There are few more volatile subjects in golf than slow play. Too much hanging around waiting to play a shot can reduce the mildest of golfers into slavering, impatient beasts.
It is a curse that affects every level of the game, from the top professionals to the most hopeless of hackers, and it has nothing to do with how good or bad you are at the game – indeed, you'd bet the hacker to nip round the course a damn sight quicker than most pros.
The fact that one is taking 68 strokes to complete a round while the other can take at least 108 has nothing to do with it. The pros are so painstaking they take meticulousness to new extremes. Their deliberations have caused the authorities to crack down on slow play in the big tournaments, and the players are all subject to having the stopwatch put on them.
At golf's much lower levels, however, policing the pace of play is not so easy, and many are the ugly arguments that frequently flare up.
The problem has inter-national dimensions, too, as anyone who has played behind Americans and Germans would confirm. But it is not always a simple matter of golfers dawdling over their game. There are many other factors that can add slow-moving frustration to your round.
For instance, our group of three in last weekend's medal were rudely castigated for causing a massive hold-up. Yet we were totally innocent.
Since we took over 300 strokes between us we couldn't claim to be the quickest trio on the course, but we did notice that the group in front of us had lost a hole and a half on the one in front by the time they had played the sixth.
Then, when they reached the par-three seventh, one of them was caught urgently short and the nearest point of relief, as it were, was a copse of trees 200 yards away.
By the time he had crept into the copse and crept out again we were approaching the tee. They promptly lost one of their tee shots, and after a fruitless search they eventually calledus through.
I had the misfortune to hit the same tree twice – don't ask – and by the time we completed the hole we must have been three holes behind the next group.
Since this very large gap was now in front of us we were regarded as the guilty laggards, and even though we made up a hole we were shouted at from all sides and even attracted a visit from a member of the match and handicap committee.
We actually took four hours and five minutes for the round, which wasn't too bad under the circumstances, but groups further down the line took 20or 30 minutes longer.
While we sat on the verandah drinking our well-earned beer we were verbally assaulted by every finishing group.
One man actually threatened never to play in a medal again, he was so distraught at the time the round had taken.
Needless to say, we became irritated at trying to explain our innocence, and the exchanges became a touch heated.
To think that one call of nature could cause so much bad feeling. If only I could think of a word to describe it all.Reuse content