Slow play on the greens

Opening up a can of worms here re: slow play. I’m a tournament golfer–competitive in my state mid-am. I’m 40. For the past 5 years or so I have suffered from nerves on the greens, particularly for putts inside 8 feet. The scourge of the middle-aged golfer. I have learned to hole out by using an alignment line on my ball–but under pressure I become obsessive about lining up the ball correctly because I know that if I’m lined up correctly, I can pull the trigger without hesitation. This has made me very slow on the greens (I sometimes adjust the ball three or even four times before addressing it, and I even do this for what might be considered “tap-in” distance of 2-3 feet). I am sure this is super annoying for my playing partners.

I haven’t had any problems at sanctioned events but I’m getting a lot of flack at my home club. And recently I played as a guest at an exclusive private club and my member received a letter of complaint after our caddy ratted us out for playing in 4 hrs 20, which was 20 mins over time par.

The problem is that the alignment system is the only thing I have found that works for me. If I stop using it, or try to rush the alignment, I’ll start missing short putts.

My heart tells me to stick to my routine and hope that I become more skilled at lining up the ball on the first try over time, which should speed up the routine. But I also hate having the scarlet letter of slow play attached to my name, so recently I have been using the alignment system only for tournament rounds, and just basically rushing putts in casual rounds.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this dilemma or about slow-play generally? I personally think there’s a bit of a witch hunt around slow play. Most of the guys at my club who complain about slow play basically rush off the course to go sit in the bar and drink. Why is everyone in such a hurry these days?



Slow play is the bane of my existence, but let me state first that 4:20 is not slow play.

I want to make it clear that I blame most slow play on the courses themselves. The course I used to primarily play stuffs in foursomes 6 min apart from 6:30am-7:30pm. On a weekend I’d be lucky to finish a round in under six hours. It’s insane. The only reasons I played there as long as I did are it’s a nice course and it’s two minutes from my house.

I refuse to play there anymore. I have a young son at home and a busy life. I can’t spend 7 hours at the course. I have to be a dad, so I found a new course.

This is mostly a public course problem as it’s all about maximizing green fees and it’s such a shame. There are beautiful public courses out there, but if they’re run this way they become unplayable, especially if you’re a good player who isn’t just there to have some drinks with the boys and slap the ball around.

If you’re a player at the competition level, as long as you’re not REALLY holding things up, I think you’re good. If it becomes a problem, then you gotta find a way to stay within your process, but speed it up. It shouldn’t be expected of you to give up strokes because some guy in the group can’t wait to get a cocktail in his hand - but you also can’t take guys out of their games and rhythm due to slow play.

It’s a thin line and hard to toe the right side of it sometimes.


Thanks bigdadenergy. The more I reflect, the more I realize that it’s not so much the length of time I take to play a round of golf (which, as you point out, isn’t unreasonable). It’s the fact that my pre-shot routine on the green is annoying to other golfers in my group. I’m sure it’s infuriating watching someone tweak the aim of their ball like 3-4 times over putts, particularly ones that you think should basically be gimmies because you are a 13 handicapper who never holes everything out (like most 13 handicappers at private clubs). As I say, I’ve never had complaints in a tournament. Competitive golfers kinda “get it.” Putting is hard, man! Even short putts!

Hopefully I’ll get more adept at lining up the ball, or find a new solution to my putting nerves.

I’m shudder to hear about 6 hour rounds. But I do think that there’s been an overreaction to slow play in private clubs, perhaps because the situation has become so bad at public courses. I think 4 hrs 20 or even 4.30 for 3 or 4 walkers from the back tees on fast greens is a totally acceptable time par. Yet my club wants golfers to finish in 4hrs 10, doesnt matter what tees or whether you have a cart or not. It’s tough for guys like me!


Until someone tells you your routine is annoying (no one ever will) keep doing what you need to do to hole more putts.

Putting IS hard!!

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I also like use a line for alignment while putting. If I were having confidence issues with my line (which I should given my handicap) I would spend a large portion of my putting practice only allowing myself to align the putt once. You will then gain an intuition on when you actually need to adjust your line vs a perfect/good enough line.


At least for the casual rounds, how about trying “lining up” the putt in your head. Stand on your line as far back as necessary to stay out of everyone’s way and try to visualize the putt. Open your eyes and have a soft focus on the ball in your hand, lining up the alignment aid as if it was on the green. When it’s your turn, just recreate that line and tell yourself to trust it. Worth a shot and also encourages visualization!


This is a great tip Jvanhenk, I’m going to try it.


Few thoughts:

  • if you make more putts you’re playing faster
  • I use a line for alignment but I don’t get it perfectly aligned. I read the putt, line the ball up where I’m thinking its going (pick up coin at this point). Go back to read the putt one more time and confirm the line. Usually I’ll know I need to go just a little left or a little right of my line. I’m not going back to realign.
  • So I don’t double think my line (my read shouldn’t change when I’m over the ball), I get up and line up (little left, little right or on the line). Look at hole. Look down. Go. No time to overthink alignment.

