by Randy Youngman, Orange County Register
If I had a vanity license plate, it would read: IH8W8NG.
Like almost all avid golfers, I hate slow play. Actually, that statement isn't strong enough to convey my feelings. I absolutely loathe slow play. My rule of thumb is if it takes three hours to play the front nine, I don't play the back nine; I head to the parking lot.
Unfortunately, pace of play seems to be getting worse, not better, at courses around Southern California. A buddy told me he recently played in a match-play tournament qualifier at his local club that took six hours to finish. He was so angry and frustrated when it was over, he called to vent about it.
That's usually what golfers do when they are victimized by slow play. They complain while they are waiting on the tee, they complain to the course marshals who drive by, they complain at the 19th hole while making excuses for a score that should have been lower.
But complaining never solves the problem. The question is, what can you do to help?
Enter Patrick Mateer of Mission Viejo, president of Championship Golf and a partner in Championship Fitting, Irvine-based companies specializing, respectively, in organizing golf tournaments around the world and club-fitting for local residents. A lifelong golfer and former tour pro, Mateer, 56, has written and published a book ("The Return of the Four Hour Round") that outlines how to fix the problem of slow play. And now he's trying to spread the word.
"The idea of the book is something I've been thinking about for nearly 20 years. I apologize for the delay, but I got stuck behind some slow groups," Mateer said, laughing. "I'm not getting any younger and golf is getting slower.
"It doesn't seem as if there's been any movement in the right direction. In fact, rounds are down and some people are giving up the game, because they're playing slower and having less fun. So now's the time to focus on the problem before it's too late." Before it's literally too late to play, so to speak.
Mateer hopes his book is the first step in getting people to talk about the problem and get it out in the open.
"Ninety percent of the world agrees they don't like slow play. But if everyone's upset with something, you have to unite," he said. "Right now, it's almost an in-the-closet discussion. You finish a round and you're sitting in the grill room talking about a group that was playing too slow. That group comes in, and you're whispering behind their back; they're never confronted. No one tells them they're slow.
"People need to be conscious of what they're doing (wrong) so they can deal with it. You have to start somewhere, so that's what I'm doing."
In the book, Mateer offers specific guidelines that, if followed, will speed up play and, he believes, will make the game more enjoyable for everyone. He is speaking from 40 years of experience. He played golf at Cal High in Whittier and at University of Utah before turning pro in 1977 and competing on international tours in New Zealand, Australia, Asia and Europe.
After regaining his amateur status in 1987, he continued to play in prestigious tournaments such as the U.S. Amateur, British Amateur and Mid-Amateur. Though he jokes that he made more money than his caddie in only one of his seven years as a pro, he shot a 59 in the 1999 TaylorMade Invitational at Palmilla Golf Club near Cabo San Lucas.
Now a member at El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel and the Spyglass Hill Founder's Club on the Monterey peninsula, Mateer has analyzed why the pace of play has slowed and is confident on how to fix the problem and get everyone to play in four hours or less.
He calls his guidelines "The Four Habits of the Four Under Golfer": 1. Be prepared, 2. Be in position; 3. Move with purpose and 4. Simplify your routines.
"The solution is teaching people how to play faster, just as they were taught the golf swing," Mateer said. "The golf swing is a billion-dollar industry, but if you're shooting 100, you're actually swinging the golf club about two minutes in a round. That's eight minutes in four-hour round for a foursome.
"The swing is not the issue. It's what we do in between shots, it's our behavior, how we line up shots, how we walk from A to B, where we park our carts, where we leave our clubs, where we're standing. It all makes a big difference. Nobody teaches us how to move around the golf course."
But Mateer does in his book, a 117-page paperback that is available for $14.95 on his Web site (fourundergolf.com). He already has offered it as a tee prize at a recent member-member tournament at Spyglass Hill and says he has received great feedback.
"Somebody asked me what's so magical about four hours?" Mateer said. "It's not magical at all. But there has to be some line drawn in the sand. And if you follow the four habits of the under four golfer in the book, I absolutely guarantee you're not going to hold anyone up, you're going to have a great time and you're going to play better."
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