Fast & Fun: How Golf Channel Am Tour Keeps it Quick
As we continue to look at ways to play faster during Pace of Play month, we turned to Golf Channel Amateur Tour (GC Am Tour), the nation’s largest amateur golf tour featuring 12 different flights for all ages and skill levels, to see what they do to keep up the pace during their more than 700 tournaments around the nation.
We sat down with Jacksonville-native and GC Am Tour Regional Director, Mike Rich, and got his take on what makes Am Tour so successful at implementing its pace of play practices.
• First off, tell us when and how you got started in tournament golf?
I began working at TPC Sawgrass in college and have worked at other various golf and country clubs, including Pebble Creek Country Club in S.C., Willow Creek Golf Club and Glenlakes Golf Club in Ala., and Cimarrone Golf & Country Club in Fla. I’ve been in the golf tournament industry for more than 25 years and have worked for the events division of Golf Channel for the past three years. I love being a tour director for GC Am Tour because of the great players and golf course facilities we get to work with.
• Your overall thoughts on the pace of play issue in golf?
It’s a common misconception that ability and pace are linked. Ability has nothing to with pace. By being aware of the group in front of you and playing ready golf, golfers can easily finish their round in an acceptable amount of time and help decrease the overall pace of play.
• What are the biggest challenges for GC Am Tour as it relates to slow play?
Our biggest challenge is getting players to understand the fact that quality of play is not influenced by pace of play. We’ve had players shoot 115 in 4 hours, but we’ve also had players shoot 68 in 4 hours, and conversely we’ve had players shoot 115 and take 5 hours to complete their round, and others shoot 68 in 5 hours, so the two are not linked.
The most common issue we see is players that are not aware of the group in front of them. If every group stayed in sight of the group in front of them, we’d never have a problem with pace of play at all during tournaments. However, if a player has a bad hole, they may not feel the urgency to get back into position for the next hole and that can translate into slower play for every group behind them.
• What is GC Am Tour’s pace of play policy?
GC Am Tour has one of the best pace of play policies in the golf industry. It is not only easy to comprehend, but it motivates players to play ready golf. We have a two-check point system. Groups have to finish the front nine holes as well as the back nine holes in two hours and 15 minutes each. If they fail to make their allotted check time at hole 9 or hole 18, and if they are more than 14 minutes behind the group in front of them, the entire group is penalized one shot.
• How are you able to keep the pace with more than 7,000 members nationwide and tons of players on the course at one time?
The biggest thing you have to do as a tour director is be visible and identify any problems early on. If you wait until a group is two or three holes behind, you have lost the course for the entire day. We also try to help players locate lost golf balls, rake bunkers, and make sure that they are aware that we enforce the pace of play rules to encourage them to pick up the pace.
Interested in learning more about GC Am Tour? Visit the official GC Am Tour web site.
And, if you’d like to try and finish your front nine and back nine in two hours and 15 minutes each just like GC Am Tour players, check out these courses, ranked Nos. 26 – 50 on GolfNow’s list of the Top 100 Fastest Courses:
26. The First Tee of Chesterfield (Richmond, VA)
The 18-hole Chesterfield course at the The First Tee of Chesterfield facility in Richmond, Va., features 4,650 yards of quality golf among dense forest and “is a well kept secret in the area,” according to one GolfNow golfer. “It’s perfect for walking just over 4,000 yds from the tips.”
27. Bonita Fairways (Bonita Springs, FL)
Located in beautiful Bonita Springs, Fla., Bonita Fairways makes it a pleasure to play golf, whether solo or with friends. “I live nearby and often take advantage of this course,” said one golfer. “You can play in less than 3 hours as a twosome and the rest of the day is yours.”
28. Kings Gate (Punta Gorda, FL)
29. La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa (Montgomery, TX)
30. River Ridge Golf Club (New Port Richey, FL)
31. The Groves Golf and Country Club (Land O Lakes, FL)
32. Timberview Golf Course (Fort Worth, TX)
33. Center City Golf Course (Oceanside, CA)
34. Sunland Village Golf Club (Mesa, AZ)
35. Sandpiper Golf Club (Lakeland, FL)
36. Newport Golf Club & Conference Center (Crosby, TX)
37. Winter Creek Golf Club (Blanchard, OK)
38. Seven Bridges at Springtree Golf Club (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
39. Westbrook Village/Lakes Course (Peoria, AZ)
40. Poinciana Country Club (Lake Worth, FL)
41. Antelope Green Golf Course (Antelope, CA)
42. Golf Club At Surrey Hills (Yukon, OK)
43. Groves Golf Course at The Meadows Country Club (Sarasota, FL)
44. Fox Creek Golf Club (Smyrna, GA)
45. Crane Creek Reserve (Melbourne, FL)
46. Glen Garden Golf & Country Club (Fort Worth, TX)
47. Huntington Golf Club (Ocala, FL)
48. Palatka Golf Club (Palatka, FL)
49. Desert Willow Golf Course (Henderson, NV)
50. Wailea Golf Club – Old Blue Course (Kihei, HI)
– The Daily Tee
Featured image courtesy of GC Am Tour