• Alistair Tait

The 12 golfers of Christmas – The Snail


Welcome to my Christmas series highlighting characterisations of golfers I’ve played with over the years. A wide variety of people with a vast array of personalities enjoy this game. I’ve distilled them down into 12 types to entertain you over Christmas.


I obviously pre-wrote these so I didn’t have to write my daily blog over the holidays. No flies on me. In other words, I’m currently incommunicado enjoying time with my family, eating and drinking too much and taking Izzy for long walks. So, in true BBC style, please do not respond to these blogs; they’ve been pre-recorded.


8. The Snail


Why are snails never ready to play when it’s their turn? In fact, why do they wait until they arrive at the ball before they put their glove on? Sometimes they don’t have the glove on even when they’re last to play in a three ball, a four ball. Sometimes they haven’t even done the yardage.


Practice swings? If I was in charge of golf I’d limit them to one per swing. Snails are known to have a few practice swings and then back off because they’re not comfortable. Then they take another few practice swings while their playing companions try not to howl at the moon.


The term “faff” applies perfectly to snails, as in they faff about rather than getting on with it. “GET ON WITH IT!” are the exact words you want to yell when paired with a snail.


Professional golf has had a snail infestation for years, one that just won’t go away, despite the professional tours and governing bodies telling us they’re doing everything they can to make snails non-existent.


Pull the other one!


There were certainly many examples of snail like play in the professional game this year.


Watching Bryson DeChambeau win the U.S. Open was intriguing, but he can’t seem to hit a 10-foot putt without going to the library to check out a green reading book, which should be outlawed in my humble opinion.


How Stacy Lewis managed to win the Aberdeen Standards Investments Scottish Ladies Open at The Renaissance Club is a mystery. The final round took five hours and 16 minutes, and Lewis is a quick player. Having to watch playing companion Jennifer Song take forever to play a shot without screaming was probably a bigger victory than lifting the trophy.

“It shouldn’t take that long to play,” Lewis said. “I knew it was going to; that’s the sad part.
“I’ve been an advocate for changing our pace of play, getting people to play faster for a long time, and we’re still going the other way unfortunately.”

It’s often the same in elite amateur golf too. It’s not as bad at club and recreational level but it does exist. At least golf club members know the snails and try to avoid them like the plague.


Problem is, the snail’s pace of play doesn’t affect the actual snail. Faster players suffer. How many times have you played with a snail, noticed you’ve lost a hole and instinctively play faster even though you’re not the problem. Yet when you have a wee word with the snail, he or she goes into denial. Some even become indignant.


Believe me, most snails don’t like to be called out on their glacial pace of play.


Snails should be extinct by now. The R&A and USGA brought in a rule at the start of 2019 to make them just that. Rule 5.6b reads:

“A round of golf is meant to be played at a prompt pace.”

Except it isn’t really a rule, just a suggestion. It goes on:

“It is recommended that the player make the stroke in no more than 40 seconds after he or she is (or should be) able to play without interference or distraction.
“The player should be able to play more quickly than that and is encouraged to do so.”

Has anything written in the variations of the rules of golf since the Honourable Company set out the first 13 laws in 1744 been more ignored, especially by the top players? I’d make 5.6b a hard and fast rule if I had my way, and institute a shot clock in big tournaments to call the snails out.


Hopefully 2021 will see the snails slither off into oblivion. I’m not holding my breath. I just hope I don’t get drawn with too many this coming year.


#JustSaying: “There’s only one reason for slow play – selfishness.” Mark McNulty

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