Wednesday, July 23, 2008

R.I.P. George Haines

Golf in Philadelphia has lost a friend.

I was saddened to read of the death last week of George E. Haines Jr. at the age of 64. His obituary in The Inquirer tells most of the story: his accomplishments as an amateur golfer and squash player, his years as a coach of both sports and four others at The Haverford School, where he was also a teacher. George was also the husband of Liz Haines, from Merion Golf Club, who has long been one of the top women players in this city.

George had been in declining health and I hadn't spoken to him for a while. But for years there, we spoke often -- or I should say mostly he spoke. I don't think I've ever had a more ardent and discerning reader than George.

For years before I actually met him, I would get long, detailed phone messages from him. Ever the coach and teacher, he would read every golf story I wrote and critique it in ways that none of my editors did, or could. Instead of As, Bs, or Cs, George would give me birdies, bogeys and pars, sprinkling in the occasional double-bogey or, if I was lucky, an eagle. Sometimes, even within a single story, I'd get a tap-in birdie and a double-bogey. Because the office voice mail system cuts off callers after one minute or so, George would occasionally leave a series of three, four, even five messages in a row to get everything off his chest. Believe me, I took those critiques to heart because I knew that George knew his golf and because I knew he was speaking from his heart.

Perhaps because his wife Liz is such a good player, George took particular interest in women's golf. When he felt The Inquirer hadn't given sufficient coverage to a women's tournament, be it a national women's amateur or a local girls' junior, I would get an earful.

There came a point when I didn't see George at local tournaments any more. Then his phone messages stopped. I knew he had health issues. When I bumped into Liz Haines at a tournament and inquired about George's health, her look of concern told me all I needed to know.

Golf in Philadelphia has lost a dear friend in George Haines and I have lost one of the most valued readers I've ever had.

Monday, July 21, 2008

S-l-o-w play

My On Golf column in Sunday's Inquirer railing against slow play prompted quite a few emails. Most supported my position but one reader did accuse me of being a Type-A personality who needs to learn how to slow down and enjoy the round.

If you missed the column, it started like this

It happened again, just the other day, when I was playing golf on vacation in North Carolina.
For nine holes or more, I zipped around the course with my son, my niece's husband and a young friend, the fastest foursome on wheels. Ready, golf. Find it. Hit it. Go find it again. Heck, at the rate we were playing, we figured we'd be back at the beach cottage in time for dinner - before that ominous cloud in the distance could spoil the fun. But suddenly, not long into the back nine, the round ground to a halt.

For the rest, click here.

Here's a sampling of the emails that continue to come in:


Your article on Slow Play struck a chord with me. I play 2 or 3 times a week, mostly not on weekends. I agree with you that the course can do a great deal in controlling the pace of play. In addition to those you mentioned:1) Mark those hazards! We "know" that area of unmown weeds and stuff is a hazard, but its not marked and we search it to avoid a "lost ball".2) Drop those mowers 1/2 inch. Its not the Open. It'll still be a challenge to hit a good shot from the rough and we'll find the ball quickly. Don't forget to vacuum those leaves!3) Put out lotsa yardage markers. A GPS system on the cart doesn't help when I walk! Its also not much good if its "cart path only". If the tee box on a 3 par is 30 yards long, from where is the yardage measured? How far to carry that right bunker?4) Get those Marshalls/Course Ambassadors out there. Give them some people skills training.

Amen… your article was presented to my wife as more documentation to justify my monthly club dues. (no names, please) golf club just made my ever growing “Will not pay to play” list after they eagerly accepted $430 in greens fees from my foursome last week and then subjected us to a 4 hour and 45 minute death march. We sat behind a foursome that was easily a hole and a half behind for 7 holes. At one point, I watched some idiot on a short par 3 take 4 shots to get out of a greenside bunker and then mark his ball so he could go to the other side of the hole and attempt to read his putt! He saved 7 with a 2 putt and then proceeded to the 9th tee leaving half of the bunker unraked…Makes me want to take up tennis.

Joe –I suspect the words that follow will fall on deaf ears and I doubt thatyou'll really read them, yet I write them anyway in an attempt topresent the other side. “Fastest foursome on wheels”, “yahoos in frontof us”, “Those knuckleheads…”?Permit me to be an arm chair psychologist for a moment. Might you be aType “A”? Perhaps even a tailgater? Run the occasional red lightbecause your time is precious? Eye roll and huff when the person infront of you at the grocery store pulls out the checkbook?I’m not on the tour, don’t belong to a private club but enjoy hittingthe links a few times a year with good friends. I love the earlymorning mist rising off the pond, the gentle curve of the dogleg, theimmaculately manicured fairways – the sights, sounds and feel of around with friends. Hell, we don’t even keep score any more. We chooseup and play best ball, laughing the whole time.“Find it, hit it, go find it again.” This is your round? Where’s thelaughter and the enjoyment? The taking advantage of this pristineenvironment to discuss life with your son or kick back with buds?Yes, I am guilty of a 4 ½ hour round. Where’s the rush? If pressed frombehind we have no problem letting the speedsters play through, but I refuse to give in, to be intimidated when yahoos like you start huffing and catcalling about ready golf. Relax, Joe. Take a breath and enjoy your surroundings with your son. Around of golf is a wonderful opportunity to connect, yet I fear if yourson sees you snorting about the knuckleheads in front of you, you maybe sending a terrible message. You want fast play? Join a club. And let those of us who just want to escape for a few hours with good friends enjoy ourselves without having to deal with folks who are trying to setsome kind of record by becoming the Fastest Foursome on Four Wheels. Where’s the fun in that?Why do you play golf, Joe?


