Day in and day out, this is the number one complaint we have in the Pro Shop. Sometimes it is a valid complaint, often times it isn't, more often than not it is a perspective problem, not a real problem. Most people don't know that "The Rules of Golf" actually address pace of play. Here is what the USGA has to say.
"Pace of Play
Play at Good Pace and Keep Up
Players should play at a good pace. The Committee (i.e. the golf course) may establish pace of play guidelines that all players should follow.
It is a group's responsibility to keep up with the group in front. If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind, it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group. Where a group has not lost a clear hole, but it is apparent that the group behind can play faster, it should invite the faster moving group to play through.
Be Ready to Play
Players should be ready to play as soon as it is their turn to play. When playing on or near the putting green, they should leave their bags or carts in such a position as will enable quick movement off the green and towards the next tee. When the play of a hole has been completed, players should immediately leave the putting green."
They go on to talk about lost balls, recommend penalties, and talk about etiquette that helps pace of play, but the point is the USGA considers this factor important enough that it is in the very first section of "The Rules of Golf".
Here at Mountain Brook, as with most golf clubs in the valley, our established guidlines for 18 holes is a four hour pace of play. With few exceptions, this is a pace of play that 99% of all groups could achieve quite easily if they truly tried. Odds are, if your foursome takes longer than this there are things you can do to increase your effeciency and meet this guidline with ease. The most important of which is to "BE READY" when it is your turn to play. Don't wait for your turn to figure out your line, pick your target, take your practice swings, figure out your yardage, and so on. Do all that ahead of time so when it is your turn you can step up and hit it. There is time to talk with your playing partners at the 19th hole, on holes 1-18 get out there and play.
If a group is particularly slow for some reason they should play "READY GOLF". Ready golf is just as it sounds, if someone is ready they hit. If your buddy is 20 yards ahead of you standing next to his ball in the middle of the fairway with a known yardage, and you are 20-30 yards behind in the right rough trying to figure it all out, let him hit! If you lose a ball, let the person who lost look for it while everyone else hits. Lots of times they will find it and nobody else needs to help, the whole foursome doesn't need to come help right away and waste a bunch of time.
Now let's talk about perspective. Over half the complaints I hear are perspective complaints, not complaints based on our pace of play guidelines. People play at different speeds, and a foursome of fast players can zoom along in three hours, while slower folks sometimes take five. If a foursome plays at three hours, it doesn't matter who they get behind they are always going to "think" it is slow. The majority of complaints we receive in the Pro Shop are from golfers who finished within 15 minutes one way or another of our pace of guidelines. But since they played at a faster rate than the group in front of them, their PERCEPTION is that it was slow, when in fact it really wasn't. This problem can be exagerated if the fast players happen to be a threesome or a twosome.
I once had the following happen to me at another golf course I worked at in the valley:
I had a twosome come in at the turn and complain about a group of five that was in front of them. We tried to avoid putting groups that large on the course, but in this case we told them they needed to keep up with our pace of play guidelines which is 2 hours per side. I immediately went to the tee sheet and checked the fivesomes time, and the group in question actually made the turn in 1.75 hours, a full 15 minutes under the required turn time. They were actually playing very fast, even faster than most foursomes play, but as a twosome following five the perception was that they were slow. The large group probably should have let the twosome through just to keep the perception problem down, but that doesn’t mean the pace of play was slow. That fivesome was on the pace for a 3.5 hour round, that's faster than most foursomes and they were walking!
Honestly, on a busy day twosomes and threesomes are frequently going to feel like it is slow when in fact it isn't. That's just the nature of golf and we can't change it. Foursomes have the most status on a golf course, like it or not. If you are playing as a twosome or a threesome, you need to think on a foursomes perspective. It may be slow for you, sorry, that's the way it is. Playing through the group in front of you will likely land you right behind another foursome. My recommendation is that you just take a little time to smell the roses (or cactus in our case) while you're waiting for the group in front of you to finish.
Last, but not least. When you are out on the course and the golf course marshal comes by and asks you to do something, be pleasant and please do it no questions asked. Odds are he or she has already assessed the situation and the recommendation they are giving you is for the good of the course, not just the single group that is behind you. Our marshals take into account, when you teed off, whether or not you are keeping up with the group in front of you and how fast they are going, how your play will affect the groups 2-3 hours behind you, and they look for any factors specific to your group that may have slowed you down like disabilities. Every now and again they make a mistake, and if they do just remember they are trying to help all players on the course, your group included.