I know trying to get the line perfect annoys people and may slow things down so maybe the above would help. I do know getting up and hitting once I’ve committed to the line makes me more reactionary to the line/speed and I can’t overthink. I’ve definitely seen improvement in short putts recently since I sped up my over the ball routine.


You need to get better at putting the line down on the intermediate target you have picked

I think putting the line down, checking it and one tweak is fine

If you were tweaking it 2, 3 or 4 times w me in a casual round you would not be invited back

Do what you want in a tournament round, but I’ve got a work and wife and kids and just don’t play rounds over 3.5 hours (I deliberately don’t play at peak times at the club, usually take one of the first tee time on a week day and start work up a bit late : )


I feel for you Ebs02. But I wouldn’t play slow even if it cost me a stroke or two here and there. I would find another key that I could implement quickly.


Caveat is I’m pace of play nazi… plenty of guys don’t like playing w me as they want to drink beers, chat with cart girl, take 10 practice swings etc


Hey @Ebs02, I also use a line on my ball and I get pretty anxious about making sure it doesn’t take a long time. I just ask the people I’m playing with if it’s ok that I line up my ball on the green while they are putting, as long as I’m not really in their way. Then I’m able to line the ball up before their pre-shot routine, and by the time it’s my turn I’m ready to go. Of course, this only works when you aren’t the first to putt AND you aren’t in anybody’s line AND your playing partners are bothered by it, but it should help you out a few times per round.

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Good tip Cpogoose, thank you!

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Sorry, just noticed I replied to the wrong person in my post @Ebs02

I think when playing in a tournament do what you need to do so you make the putt. The tournament I played in this past weekend they had rules officials out on the course and they were making sure everyone was playing in time.

As when my group finished 15th we saw a rule official thinking that he was going to tell us to speed up as the group ahead of us was already teeing on 17th. 16 was a par 3 but all the rules officials said to regarding it was your on pace so I cant be made.

I have found that at my home club and private course that they are more likely to get on you for the pace of play. I know the marshall will get after you at my home club if there is any space between you and the group ahead of you to the point that me and my friends have complained to a club as we were playing inside of the time the course they wanted us to.


Perhaps you should look at finding trust in your alignment technique. Next time you play, line up your ball once and putt. Try one whole round by not fixing your alignment. Once you know that you did it right, just putt. Try this out when you are having a fun round at your home course. Personally I hate playing with people who take forever putting - doing the dance around the green looking at all sides. It makes me question why I am golfing with them even if they are good golfers/people.

PS. I am a good putter because I have worked hard to find the right alignment. (in a timely manner)


I feel there is a big difference between social rounds and competition rounds.
The worst is when someone is playing poorly in a weekly members comp, but continues to play slowly. Most slow players seem to have a lack of awareness, which can come across as a lack of respect.
But yeah, as was pointed out, 4 hours 20mins isn’t so bad. It sounds like more practice with lining the ball up should sort out your issues :slight_smile:

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@Ebs02 thx for, uhh, “coming out” :slight_smile: as it were! I don’t (yet?) have the putting yips but I can imagine it’s a horrible thing to ruin an otherwise good round of golf…

The visceral reaction, of course, is Get Da F*** Off Da Green A** H***!, buuuut…

Here the main thing is you’re clearly an accomplished player … hitting very few wayward shots and not spending 5 (not 3, but 5) minutes sometimes twice on a hole searching for your ball which is obviously way waaaay deeper into the woods vs where you’re looking. It’s those sorts of players who seem to then spend a full five minutes agonizing and adjusting and reinspecting and readjusting each and every one of their THREE TO FOUR putts per hole…!!

Those are the people that slow up play and ruin the day for everyone behind them.

It’s not that I’m in such a big rush … it’s that the slower players are being completely inconsiderate of everyone else on the course … which is not there for only them but for everyone (ok rant over).

I’ve used a line on my ball for years. Kind of want to try going “au natural” but I’d want to practice a bunch before changing.

One thing that helps is I use an AimPro golf ball marker (easily found online) which is the same diameter as a ball, is white, and has a line on it. So, I mark my ball with my quick initial read of the line of the putt, then will look more closely at the putt while others are putting. Then, when it’s time to put my ball down, I can match that line or make adjustments pretty quickly.

It works pretty well and I only occasionally remark and reorient my ball.

Thanks cksurfdude…I appreciate your perspective. As I wrote above (and some of the comments make clear), the issue is probably less about the total amount of time I take to play a round and more about how annoying it is to watch a headcase on the greens fidgeting with his alignment. There’s been some good tips in this thread about how to speed up that process, which I’m going to work on this autumn.

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