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USGA Pace System

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Introduction & Acknowledgment
Forming a 'Pace of Play' Committee
Features of the USGA PRS
The USGA PR Formula in Brief
How to have your course Pace Rated
How to Take The USGA Pace Rating and Run With It
Resources for Teaching, Managing, and Enforcing Pace of Play
Player Education/Communication
On-Course Products and Services
Programs of Note
More On-Course Aids
Setting up Your Course to Play To Its USGA Pace Rating
Questions and Answers About The USGA Pace Rating
Appendix A - The USGA Pace Rating Form PR1

Questions And Answers About The USGA Pace Rating

1.What is unique about the USGA Pace Rating?
A. Pace of play conventionally has been expressed as a number of hours it should take to play a round. Until now, there was no scientific method to arrive at that number. The USGA has provided a formula. Also, the USGA Pace Rating System starts with something new: the number of minutes to play each hole. A group which achieves "time par" will have finished the round in the recommended number of hours, but will have done so by marking its progress at 18 checkpoints along the way.

2.What makes "time par" a better measure of pace?
A. It's manageable for the players. A group that knows what time to be at each tee and how long it should take to play a particular hole will have a keener awareness of whether it's falling behind.

3.Is the USGA Pace Rating the same for every course?
A. No. Something else that sets the USGA Pace Rating System apart is that both the Pace Rating for a course (the total time to play 18 holes) and the time par (the time to play a hole) are unique to each course and each hole on it.

4.How are individual time pars and an overall Pace Rating calculated?
A. Both are based on the length and difficulty of each hole on your course and other conditions of play, such as whether players normally walk or ride and whether carts are required to stay on a cart path. Such information about each hole is entered into the Pace Rating software program developed by the USGA. The program lets you know how long it should take to play the hole. Then, the program adds the time pars of the 18 holes to arrive at the total time or Pace Rating for the course.

5.How are judgments about the difficulty of a hole arrived at?
A. The obstacles on each hole were rated according to difficulty when the course was issued a USGA Course Rating and Slope Rating by its Regional Golf Association. The USGA Pace Rating System draws from the yardage data and obstacle values that were established during the Course Rating. Players will perceive Pace Rating as a technical, logical method of setting a time standard, reflecting playing conditions on your course.

6.Is Pace Rating for individuals and groups? For scratch golfers and bogey golfers? For men and women? For busy days and slow days?
A. USGA Pace Rating represents the time to play the course for a group of four golfers, whether scratch or bogey, men or women.

Also, Pace Rating assumes play under "impeded" conditions. Impeded means that all or most playing slots on the course are occupied by groups of four so that smaller or faster groups are not able to play through. Play, in other words, is at capacity.

Pace Rating answers the question, "How fast should average players, playing in groups of four, finish a round on my course on a busy day?" It is under this situation that courses need the most help in moving players along. Pace Rating begins that process by giving players a target time to shoot at on each hole. It places the onus on the golfer to be ready to play when it is his or her turn so that the group may meet its time par. It allows course management to identify slow players and help them speed up play.

7. What does it mean to say a course is playing "at capacity?"
A. All or most of its playing slots are occupied by groups of four. A playing slot is the space occupied by a group of four. The number of playing slots usually depends on the par of the hole:

Par of Hole # Of Playing Slots
5 3
4 2
3 1

Playing slots become overloaded if players play too slowly or if groups are added to the course too rapidly.

8. How can we keep our course from exceeding capacity?
A. One way is to keep a reasonable interval between starts. If you crowd playing slots beyond capacity, the groups added will not be able to play to the Pace Rating for the course. Intervals of 10 minutes are recommended. Some courses can keep from overcrowding with intervals of eight minutes, or seven minutes, or alternating intervals of eight and seven minutes.

