By Cindy Atoji Keene
As a golf ranger at The Captains Golf Course in Brewster, it’s Jim Davidson’s 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. “I’ll 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.”
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, we’ve 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 – the person who starts players on the course— 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 “hurry up” without getting them angry?
A: With the cart and the red flag, often I don’t have to say anything at all but just show up. If that doesn’t work, I start talking to them and find out how they’re doing and whether there are any problems. I might say, ‘I can see you’re taking excessive time on the green – it might be a good idea to reduce the number of putts you’re taking.’ Or I’ll suggest that they play ‘ready golf,’ that is, as long it’s safe and doesn’t interfere with other players, players can hit in any order, whenever they’re ready to take their swing.
Q: Often you’ll act as a fore-caddy, helping people find their golf balls. What’s 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 I’ll ask if it hit a tree or not. If it goes in the really deep grass, it’s pretty much a lost ball.
Q: What’s your weirdest experience on the course?
A: I see a lot of wildlife that I don’t 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 didn’t even realize I was there.
Q: What’s your biggest trick for making a good shot?
A: I can break 100 usually. I suggest having a deliberately slow back swing – don’t try to kill the ball.