CHRISTOPHER SMITH WINS 2ND ANNUAL NORTHWEST SPEEDGOLF CHAMPIONSHIP AT EAGLE CREST®
On a beautiful autumn day, Christopher Smith of Portland edged defending champion Tim Scott of Sunriver to win the 2nd Annual Northwest Speedgolf Championship on the Resort Course at Eagle Crest Resort. Smith had the low golf score of the day with a 74 and also posted the fastest time, 56.19 for a speedgolf score of 130.19. Tim Scott shot an 80 and had a speedgolf score of 137.56 to take second place. Gwil Evans of Bend took third this year with a speed golf score of 149.44. John Hamilton of Portland took the masters division with an 89 score and 64.28 run time. Katy Williams of Portland set the pace for the women, shooting an 88 and a Speedgolf score of 157.14. “We were happy to have a number of new players this year,” notes Jeff Colburn, Eagle Crest Hotel Manager and Tournament Director. “ Once you play speedgolf, it is easy to get hooked on this unique new way to play golf.” We plan to continue growing the sport and would love to see 50 players for next year’s event."
The final Speedgolf event of the year is scheduled for next Sunday in Chicago.
HIT AND RUN
By Eric Zorn
October 21, 2003
I've been saying all summer that to improve my golf score I either need to hire a teaching pro or an exorcist. Now I think a sports psychologist would do.
I shot my second best round of the entire year Sunday morning, an 86 at Jackson Park Golf Course.
And I did it carrying only four clubs -- a three-wood, 6 and 9 irons and a putter -- hitting each shot as quickly as possible and running from shot to shot in an effort to finish the round quickly.
No golf shoes, no tees, no studying the line of a putt, no pacing off yardage. Whack and dash.
I was competing in the second annual Chicago Speedgolf Classic (My column about playing in the first annual CSC, which explains more about the rules of the hybrid sport, is posted here.)
The words of Christopher Smith, one of the few professional speed golfers in America, haunted me: Golfers often speedgolf better than they slow golf, he told me last year, because the game doesn't give them time to suffer "paralysis from analysis," that distracting cacophony of instructional voices that chatters in every golfer's head when he stands over the ball.
Also, the game encourages conservative play (going long only adds yards to your run) which makes for steadier scoring.
Distance: In the three to five mile range depending on how close the tees are to the previous greens and how much side to side the wayward golfer must run.
Time: The range Sunday was 44 minutes to 1:35 (I ran the course in a whisker over an hour).
It puzzles me that local organizer Jim Kosciolek hasn't attracted more interest. The first CSChad 22 finishers;the second had only 21. (To get on his mailing list for future events, write him at this address.)Given that Chicago is crummy with distance runners and golfers and that both sports appeal to middle-aged obsessives, I thought this happy combination would be enormously popular by now.But then, clearly, as my score proves, I'm crazy.
SPEED GOLF -- WHO SAYS YOU HAVE TO PLAY SLOW?
By Bill ReynoldsThe Providence Journal, June 24, 2003
BARRINGTON - Tired of all those five-hour rounds of golf? Tired of seeing guys standing over the ball as if they are trying to figure out the Pythagorean Theorem? Tired of spending all those hours on the golf course and not even getting a decent workout out of it?
How about if I tell you that two guys played Rhode Island Country Club yesterday in 45 minutes? And how about if I told you that one shot 76, and the other 77?
Wouldn't believe it, right?
Well, believe it.
It's called "Speed Golf," and it's a sort of biathlon that combines running and golf. Two of its evangelists were at the CVS Classic yesterday morning for a little demonstration.
"I saw them coming up 18 and it was a wild sight," said Rich Paolino, a former All-State football player at Barrington High School. "They really were running."
Running between shots. Running from green to tee. Playing against the clock as well as the course. No practice swings. No standing over the ball as if willing it to go straight. This was golf as aerobic workout. Golf as extreme exercise. Golf in the express lane.
It's a concept that Tim Scott and Christopher Smith, who both live in Oregon, first learned about five years ago when they saw an article in a running magazine. Not that they were your average weekend hackers, mind you. Both played professionally on mini-tours, and were in the 70s yesterday even though they had never seen the course before. And yesterday wasn't even a good day.
Scott won a speed golf tournament last fall in Chicago shooting a 70 in just 42 minutes, while using only six clubs. Smith has shot as low as 68 in just just over 42 minutes.
That's great golf, whether you're doing it in 42 minutes or 42 hours.
And the biggest thing they've learned?
"It's a myth to think you have to play slow," Smith said.
For the first thing that happened when they started running around the course was that they essentially played as well as they did when they played the traditional way. They didn't need practice swings. They didn't need to stand interminably over a ball, running through some personal checklist before they started to swing. Most of all, they didn't need all the time to play that they always thought they did.
So there they were yesterday running up the 18th fairway as Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade were giving a clinic before the actual tournament began. They had both hit good drives. They both hit their second shots on the green. And they both checked their watches when they finished, because in "speed golf" the score of the round is added to the time for the real score.
Oh yeah, they were both covered with sweat.
They were using five members of the North Kingstown High School cross-country team as caddies, and while two of the high school kids carried the bags the other three served as fore caddies. So when Scott and Smith arrived at their drives they were told the yardage and just had to swing away. And then run to the green, of course.