9. Will 10-minute start time intervals reduce the number of players and income for my course?
A. Interestingly, increasing the time interval to 10 minutes can actually add to the number of groups that play the course. See the Otter Creek example on page 24. Analyze the configuration of the opening holes on your course. Generally, if there is a par 3 hole among the first five holes on the course, consideration should be given to lengthening the start time interval. You may wish to experiment with different intervals to see what works best for you.

10. Do groups have to hurry or walk fast to achieve time pars?
A. No. Time pars provide enough time for a group of average golfers to play the number of shots they normally take, without rushing.

11. What can our club do if players are unable to achieve time pars on certain holes?
A. As part of your club's introduction of Pace Rating, consider supplying players with tips and guidelines for being "golf-ready," that is, ready to hit when it's their turn. Some of these resources are listed on page 16. They include ideas such as:

Getting up on the tee promptly when you have the honor, or stepping up ready to hit when it is your turn.

Minimizing practice swings.

Watching the flight and destination of the ball, marking its resting point with visual reference to a tree, shadow, or other landmark.

Planning the next shot as soon as the ball has come to rest.

Walking or riding toward the ball as soon as the shot is hit.

Paying attention to yardage markers and obstacles on the way to the ball.

Taking more than one club to the ball if in doubt of club selection.

Sharing the cart driving so that the player having the next shot is driven to his or her ball.

Being at the ball and lining up the putt while others are lining up their putts and preparing to putt.

Many players are not aware of their own slow-play habits until they read or see illustrations of fast-play tips. For example, according to Fast Play Golf, if a group of four players, concentrating on being golf-ready on the tees, could save just 15 seconds per person on the teeing grounds, the group could cut a full 18 minutes off of its time for the round.

Also, consider course management and design techniques:

Analyze holes on which back-ups are occurring. Perhaps some maintenance, such as mowing and trimming of brush or trees, will help. Maybe tees need to be realigned to aim drives in a safer direction.

Consider allowing carts on all fairways.

Study design changes that will enhance play, such as adding or relocating tees, bunkers, and cart paths.

Consider rewarding players who consistently meet pace of play standards.

Groups that achieve time par could be awarded preferred starting times. It's particularly important that the first groups off the tee set an acceptable pace of play. Hold prize drawings for successful groups.

For players or groups that struggle to meet time par, consider extra help on fast-play tips and playing lessons on aspects of the game, such as chipping and putting, that may be causing extra shots.

12. How many Pace Ratings should a course have?
A. Generally, one. It should be determined from the set of tees most often played. If the set of tees is played by both men and women, the Pace Rating should rely on the Course Rating information (such as obstacle ratings) for the gender that plays the tees most often. However, you are free to request a Pace Rating for each set of tees.

13. What should be the Pace Rating for a group of four made up of players on different sets of tees when all tees have been Pace Rated?
A. The higher of the Pace Ratings for the tees being played will apply.

Example: A group is using both Red Tees and Blue Tees. The Pace Rating for the Red Tees is 3:50. The Pace Rating for the Blue Tees is 4:00. The Pace Rating for the group will be 4:00.

14.What is the Pace Rating when there are walkers and riders in the same group of four?
A. The Pace Rating of the course is the same for walkers and riders when carts are allowed full access to the fairway. The Pace Rating of the course is higher when carts are restricted to cart paths. The Pace Rating formula takes into account club policy on carts. If carts are restricted to cart paths, even if significant numbers of walkers play the course, a higher Pace Rating applies to the course than if carts had full access to the fairways.

15. How much faster should a group of two play?
A. If the course is impeded, that is, full of groups of four, then groups of two or three will play at the same pace as groups of four. On other days, if open holes are available and groups of two predominate, a group of two should finish in a time that is approximately two minutes per hole faster. For example, on a course with a Pace Rating of 4 hours, a group of two, on a day when groups of two predominate, should finish in approximately 3:24. Remember, on a busy day, when groups of four predominate, a group of two will play in 4 hours, because it will not be able to play through.

