Why Golf on Los Angeles Municipal Courses Takes Forever

The only ones who like the pace of playWhen I play golf locally, it’s usually at a nearby Los Angeles County municipal park course in Griffith Park. What ought to be a pleasant walk among the tress and birds often feels like a death march through rush hour traffic. Four-hour rounds morph into six-hour trudges, and the joy of chasing a little white ball through a sylvan paradise is lost while you stare at the backs of duffers standing around with their hands on their hips.

The abysmal slowness isn’t necessarily because the players are bad, although wayward shots and a general lack of readiness exacerbate the situation. It’s not, as some racist observers have suggested to me, because many of the early morning tee-times are taken by Koreans, who allegedly have no awareness of golf course etiquette. And it’s not because the average hacker studies every putt from four different angles, as though he were playing on the PGA Tour.

The reason most rounds commencing after 9AM on our local tracks take so long is because the golf courses have too many players on them.

The County, hungry for cash, wants to grind as many players through the mill as possible. Instead of sending groups of four off at manageable 10-minute intervals (24 customers per hour), tee times are spaced 6-minutes apart (40 customers per hour). Let’s examine the ramifications. In order to not hold up the second group, the first group must maintain a 2:36 pace-of-play. (This is virtually impossible without jogging.) In order to not delay the third group, the second pairing must maintain a similarly blistering pace. Indeed, everyone must, or, eventually, the course will back up worse than the 405 Freeway at 5PM.

A perfectly spaced golf course has the following distribution of players: Two groups per par-four hole; three groups per par-five hole; and one group per par-three hole. Most courses, including my local one, have 10 par-fours and 4 each of the others. Assuming ideal conditions — and that’s a generous assumption — the course can accommodate 36 groups. With 10-minute tee-times, players would need only to maintain a 4:20 pace-of-play, which any Scotsman can tell you is positively glacial.

The present set-up is doomed to failure. Like so many of our institutional problems, the miasma that passes for public golf in Los Angeles is the responsibility of bureaucrats whose management skills aren’t commensurate with their appetite for juicy revenue statements. Players can always improve their golf skills, but until the traffic flow is managed more sensibly afternoon tee-times are certain to stretch into the night.

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