Pace of Play at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
“Golf as it was meant to be,” is far more than a clever slogan here at Bandon Dunes. It is a philosophy that guides most everything we do at the resort, and that includes the way we try to manage pace of play at our five golf courses.
The pace of play is an issue that never seems to go away, and for good reason. Pace of play is easily among the starkest differences between golf in America and in Scotland. Recent research by the USGA puts the average time for a weekend round in the U.S. at about four hours, 30 minutes. By comparison, the average round in Great Britain and Ireland — where practice swings are rare and the walking is brisk — is played in a mere three hours, 44 minutes.
Guest experience is always No. 1 at Bandon Dunes, and we would never want to rush guests. But we also know that nothing wipes out an otherwise perfect day on the links quite like a slow slog through 18 holes. It’s why Toby Stanley, who manages Bandon Dunes’ Starter/Ranger Department, spends so much time thinking about how to keep the pace of play at Bandon Dunes as close to four hours as possible.
With an average round time of about four hours, 20 minutes, Bandon Dunes’ pace remains speedy by today’s American standards. That above-average pace is not something that has happened by accident, taking the cooperation of both Bandon Dunes’ staff and Bandonistas themselves.
“Playing quickly is a team effort,” Stanley says.“With the pace of play being a major issue in the golf industry, we here at Bandon Dunes are trying to do all we can to be on the cutting edge of speeding up the pace.”
Setting the pace
One of Bandon Dunes most recent efforts is the establishment of “pace-setter” tee times. The first 10 tee times of each morning at each golf course are reserved for these pace-setters, meaning every group that tees off in one of these early slots is expected to complete its rounds in four hours or less.
This is rooted in one of the most basic tenets of golf etiquette: Always keep pace with the group ahead. To keep up a pace of 4:20 throughout the day, the first rounds of the day must be played at an even quicker pace.
A slow front group will have a cascading effect that slows down the course throughout the day. But speedy groups out front keep things moving by willing the trailing groups to stay within the flow of the golf course and directly behind the group in front of them.
Of course, we certainly understand what can slow down a round here. From high-stakes games among friends, jaw-dropping vistas that just beg for a photo (or 10), to the overall challenge of Bandon Dunes’ five golf courses, much can distract an otherwise speedy golfer. So if four hours seems like an unreasonable pace of play, then Stanley suggests avoiding the 10 pace-setter times and taking sound pace of play strategies throughout the round to keep pace.
The Rangers are here to help
Bandon Dunes has rangers placed throughout each golf course, diligently tracking the pace of play.
Contrary to popular belief, rangers do not necessarily have a set expectation of how long a round should take. Instead, Stanley says his rangers want to see your group on pace and in contact with the group ahead, no matter how slowly or quickly that particular group is playing.
Most of all, rangers are there to help, so there is no reason to be intimidated. Their purpose is to simply keep Bandon Dunes an enjoyable experience for every Bandonista, and every once in a while that means they may urge a slower group to step up the pace.
“You can monitor yourself,” Stanley says. “If you are walking up to the teeing ground of a Par 3, the group ahead of you should be walking off the green. If you don’t see them, then you’re behind.”
Of course, a brisk pace of play would not be possible if not for Bandonistas. Golfers should play ready golf, always be aware of their position on the course, keep up with the group ahead, walk to each tee fully ready to hit, and place clubs between the green and the next tee when on the putting green.
“It comes down to being prepared,” Stanley says. “I see a lot of golfers who are not prepared on the first tee to start playing, they’re not prepared when they get to the green to putt, they’re not prepared to walk to the next hole and park their pull cart on the wrong side of the green. Just doing those basic things can save so much time.”
By keeping play at a brisk pace, Bandon Dunes will hopefully remain able to provide “Golf as it was meant to be.”