In our most recent podcast we discussed the new Golf Sixes event on the European Tour, which included among other things, a shot clock giving players 40 seconds (or 30 seconds in the final rounds) to play their shot. This addition received much acclaim among players and even caught one "victim" exceeding the time limit and earning his team a penalty.
We are all painfully aware that in most Tour events, players regularly exceed the forty second limit. In some cases it is understandable given the difficult conditions on many Tour level courses. But most would agree that many pre-shot routines have become painfully long and drawn out, contributing to a litany of 5+ hour rounds.
Slow play is certainly not limited to the Tours and other elite level play (college golf is even worse than the pro ranks), as slow play is equally familiar and frustrating to the recreational amateur ranks.
Which begs the question...how long do Speedgolfers take to hit their shots? And, within the expanding world of Speedgolf terminology, what does "transition time" mean, and how exactly is it defined? These are questions we plan to answer in depth empirically with the development of The Speedgolf App. But let's not wait until that comes out to get started with some analysis...
Establishing Speedgolf Transition Times
Rob Hogan (2x World Champion, currently #2 in the Power Rankings) is widely recognized as having the fastest transition time in Speedgolf. Those familiar with Hogan's game know that he approaches his transitions with careful practice, to the point where his Speedgolf game flows with almost nonstop motion. There may be a few players with faster transitions than Rob, but those players generally aren't as focused on score.
Below is a video of some highlights of Rob in the 2016 British Speedgolf Championship (which he won).
From this video, I hand-timed his transitions on shots in which his approach to and exit from the were shown in their entirety. I also hand-timed several putts that were outside gimme range (in other words, putts that might normally require some preparation). The times below include from when he places his bag down until he picks it up to run to the next shot. This is how we will define 'transition time' for now.
Full shots ( expressed as seconds.hundredths)
*Opening tee shot (started from a run): 7.55 seconds
*Iron shot: 4.72
*Iron shot off tee mid-round: 10.18 (had to place tee in the ground)
*Bunker shot: 5.66
Putts: For putts I recorded the time from when he stops over the ball until making contact (becuase those are two discrete moments). It should be noted, however, that he spent almost zero time reading putts from behind the ball.
How does this compare to other Speedgolfers? Unfortunately, there isn't much competitive footage showing the complete routine (several highlight videos exist, but actually very few show a full shot routine). But one of the few existing videos is one of Joe Matsui teeing off in the Japan Speedgolf Open last year. Joe is also an elite player (Ranked #10 in the current Power Rankings) so this should be a good comparison. This is only one hole and it is the first hole when he is fresh, so it is not a perfect comparison, but it should give us a benchmark to put Rob's times in perspective.
*Tee shot not recorded since it was a traditional start, not a running one
*Layup: 7.43 seconds
*Wedge approach: 5.48
*Putt: 2.12 (again recorded from time he stopped over the ball until hitting the putt)
The Final Analysis
Overall, there probably aren't enough data points here to make any sweeping conclusions or comparisons within Speedgolf. But one thing is certain: the process of hitting a shot playing Speedgolf takes much less time than in regular golf.
We know Speedgolf is faster than regular golf primarily because Speedgolfers are running, but it should also be clear now that Speedgolf transition times are significantly faster than pre-shot routines in regular golf: more than a half minute faster per shot.
If two of the best players in the world playing in (and winning) their national championships routinely take 5-7 seconds to hit a shot and only take 1-2 seconds to hit a putt, then how much time compared to an average golf round are they saving just by hitting it faster? If we estimate an average round of golf requires a combined 60 minutes to hit 90 shots, then a Speedgolfer would need to just 7 minutes to do the same!
Is 'faster' the future?
It's true the number of people who desire to run the golf course is a relatively small percentage of golfers, but accelerating the pre-shot routine is a strategy that can be adopted by all (excepting those unique competitive conditions in which your really do need more time to analyze the situation, such as lightning greens, high winds, and difficult hole locations).
From a competitive standpoint, more data on Speedgolf routines can help us as players optimize the amount of time we spend over a shot. Without actual times, we're left to best-guessing when it comes to managing our games. The pending development of The Speedgolf App and the data it will allows us to capture and share will be a significant step forward in helping us to continually raise the quality of play at all levels.
Finally, as the Speedgolf world continues to forge more alliances with regular golf entities, an empirical approach toward measuring the time benefits within our game will help us better communicate with interested parties. For example, imagine the benefits to pace of play if a foursome all hit their shots in half the time?
You might ask, would they score better or worse going twice as fast? That's a great question! We know the answer. What do you think?
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