There are times when it is best for you to wave a group through and times when it does not make sense depending on the situation in front of you, your situation if you’re playing slow and if the group behind is just playing fast. 

The Dynamics of Pace

At the heart of this decision-making process is the pace of play. Golf courses, especially during peak hours, can witness varying speeds of play across different groups. Waving a group through is a courtesy extended when one group is playing notably faster than another. However, determining the right time to make this decision requires a keen awareness of several factors. 

It’s always nice to not have a group right behind you to push you but either way,  don’t be that group that slows down the entire course behind you. 

When to Let a Group Pass Through

Course Situation

Understanding the situation on the course right from the first tee box.  When your group tees off, notice if there was a group ahead of you that teed off on the time ahead.  This means that if you tee off at your scheduled time and you see a group either in the fairway or on that green putting, that means that your group is responsible for keeping up with that group ahead. Should be a simple task…Doesn’t matter who’s behind you!

Your Group’s Pace

Assessing your group’s pace is equally crucial. If your group is playing slower than usual, your primary goal should be to play faster. If you still can not keep up with the group ahead, you could let the group behind play through but this is not ideal.  You may let one group play faster but you actually slowed your group down in general.

Speed of the Group Behind

The pace of the group behind you all depends on your group or the group ahead of you. If you are keeping up with the group ahead, you and the group behind have nowhere to go so just enjoy the game. If the group behind is pushing you, it is their issue that they are pushing for no reason. Just ignore them, unless they try to be jerks about it and hit into your group. In that case, inform them if it feels like it was unintended or speak to the ranger or call the clubhouse if you feel it was intentional.

Optimal Conditions for Waving Through

The most suitable conditions for waving a group through are when there is no one in front of you, and the group behind is pressing due to having fewer players (or more efficient – like maybe you’re walking and they have a golf cart). This ensures a smooth transition without causing disruptions.

When Not to Let a Group Pass

Do not wave a group through on a busy day when you started behind a group on time. If you’re not that far behind the group in front of you, simply ask your partners to play a little faster. If you let a group go through you unnecessarily, you made one group happy but you slowed down your own group and made it slower for everyone behind you all the way to the first hole you played.  Your group is now “that group” where the entire golf staff has to focus on moving you along to play faster. Just play faster or you’ll receive a visit from the golf staff.  

Tips to Speed Up Your Pace of Play

Improving the pace of play in golf is a collective responsibility that enhances the overall experience for players on the course. It begins with individual awareness and commitment to efficient practices. Golfers can contribute by arriving prepared, making quick decisions, and embracing the concept of “Ready Golf.” Strategic use of golf carts, minimizing distractions, and optimizing time on the greens also play pivotal roles. 

By adhering to course-specific etiquette guidelines, implementing the two-minute rule for lost balls, and maintaining awareness of the group’s position, players can significantly contribute to a smoother and more enjoyable round for themselves and fellow golfers.

Here are several tips to help golfers speed up their pace of play:

  1. Be Ready and Organized: The first tee is where you need to prepare for the day.  Get your balls, tees, markers, fixers, and range finders ready to go out of your bag.  
  2. Limit Practice Swings: While practice swings are essential for refining your technique, limit them to a reasonable number. Excessive practice swings can contribute to delays, especially if every player in a group takes multiple swings before each shot.
  3. Quick Decision-Making: Make decisions about your shot promptly. While it’s crucial to assess the situation, overthinking can slow down the game. Trust your instincts and make decisions efficiently.
  4. Walk with Purpose: If you’re walking the course for exercise, maintain a brisk but comfortable pace between shots. Think about your next shot while you’re walking up to your ball so you are ready to hit or pivot as soon as you arrive.
  5. Be Mindful of Others: Stay aware of your group’s position in relation to the group ahead. If you notice your group falling behind, take proactive measures to catch up, ensuring a smoother flow for everyone on the course.
  6. Limit Distractions: Minimize distractions that can slow down play, such as extended conversations, excessive use of smartphones, or unrelated activities between shots. Stay focused on the game.
  7. Play “Ready Golf”: Embrace the concept of “Ready Golf,” where players are always in the process of playing their shot. Sometimes even at the same time! This is the one time you can ignore etiquette on the golf green! Etiquette and the honor of being your turn to play can be put aside until you catch up.
  8. Forget the 3-minute Ball Search limit: While it’s disheartening to lose a ball, spending excessive time searching for your ball can create bottlenecks on the course. This can add up if you and others in your group continue to search different balls. Just drop a ball, take your penalty and move on.
  9. Take advantage of two in a Cart: When you have two golfers in a cart, you can play pretty fast if you know when to walk to your ball and when to drive to move forward.  
  10. Be Efficient on the Greens: On the putting green, be ready to putt when it’s your turn. Read your putt while others are preparing for their shots, and be ready to make your stroke when it’s your time.

As golfers, we share a responsibility to contribute to the smooth and enjoyable flow of play on the course. So be mindful of when and how to wave a group through and a slow pace of play won’t be the most memorable part of the day. And who knows, maybe you’ll play even better with a quicker pace without having the time to overthink things! 

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V Tongwarin

V Tongwarin

Visanu Tongwarin or “Coach V” is a Class A PGA Teaching Professional at Legacy Ridge Golf Course and Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster, Colorado. V's brings his passion for teaching the game of golf to all levels of golfers from running children clinics to training state champions and seasoned professionals.