Enjoy golfing more by playing faster

You can count on your golf buddies to laugh when you hook your shot into the clubhouse parking lot, but can you depend on them to point out when you are slowing down the game?  Slow golf rounds of more than 4 hours really sap the enjoyment from the game for all involved.  Unless you’re handicapped, being a slow golfer is a treatable condition.  Here are some tips for getting your golf game into gear.

  • Play the correct tees.  Playing the tougher tee boxes will add strokes (and therefore, time) to your game.  Check your course handicap and play appropriately:

    Handicap

    Tee
    0 – 7 Championship
    8-18 Back
    19 and up Middle
    Senior Front
  • Hit a provisional ball.  If your ball may be out of bounds, hit another ball before you go to check out your first shot.
  • There’s a time to chat and a time to hit. Try not to delay your shot. After you hit you can resume your chat, but don’t delay your partners either.  As you approach your ball you should be thinking about yardages and club selection so you are ready to go without delay.
  • Play now – practice later/or earlier.  Hitting extra (non-counting) shots and excessive practice swings just adds time to your round.  If this has become your routine, it’s time to change it.  If you need to practice take the time when you are not playing a round.
  • Break away from the pack.  Each person should approach their ball individually and as directly as possible.
  • Be a speed reader.  You can read the green as soon as you get near it (say while fixing your ball mark).  Don’t wait until it’s your turn to putt to start reading the green.
  • Finish what you started.  The rules of golf provide for you to finish putting even if you are not “away”.  Marking your ball and continuing later adds time to your round.
  • Divide and conquer.  If you are riding in a cart (and you should be for fastest play) drop off one player with a club (or clubs) at their ball and drive to your ball.  After the first player hits they should start walking toward the cart.  After the second player hits they drive to pick up the first player.
  • Be prepared.  Carry an extra golf ball, tees and ball markers in your pockets.
  • Can you tee off?  Then get to it.  Let shorter hitters tee off first if the people ahead are out of range.  Keep up with the group ahead of you.
  • Are you ready?  If your partners agree, you can try “ready golf”.  Each person hits when they are ready not based on who is “away”.  Of course, you still need to play safely (not hit when someone could be hit by your shot), but this can greatly increase the speed of your round.

Now I’ve followed these guidelines for so long this seems like what I would call “normal golf” to me.  You are going to play better golf if you can stay relaxed and still focus on your game.  You don’t want to slow down your group or those behind you.  I can assure you that a faster round can be good, both for your enjoyment of golf and for your score.

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Create and Use Golf Course Maps on Your Garmin Handheld

As cell phones with GPS capability drive down the market for hand-held GPS units, more people have GPS handhelds which are stashed in a drawer, going unused.  Why not repurpose those GPS’s as golf yardage units?  You won’t have to buy a dedicated golf unit ($$$), subscribe to some service ($$) or buy maps ($$), if all you need is yards to the center of the greens.  You can make your own custom golf course maps for free.

All that your old GPS needs to work as a great golfing assistant is the Latitude/Longitude coordinates of the green centers.

The Low-Tech Method

One obvious (and somewhat tedious) method is to enter each green as a point-of-interest (POI) or waypoint using your manual entry option on the GPS.  Use Google Earth or Virtual Earth, find your golf course, zoom in on the 1st green, choose “add a new place mark” , center the crosshairs on the center of the green, read and copy the exact Latitude/Longitude coordinates (they look like:  43°34’44.48″N  61°12’46.05″W)*. Repeat for all 18 greens.

*NOTE: This format is degrees minutes seconds (or ddmmss.ss). Other possibilities in Google Earth are decimal degrees (dd.ddddddd) or decimal minutes (mmmm.mmmm). To save yourself the hassle of converting these later, check how your GPS expects coordinates to be entered. It is usually a configurable option in your GPS setup page.

Sit down with your GPS and enter each green coordinate as a waypoint.  Name as “Hole 1” or “1”. etc.  The lack of an entry keyboard on the GPS makes this process — challenging.  Like brain surgery – don’t attempt when tired or after 3 cups of coffee.  Or better yet, startup the computer software that came with the GPS on your PC, hook your GPS to the PC and enter waypoint data from the comfort of your PC and transfer to the GPS.

