By Cindy Atoji Keene
As a golf ranger at The Captains Golf Course in Brewster, itís Jim Davidsonís job to prevent bottlenecks and keep the pace of play at a reasonable speed. It typically takes about four to four and a half hours to play 18 holes of golf, said Davidson, but when players start lagging behind, he rides over in his distinctive ranger cart with its red flag and gives a gentle reminder to speed up their game. ďIíll offer tips or insight to golfers on the quirks of each hole and how to play it, or help people find their golf balls on the fairways.Ē
Q: What makes people slow on the course?
A: It can be something as minor as not paying attention to what they're doing; spending too much time socializing, or unfamiliarity with the course. Beginners may not have the ability to play a particular type of course. I always say that the place to start playing golf is on the driving range first, not the golf course. Golfers need to put together a reasonable game first or go after-hours and not in the middle of the day. Anything more than seven to eight shots on a hole gets to be excessive.
Q: How do you know when players start to bottleneck?
A: We have standards of play. Over the years, weíve determined that it should take 10 minutes to complete a par three; 14 minutes for a par four; and 16 minutes for a par five. The starter Ė the person who starts players on the courseó will start people based on their assigned tee times. Each starting time allows about nine minutes for the group to get out of range so the next group can tee off. So we know what time each group started on the first hole, and we do visual spot checks to make sure a group is staying on schedule. For smooth play, I like to see is a group of golfers on the tee; a group in the middle of the fairway, and a group on the green.
Q: How do you get people to ďhurry upĒ without getting them angry?
A: With the cart and the red flag, often I donít have to say anything at all but just show up. If that doesnít work, I start talking to them and find out how theyíre doing and whether there are any problems. I might say, ĎI can see youíre taking excessive time on the green Ė it might be a good idea to reduce the number of putts youíre taking.í Or Iíll suggest that they play Ďready golf,í that is, as long itís safe and doesnít interfere with other players, players can hit in any order, whenever theyíre ready to take their swing.
Q: Often youíll act as a fore-caddy, helping people find their golf balls. Whatís the trick for finding a ball?
A: I start by asking what club they used to hit ball, which gives me some idea of how far it went. Then Iíll ask if it hit a tree or not. If it goes in the really deep grass, itís pretty much a lost ball.
Q: Whatís your weirdest experience on the course?
A: I see a lot of wildlife that I donít expect. I see a lot of Tom turkeys strutting their stuff, and this morning, a fox ran right past me with his breakfast in his mouth, which was some type of rodent. Another highlight was a muskrat on the water hole too. I was in the cart and it came right up to me and didnít even realize I was there.
Q: Whatís your biggest trick for making a good shot?
A: I can break 100 usually. I suggest having a deliberately slow back swing Ė donít try to kill the ball.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
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