Joe, I have been a ranger at (no names, please) fro the last 5 years, although I'm retired and this job is not a career move it provides me with some insights as to the working's of a golf course of which I'm sure you already know. First the pros are of little or no help their antics on TV only go to slow the game down. Second the finances of running a course are tremondous as you pointed out and every foursome that you lose can represent 500.00. But slow play can also lose a course many foursomes, so its a double edge sword. Third as a ranger we have to tread lightly with our customers,being to strong an d arrogant does't work. At (no names) we have 10 minute tee times and the starter instucts each group not to tee off un til the group in front of them reaches the first green. Antother problem is the way our course and many others are built, in order to play properly with our large undulating greens takes a lot of time, we also have 186 sand traps some of which only serve to slow the game down. We have a very high slope rating for each of our 5 tees, which presents a challange. Getting the players to play from the right tees is almost impossible, they look at them as sex or age related, instead of as we like to tell them that they are handicap related. And lastly alas, the customers who most respond quite nicely and say that they will try to pickup the pace, but others although a few become insulting. We at (no names) try to address this problem and are quite aware of PACE OF PLAY. An instruction we give slow groups is to stay with the group in front of them, not look behind them,because you don't see anyone doesn't mean they are not there. Joe thanks for your good article in the sunday Inquirer.


Joe, read your article in Sundays paper. Good thoughts but it did not hit the bulls eye....

The reason play is slow is that no one is educated and no one TEACHES etiquette or speed.

What if you, the Pro Shops, Rangers and especially Tournament directors stressed READY GOLF (not just lip service) What if everyone lined up their putts while the other guys was lining up his. What if only the last guy strolled up to the hole and got all the balls out. What if you parked the cart on a line from the hole to the next tee. What if you actually came to the course with the idea of playing golf and not spending time telling war stories or jokes about the last time you were on a course with a few hits thrown in. What if Golf was the reason you came to the course. Can you imagine how a pick up game of basketball would be played if as you dribbled the ball up court you had to stop and listen to someone's rendition of how you used to do it or what then listened to his story on how he hit a foul shot......or a sandlot game of baseball where the pitcher took time between pitches to regal you with his other moments of glory........

It is the culture of what golf has become that is ruining the game.....Are you there to play golf and exchange some pleasantries??? or are you there to socialize and hit a few, drink beer and smoke cigars...... Unless we are taught that it is a game "to be played", not just a gathering of guys to will never change.......and I firmly believe if that message was out there from guys like you, Pro Shops, Rangers, Tournament Directors, on the wall in the pro shops, on the score cards of the charity tournaments nothing will change........golfers would love it and more would be willing to play a 4 hour (max) round. If it is all about money, think how many golfers or guys are turned off by the 5 plus hour round and just don’t go...

Thanks Joe.........


One of the most agonizing things in the world is the slow play and the absolute refusal of the noodniks to let you play through.
But here are some things that drives me crazy: The incessant searching for lost balls. If you suck, buy cheap balls. Two minutes is plenty of time to search for a lost ball. People that hit the ball 150 yard straight and then another 100 yards to the right should just own up that they suck and even if they do find the ball, it will take another 2 shots to recover. Then they hit it into the water. Instead of walking up to the hazard, they want to take the shot over and hit it into the water again. These are usually the same people who hit into a trap and take 3 shots to get out and then "forget" to rake or walk all the way around to the other side of trap, pick up the rake and walk all the way back around to the other side again.
My helpful hints:
1. Two minutes maximum to look for lost balls. I'll even offer the person a free drop on the edge of the fairway to get things moving.
2. Take the (expletive) rake with you into the trap! This defies common sense not to do it.
3. Maximum strokes: If you stink, pick up after Triple Bogey, unless there is a good amount of money being bet, you really want to record that 117 into your USGA handicap, or proudly brag about the day you shot 152 at Pine Valley.
4. Pleeeeaaassee have sense enough to let faster groups play through!
5. I'll allow you one Mulligan per 9. Period.
I have many more.


Without a doubt one of the best articles I've read about the slow play on public courses. Aa copy of this should be given to everyone who pays to go on a public course. The one guy your forgot is the person who takes three practice swings, hits the ball a good forty yards and then start the practic swing routine all over again.

The only public coursse I knew of is (no names, please) where the twelve minute rule was strictly adhered to. Unfortunately, the family children who took over the course, took the money and ran, and now is housing.

A ready golfer,