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FORE November/December 2013 : Page 18

R eaders may recall the May/June 2013 issue of FORE, wherein we detailed (“Playing at the Pace of The Palms”) the pace of play efforts at The Palms Golf Club in La Quinta, Calif., where club members are taken to task for rounds exceeding three hours and 50 minutes. That is all well and good for a private club known for members who sport a low Handicap Index, but daily fee golf is another matter. Amid a milieu of beginning and vacationing players, general man-agers and pros at public facilities are charged with confronting slow play while employing a delicate combination of creativity and kid gloves. Municipal and resort courses face the fragile balance of keeping tee sheets filled and concurrently minding the pace and pleasantry of all parties. In early 2013, Troon Golf, the Scottsdale-based golf management company which oversees both pub-lic and private facilities in 30 states and across 25 countries, introduced an initiative called Troon Values Your Time. Adding their voice to the national din of the pace of play discussion, Troon’s efforts include a “Time Par” attached to each of their courses, aimed at communicating to guests an appropriate amount of time it should take to play that course. “Pace of play is talked about at every Troon facility,” says Jon Vesper, director of golf at the Troon-managed Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif. “Our clients don’t want to be on the golf course for five hours. The Troon initiative is trying to see what we can do as a company to get the awareness out there. Many beginning golfers don’t even know what pace of play is. ILLUSTRATION BY SCOTT DUNBAR On The Clock Troon Gets Creative with Pace of Play By Judd Spicer 18 | FORE November/December 2013

On The Clock

Judd Spicer

Troon Gets Creative with Pace of Play

Readers may recall the May/June 2013 issue of FORE, wherein we detailed (“Playing at the Pace of The Palms”) the pace of play efforts at The Palms Golf Club in La Quinta, Calif., where club members are taken to task for rounds exceeding three hours and 50 minutes. That is all well and good for a private club known for members who sport a low Handicap Index, but daily fee golf is another matter.

Amid a milieu of beginning and vacationing players, general managers and pros at public facilities are charged with confronting slow play while employing a delicate combination of creativity and kid gloves. Municipal and resort courses face the fragile balance of keeping tee sheets filled and concurrently minding the pace and pleasantry of all parties.

In early 2013, Troon Golf, the Scottsdale-based golf management company which oversees both public and private facilities in 30 states and across 25 countries, introduced an initiative called Troon Values Your Time. Adding their voice to the national din of the pace of play discussion, Troon’s efforts include a “Time Par” attached to each of their courses, aimed at communicating to guests an appropriate amount of time it should take to play that course.

“Pace of play is talked about at every Troon facility,” says Jon Vesper, director of golf at the Troon-managed Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif. “Our clients don’t want to be on the golf course for five hours. The Troon initiative is trying to see what we can do as a company to get the awareness out there. Many beginning golfers don’t even know what pace of play is.

“At the private facilities, there’s peer pressure because all the members are on the same page. But here it’s different,” Vesper says. “We have to educate our golfer from learning how to play to playing ready-golf to learning how to care for the course. Pace is up there with things we have to teach.”

Ten miles across the desert floor at Indian Wells Golf Resort, Vesper’s Troon colleagues are wholly simpatico with the enhanced call to action. “I don’t want to discourage people from playing golf,” says Joe Williams, director of golf at Indian Wells, which hosts upwards of 500 group events annually. “I want to encourage participation. Good pace is an educational process. It’s about respect for the game and for the people around you. Nobody wants to be inconveniencing 100 other people — in any walk of life. But if I’ve got a slow group at 8 a.m., the ramifications of that are going to affect everybody who’s playing until 2 in the afternoon.”

To complement the Time Par marked specifically for each course, Troon facilities are also armed with “pacesetter” tee times aimed at getting the day’s first three or four groups around their respective tracks in sub-four-hour fashion. “We want to have people in those pacesetter times who can lead the field for us,” Vesper says.

The enhanced pace of play push isn’t just a corporate mandate; Troon facilities are allowed the flexibility to let their own creative juices flow in tackling the issue. At the 36-hole Westin Mission Hills, extending the pace message is a mesh of the tactile and subliminal: Time Par signage dots ample window and counter space in the clubhouse; the starter offers a subtle reminder at the onset of play; and cart cards hold polite, playful reminders of alacrity such as, Tap it in! and At 10 strokes? Pick it Up!

At Indian Wells, the Troon Values Your Time message has been extended by Time Par logos on employee attire. The facility is also furthering the initiative by using the technology at their disposal. “We send GPS messages to certain carts if they’re behind,” Williams says. “And we just started using the USGA’s ‘While We’re Young’ campaign videos, with Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, and Clint Eastwood; so, once on the front and once on the back your cart will play the 20-second video.”

Complementing Williams’ modern approach is the more traditional method of interpersonal communication among his staff. “Our head golf professional, Anthony Holder, has put together a Pace of Play committee at the club, where members from all departments are represented,” Williams says. “We’re just trying to find ways we can improve.”

Trending their thinking away from pejorative or punishment, the Pace committee at Indian Wells has considered ways to incentivize returning group gatherings which play at a faster clip. “And we’ve got one of our agronomy guys on the committee,” Williams continues. “One of the things that’s already come out of the committee is that we recognized a particular hole that was playing slow, and we asked, ‘Is there something we can do from an agronomics standpoint to make that hole play one-minute faster? Is it the routing of the cart path or perhaps the placements of the tees?’”

“Rather than telling a guest, ‘You’re a hole-and-a-half behind,’ it’s easier to understand minutes instead of holes,” Vesper says. “I’ve found that in conversations, it’s easier for our guests to palate minutes. With this initiative, it makes it a little easier to have those conversations.”

“I actually think for the first time, the industry as a whole is getting behind this message,” Williams says. “The prominent names in the industry are all behind these initiatives — it has to make a difference. I think we all need to do something. We need everybody. It’s an industry-wide problem and everybody needs to get on board.”

Read the full article at http://editiondigital.net/article/On+The+Clock/1557353/183018/article.html.

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