5 Ways to Speed Up Play

Experts' tips for swifter play that might help lower your scores, too.

BY EVAN ROTHMAN | Photo by Sam Edwards/Getty Images

No one admits to being a slow player, but some of us are - otherwise golfers wouldn't spend any time waiting, hands on hips.

1. Become a Speed [Greens] Reader

Short-game guru Marius Filmalter, who works with Tour pros such as Jason Dufner and David Frost, gives every player he consults a system on the greens. "It saves time and it builds confidence if you do the same thing every time," he says. The system involves, first, gauging the putt's distance; second, figuring if it's uphill or downhill; and, third, determining how the putt breaks.

"I ask my players to spend little time reading the putt, because they have to rely on their gut feel and instinct," Filmalter says. "Club players might not have such refined instincts yet, but that's a good way to develop them."

Quicker reads declutter the brain and allow it to be as quiet as is necessary when putting, likely producing a better stroke, notes Filmalter. Even if you miss, that quieter brain will let you digest what just happened.

"You learn best from your mistakes," he says. "When you have too many thoughts in your brain, you won't even know whether you have struck the putt the way you wanted, and you can't learn from it."

Tip "If you're uncertain of a putt's break, just imagine that you're hitting the ball straight at the hole. Where would it finish? If it's 2 feet left of the hole, aim 2 feet right. If it's a foot right, aim a foot left. Simple."

2. Don't Overthink Before You Swing

Craig Riddle, general manager at Bear's Best Atlanta, strongly advises that you limit yourself to one practice swing as part of your pre-shot routine. "There's an old saying: ‘Think long, think wrong,' " Riddle says. "Stand over the ball for too long and negative thoughts creep into your head. Some Tour players might take their time before a shot, but they don't stand over the ball too long. Make a decision and hit it. Things will work out better that way."

3. Just Relax


The inability to consistently square up the clubface at impact can lead to fades and slices, and therefore more time on the course - and higher scores. John Schickling, head golf professional at Rolling Green Country Club in Arlington Heights, Ill., believes that some of the fault can be traced back to too much stress and tension building up before the start of your swing.

"The natural processes in a swing happen better when you're relaxed rather than when you're tight - and taking too much time allows tension to build, especially in the hands, forearms, and shoulders, which make it harder to close the clubface properly at impact," Schickling says. "Learn to do as much preparation as you can before you stand over the ball. Other than maybe a few waggles or a deep, relaxing exhale, you want to start your swing as soon as the club gets behind the ball."

4. Pick the Right Tee for You


Short and quick describes many of our backswings, and it's the idea behind the USGA/PGA of America joint initiative "Tee It Forward." In short: There's no shame if you move up to a shorter set of tees. Fewer yards to cover will likely yield fewer shots, after all, with higher-lofted approaches into greens. Research says you'll likely have a better experience, too: 85 percent of "Tee It Forward" participants recently surveyed said they had more fun after moving up, probably because 56 percent noted that their round had been faster.

5. Be Ready to Hit


Take a page from six-time LPGA Tour winner Brittany "Bam-Bam" Lincicome, one of the longest hitters in the women's game and widely acknowledged as the LPGA's fastest player. Lincicome, who ranked second in average driving distance last season at 269.4 yards, says that as a "feel player" rather than a technical one, "the quicker I go, the better I think I play." One thing that helps her play quickly is that her long drives generally mean that she hits her second shot last in the group - so she suggests that, like herself, you use your wait time mindfully rather than mindlessly. "I have all this time to get my yardage [to the green], so when it's my turn, I'm fully prepared to hit," she says. "I want to be ready. I want to go."

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