The High-Tech Method

Visit this web site.   Find your golf course in the window by entering an address and controlling the zoom.  Pan the window to show the 1st green.  Select “Pin Marker” in the drop-down list, left-click the center of the green, click “Convert” button, enter hole #.  Move on to do the same for all 18 greens.* When done click the “Transparent map” option and then click the “Show Points File (GPX)” button.  Copy and paste all of the text into a new text file and save the file (mycourse.gpx, for example).GarminMap1

*NOTE: Got extra time? The page will also allow you to mark tee boxes, outline fairways, hazards and greens. These outlines and marks will also transfer into your GPS. They are not necessary for yardage purposes, but they will appear when the GPS is zoomed in.  If you want this graphical version, you need to use the “Show Text File” option, copy and paste as a new txt file, use cgpsmapper.exe to create an img file, and MapSetToolkit to transfer to MapSource.   The process is technical, but it works.

At this point you can open MapSource, load the GPX file and send it to your GPS.

Using Your Golf Maps

Normally newly transferred maps are activated by default.  If not, you’ll have to do this in your GPS setup page.  Also you’ll want to change the distance units to yards.  When you start playing a hole choose “Find” or “Go to”.  The waypoints/POI page will open.  If not already showing by “nearest”, change this so it does list them in order by closest.  Select the hole number you’re playing next as your destination to go to.  The unit shows the yards to the center of the green as you progress.

NOTE: It doesn’t matter that you named several waypoints “1” from different golf courses, because ordering them “by nearest” always removes any possible confusion.

If you created fancier maps showing the green outline, hazards and tee boxes then it is possible to use the cursor on the display to measure distances.   But it is more time-consuming than just reading the yardage to the green and delaying your group or those behind you would be poor etiquette.  I just leave the unit in the cup holder in the cart and drive the cart to my ball.  I punch in the next waypoint at the next tee box.

NOTE: It is possible to create a “route” for each golf course from your waypoints. This would (in theory) eliminate the need to select a waypoint at each tee box.  However, for a route to work you must approach each destination within a certain radius to trigger the next leg of the route.  This would always happen if you carried the GPS with you (since you walk on each green), but it might not happen if you leave the unit in the cart, as some greens are not closely approachable in a cart.

Updated version of GCard

GCard is a golf card database program that I wrote for personal use.  It’s now available to anyone as freeware.  You enter scores and putts for each hole and it provides many statistics and charts, in addition to serving as a lifetime archive for your golf cards.

The latest version is 1.1.  I’ve had to change how charts are done, so they now all have a smoother appearance.   Each of the forms was also slightly changed to improve readability.   Some charts now show trend lines and use “smart labeling” so labels don’t overwrite each other.  Also all of the dates in charts are specific  as opposed to using “earliest” and “latest” in the previous version.  Some new general statistics were added including: average putts on par 3’s, par 4’s and par 5’s, and number of eagles.  The current installation package includes one years’ worth of my data (58 rounds), which can be deleted on the “Options” page to start your own database.

The program runs with administrator privilege on Vista machines, so now a pop up appears every time you start the program in Vista.  I gave it elevated privileges because I want to make it easier to locate the data files (in the Program Files folder) for future updating.  Extended help, screen shots and advice for users can be found in the Users Manual PDF file placed in the application folder during installation.

Database Statistics (20) Charts (11)
  • % greens in regulation (%GiR)
  • scores & putts vs time
  • max. 200 players and courses
  • average putts & putts/GiR
  • adjusted & net scores vs time
  • max. 2000 golf cards w/ up to 4 scores/card
  • scrambling %
  • %(birdie, par, bogie) per hole for each course
  • search and print any card
  • ave score and ave putts on par 3,4,5
  • %GiR/hole & putts/hole for each course
  • comments for cards & courses
  • ave # birdies, pars, bogies, etc. per round
  • ave score and handicap index vs time
  • scores & putts
  • ave raw and adjusted scores
  • %GiR and putts/GiR vs time
  • tee boxes & course handicaps
  • lowest round, lowest # putts
  • # rounds/courses played
GCard main window