16.How much does it cost to have my course Pace Rated?
A. Ask your Regional Golf Association, which performs the USGA Pace Rating, whether a cost is involved. All associations that are licensed by USGA to perform USGA Course Ratings have received the software and manual computation forms required to complete Pace Ratings for their member clubs. To have your course Pace Rated and to find out the time pars for each hole, contact the Regional Golf Association that completed the USGA Course Rating of your course.

17. What information does my course need to provide in order to be Pace Rated?
A. You will need to advise the official Pace Rater about the policies and conditions of play at your course:

Are carts required to stay on cart paths? Which holes?

Is the course played by a significant number of walkers? If so, you will need to supply the distance from the green to the next tee on holes 1-17. Record the yardage of the most frequently-walked route from the edge of the green to the permanent marker of the tees on the next hole. If carts are required for all players, are there any green-to-tee distances longer than 80 yards? Record the holes and the yardage.

Is there a halfway house on the course? Which hole does it follow?

All other data required for Pace Rating will be drawn by the Pace Rater from the Form 1 that accompanied the course's most recent Course Rating.

18.Does Pace Rating include the time to search for lost balls or return to the spot of the previous stroke when a ball is hit out of bounds or is unplayable?
A. No extra time is built into Pace Rating specifically for searching for balls or returning to a previous spot. To minimize time lost in case of balls lost or out of bounds an alert group should:

Hit a provisional ball before searching. That is, if you think the flight of the ball may result in the ball being lost outside a water hazard or being out-of-bounds, quickly announce that you are playing a provisional ball, then hit the provisional.

Take no more than five minutes to search for a lost ball. Keep in mind, you may abandon the search at any time, even before the five minutes is up (Rule 27), and play the provisional with the one-stroke penalty that applies in any case.

For an unplayable lie, consider an option besides returning to the spot of the previous stroke. Under Rule 28, you can drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the ball lies, no nearer the hole, or drop a ball anywhere not nearer the hole, along an imaginary line from the hole through the ball. A one-stroke penalty applies in any case.

While looking for a ball or considering alternatives for an unplayable lie, allow the group behind to play through.

19. How does the USGA Pace Rating address the common experience that the first groups of the day play at an acceptable pace but later groups take longer and longer to finish their rounds?
A. The issue being raised is, "How can a group catch up after it has fallen behind?" First, an awareness of time par allows a group to know how fast it should be playing. Time par takes into account the length and difficulty of the hole and the number of shots it should take a group of four average golfers to reach the green. With time par, golfers have a benchmark time to shoot at on every hole. Because time par assumes a full course, it is a legitimate expectation for golfers on a busy day.

Second, the course must be willing to provide on-course assistance and enforcement. This may be in the form of clocks or other timing devices. Or, it may mean providing sufficient maintenance on difficult holes so that players are less likely to encounter obstacles. Or, it may mean spacing starting times adequately enough to avoid backups. Or, it may mean having marshals and rangers who can quickly locate groups that are lagging behind or otherwise failing to attain time par. The marshals can be authorized to provide a range of comments and assistance: "You're out of position and you need to catch up." Or, "Here are some tips for picking up speed on the tee or on the fairway or while driving your cart, or for playing a provisional ball." Or, "Leave this hole and move to the next one." Or, "Play the forward tees until you catch up."

While time par has time built in for length and obstacle difficulty, it cannot anticipate everything that can go wrong on the golf course. But it can be the tool around which a course builds an adequate communication, course maintenance, and marshal/ranger enforcement program to enhance pace of play. Courses that are succeeding in controlling pace of play have all of these elements in place and working together.

20. We are a resort that serves mostly tourists who are not familiar with the course. We feel that the USGA Pace Rating for our course is too low. What can we do about having it raised to a more realistic playing time for our customers?
A. As a resort course for which players lack "local knowledge," you may be able to improve your pace of play by undertaking some of the actions that other resort courses have implemented (see pages 23 and 25). But, if you continue to believe that your USGA Pace Rating is not high enough, contact your Regional Golf Association and discuss an adjustment.

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