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USGA Urges Personal Action To Improve Pace of Play

Announcement of USGA Pace of Play Public Education CampaignRemarks by USGA President Glen D. Nager as PreparedJune 12, 2013
GLEN NAGER:Good Morning. At our Annual Meeting in February, we declared our intention to take dead aim at the frustration expressed by many golfers – including lapsed golfers – that golf takes too long to play. Pace of play has been an issue for decades; but it has now become one of the most significant threats to the game’s health. Five-hour-plus rounds of golf are incompatible with modern life. Beyond the time involved, poor place of play saps the fun from the game, frustrates players, and discourages future play. In a recent study by the National Golf Foundation, 91 percent of serious golfers reported that they are bothered by slow play and say that it detracts from their golf experience; more than 70 percent said they believed that pace of play has worsened over time; and half admitted to walking off a course due to frustration over a marathon round. As these numbers demonstrate, the golf community needs to act, now more than ever, to address pace-of-play issues.
The USGA has taken several steps since February to address these issues. Earlier this year, the scientists at the USGA’s Research and Test Center initiated an ambitious project to create the first-ever dynamic model of pace of play – a model based on real data, applicable to both competitive and recreational golf. When completed later this summer, the model will allow us to quantify the specific influences that impact pace of play: course design, course set-up, and operations, as well as golfers themselves; and this content will allow us to advise course architects, club owners and managers, golf superintendents, professional tours, and golfers themselves about how to promote a better pace of play. Work on this model has advanced considerably, and is already yielding valuable information that will bring focus to the industry’s efforts to improve pace of play. Beyond our work to advance a more scientific understanding of the issues, the USGA has been working to form partnerships and coalitions to address pace of play. At our Annual Meeting, I referenced The PGA of America’s support of our efforts; we have now expanded this partnership to include The R&A, PGA Tour, LPGA, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Club Managers Association, National Golf Course Owners Association, and the American Society of Golf Course Architects, as well as state and regional golf associations. Indeed, yesterday afternoon, representatives of more than 20 leading golf organizations from North America came together for a meeting here at Merion to discuss ways to best organize and unify our industry’s approach to improving pace of play. Many of these same organizations will come together again this Fall, when the USGA will host an industry symposium on pace of play, where, among other things, we will share the results of the Test Center’s pace-of-play modeling project. The momentum that is now developing across the industry to address pace of play was also evident in May when Golf Digest, together with the USGA and The PGA of America, launched the Nine Is Fine initiative – a program to encourage and promote nine-hole rounds as a complete, fun golf experience. To date, our organizations have received more than 2,000 nominations for nine-hole friendly golf facilities; all of these nominations have now been vetted, and a list of nine-hole friendly courses is available on the Nine is Fine website. And, more recently, Golf Channel has promoted the month of June as Pace of Play Awareness Month. We applaud the leadership of Mike McCarley and his team at Golf Channel for joining with us to take an aggressive public approach to the issue.At the USGA, we launched a Pace of Play Resource Center on in April. This Resource Center is now the comprehensive site for golfers seeking best practices and tips related to pace of play, as well as information about alternate formats of play; and the Resource Center contains information, best practices, and case studies related to managing pace of play and promoting alternate formats from a facility perspective as well. We encourage all golfers and facility managers to make regular use of the Resource Center, and we ask the golf community to help us identify additional relevant content for the Resource Center. Over recent months, we have also actively engaged with professional tours and elite amateur competitions to identify best practices and potential solutions for improving pace of play in non-recreational golf. A particular focus of discussion has been the pace of play Checkpoint System that is already used successfully in USGA amateur championships. In addition, we are working with The PGA of America, the GCSAA, and others to create the first formal education and certification programs to promote pace of play for those who set up and operate golf courses and golf tournaments. Our goal in all of this activity is to aggressively raise awareness among golfers and golf facility managers about pace-of-play issues, and to provide accurate, practical information that offers potential solutions. As with all chronic issues, awareness is essential – helping people understand the causes of it, the potential solutions that are available, and the collective effort that is required in response. History is replete with examples of effective campaigns that have done just that: Millions of dollars are donated annually to charitable causes because of an idea that inspired and mobilized a community of people to care, and then to act. Important political movements have been realized because leaders have introduced a theme that galvanized the public to act on an issue. Groundbreaking technologies have been inspired by the power of an idea that ignited the will of an industry to innovate. And social boundaries have been broken by the power of an idea that presented change, not as an option, but as a necessity. So, too, here, we must stop simply complaining about poor pace of play and instead mobilize the golfing public to demand action on real potential solutions to the issue. For this reason, today, the USGA is launching its own national campaign to speed pace of play and make golf more fun. Our effort borrows from an iconic expression that has already made its way into the lexicon and ethos of the golf community, and beyond. It rests on a 30-year-old, immensely popular idea that becomes more salient each time that it is seen. The best way to introduce our mobilization effort is to reacquaint you with a moment in a film, with which I’m certain that you, millions of golfers, and even more millions of moviegoers are intimately familiar: [VIDEO: CLIP FROM CADDYSHACK ] “While We’re Young” indeed. That is the theme of our new public awareness campaign: “While We’re Young.” What I am about to show you is a series of fun, inviting PSAs that don’t chastise; rather, they are PSAs that entertain. The purpose of these spots is not to lecture, but to relate; not to admonish, but to wink. The “While We’re Young” campaign is a rallying cry that we hope will make the golfing public aware of the pace of play issue and encourage them to demand effective solutions. Pace of play is an epidemic – and the moment has come to attack it in a fun, innovative and cooperative way. [VIDEO: SHOW PSAs] “While We’re Young” is a shorthand. It’s the language of golf and the language of golfers. It’s a device designed to cut through golf’s cultural conformity. Iconic personalities and U.S. Open champions have donated their time and voices to this campaign, because, as we do, they recognize the significance of the pace of play problem and the availability of solutions to it – if the public cares enough. Is this different for the USGA? Yes. Is it fun? Absolutely. Will it be effective in mobilizing the golf community to be part of the solution? We believe so – particularly if you, the media, will embrace it, support it, and promote it. We all have to stop simply complaining and instead join together behind a powerful idea to mobilize and solve the pace-of-play problem. “While We’re Young” can be that idea.You’ll note that each of these PSAs drives viewers to a new website that we launched this morning. The website encourages golfers and golf facility managers to demonstrate their commitment to the While We’re Young campaign by signing a pledge to improve their own pace of play practices. If they do, they will be enrolled in educational programs developed in partnership with the PGA, LPGA and GCSAA that will deliver meaningful information to them to use in addressing poor pace of play. Ultimately, it is our hope that this campaign will help create a new golfing culture – one in which the community unites behind a common appreciation of the importance of pace of play to the health of the game; a true understanding of the integrated system of factors that determines pace of play on the golf course; and a commitment to employing best practices so that a better pace of play becomes integral to the game. The time for this shared call to action has come; let’s fix pace of play “While We’re Young.”