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  • Alistair Tait

Toss out the teapot tosspots

The teapots are probably happy to be back playing golf after a month off during lockdown so they can moan about pace of play. You know the ones, those who stand back down the fairway with elbows splayed as if they’re trying to replicate an old-fashioned teapot. You can see the look of contempt in their eyes from 180 yards away.

The teapots get immense pleasure from making the group in front feel anxious. Schadenfreude is probably their favourite word. Following on from yesterday’s blog, the teapot tosspots would top my list of members to vote out of any club.

I’m not a slow player. I don’t take practice swings; I don’t take forever to line up putts; I don’t wear a glove so I don’t waste time putting it on and off; I walk at a good pace between shots; I advocate ready golf.

However, there are times when I’m going to be slower than normal. Poor play dictates that. I’m obviously going to be slightly slower if I’m hitting balls into the trees, looking for balls, etc., a regular occurrence at heavily tree-lined Woburn. Playing with slower players also has a bearing on how fast I play. You can only drop so many hints to a snail before you finally have to say the obvious.

I’m quite happy to stand aside and let faster groups play through, especially when the teapots are behind me.

Yet as fast as I think I am, I’m way behind a lot of greyhounds I’ve seen over the years.

I play in the 72 Club every year. We play 72 holes around lovely Littlestone Golf Club in one day. It’s straight stroke play in two-balls. We walk and carry our clubs. The slowest duos in a group of around 20 hardy souls take about two hours and 50 minutes. The fastest get round in 2:20. Believe me, when you watch 72 Club iron man Bryan O’Neill, a veteran of 48 competitions, scoot round Littlestone, you know you’re not as fast as you think you are.

Fellow golf writer Gib Papazian sent me a great story via subscriber Kerry Mucci about encountering fast play on a trip to Scotland a number of years ago. He and his fellow American mates sat on the steps in front of the Royal & Ancient Clubhouse and watched in amazement as 78-year-old Clara McInnes played the Old Course’s 18th hole. Papazian penned an article on the experience which appeared in local newspapers around San Francisco, where he lives. Papazian wrote:

“She came marching down the fairway with a canvass golf bag slung over her shoulder. Stopping only to swat the ball with her old brassie...
“Clara wisely played a perfect bump and run shot up the front of the green through the Valley of Sin, the ball coming to rest 10 feet from the pin.
“Clara pulled her ancient putter out of the bag and walked briskly onto the green directly behind her ball. She read the line as she did.
“When it was her turn to putt, she barely hesitated and rammed that 10-footer into the back of the cup.”

Papazian and his mates applauded Clara more for her pace of play than making the 10-foot putt.

I’ve also seen American friends watch in awe at the pace of play at Scottish golf clubs. I covered the 2012 Curtis Cup with former Golfweek colleague Julie Williams. We played Elgin Golf Club and Dornoch during that week. Julie, an excellent golf writer and good player, was blown away by the pace of play.

We sat having a pre-round coffee by a window in the Elgin clubhouse. It overlooked one of the putting greens. After about 20 minutes, Julie asked me if I was aware of what Elgin’s women members were doing down on the green. I was intrigued. She said:

“Three groups have played that green in the time we’ve been sitting here. Those women are racing around the course.”

We played Dornoch a couple of days later. Julie lost her ball on the 18th, and so I was fortunate to win one-up.

“I can’t believe that,” Julie said as we walked to the clubhouse.
“Sorry,” I replied. “I can’t believe we didn’t find that ball either.”
“I’m not talking about the lost ball,” she said. “We’ve just played one of the best courses in the world in under three hours. Sometimes it takes me nearly that for 9 holes when I play back home in Florida.”
“Welcome to Scotland,” I replied.

We took two hours, 50 minutes, including that five-minute search on the 18th.

Which just proves, you don’t have to be a teapot tosspot to be a fast player.

#JustSaying: “Practice swings are for the practice ground.” Bryan O’Neill, former secretary of the 72 Club

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