Golf a genteel game?
Golf a good walk spoiled?
Not the way these two guys play it.
Scott and Smith play in about 15 "speed golf" tournaments a year, also make appearances. They hope to do more, for they get a response everywhere they go, see this as the start of something, golf as workout.
For almost from the time they first heard about "speed golf" they became converts, not only in the concept of it as a sport, but also in the larger issue that golf in general should be speeded up, that too much slow play is choking the game.
"The number-one reason people leave golf is that it takes too long to play," Smith said. "But people see it on TV, and they see the best players in the world playing very deliberately and they think that's the way to play, when anyone who has played sports knows that you can think too much, that sometimes it's better if you do things instinctively.
"We're trying to make golf a little more of a reacting game. To think less, and play more. We all overanalyze."
And while both know that "speed golf" is a novelty, and the actual running from shot to shot is probably not going to seen too often at the weekly four ball, they're convinced the game would only benefit by everyone playing quicker, more instinctively, that five-hour rounds hurt everyone.
Yesterday they played a round of golf in 45 minutes.
Think about that the next time you've been on the course for over three hours, and you're stuck in the middle of the 11th fairway watching some bozo on the green who thinks he's Ben Hogan staring endlessly at a putt he's got no chance of making anyway.
FAST GOLF CAN BE ADDICTING
By John Gunther, Sports Editor
The World Link, March 15, 2003
I knew long before Sunday morning that my strength in the Bandon Dunes Speedgolf Classic would be running.
Speedgolf combines the activities of running and golf - two things I enjoy greatly.
I'm a decent runner. To call me anything more than a hacker on the golf course would be border-line generous.
So I went into the speedgolf tournament not expecting much. The good thing about that philosophy is that I couldn't be disappointed with the outcome.
Sunday was my first experience with competitive speedgolf.
My entire preparation consisted of hitting balls on the driving range at Coos Country Club two days last week and playing 18 holes of speedgolf the second day, running through the rain in just under an hour while shooting 114, not bad for my first round of the year (my clubs had been in storage since September).
From that practice round I learned several things.
First, don't wear jeans. As an avid runner, I knew it was difficult to run in jeans, but my decision to run the course was a spur-of-the-moment thing as I took advantage of the fact that nobody other than Marshfield's golf team was playing at the country club.
Second, bring a putter. I played the first nine with just a 5-iron and 7-iron, but learned that it's a lot harder than I expected to putt with a 5-iron.
Third, watch your step going down steep hills. I had a nice ride on my butt down the grassy hill between the first green and the second tee.
Fourth, try to hit the ball straight and don't worry about length. For that reason, I didn't carry anything that vaguely resembled a wood. I can't hit my woods straight until about my fourth time out in a given year.
With those lessons in place, I teed it up Sunday with 23 other players, starting four minutes apart in blustery conditions. Someone measured the gusts at 30 knots, which was a great thing for the downwind holes, but murder on the ones that played into the teeth of that breeze.
A couple other lessons came my way in the instructions prior to the competition. First, if you hit a ball you can't find, the rule is to drop near where you think you lost the ball for a one-stroke penalty. In speedgolf, a one-stroke penalty is the same as one minute in time because you combine your golf score with your running time. If it's going to take you more than a minute to find your ball, it's not worth the time.
The other lesson is to take time over your putts for the same reason. A missed 4-footer costs you another minute for the tap-in.
I got off to a great start Sunday, because the first hole at Bandon Dunes played directly downwind. A good 5-iron off the tee and a decent 7-iron and I was on the front part of the green in two, putting for birdie.
I have a personal rule not to leave any birdie putts short, because I just don't get many of them. I hit what I thought was a great putt and watched it roll the 50 feet to the cup and another 10 feet off the green. By the time I finally hit the cup I was on my seventh stroke of the hole and my poor golfing adventures were just beginning.
The second hole at Bandon Dunes is a par-3 that sits on a hillside. I didn't get my tee shot all the way up the hill, but set up for a pitch up to the green. The only problem was I didn't get my pitch over the top of the hill and it came right back to where I had been standing. My second pitch appeared headed for the green before stalling and actually rolling farther down the hill than where I hit it from - a negative-yardage shot.
By the time I jogged to the third tee I knew I already was facing a score well over 100 and was standing over the one tee shot that really concerned me. I can hit my 5-iron a long way when I hit it good, but I didn't and didn't come close to reaching the fairway. After four shots (if you can call them that) in the sand and grass, I finally reached the fairway, but I was behind a little hill. I never saw where my sixth shot came down and quickly realized I wouldn't find the ball - the first of four lost balls on the front nine and six for the entire round.
I settled down by the fifth hole with back-to-back bogeys, but couldn't maintain any consistency the rest of the round.
By the time I was done, I had, as I had expected, one of the top running times (1 hour, 6 minutes and 40 seconds) and the worst score for the 18 holes (130).
But I also led the field in a couple golfing categories - most holes with scores of 10 or higher (four), most holes over par (18, though two of the other players also shared the honor of failing to get par on any hole) and, significantly for me, best improvement from front nine to back nine (18 strokes).
But you know what else? I had a great time.
Speedgolf could be addicting, if I had the chance to play it more often.
It's a new challenge. And it's a lot more fun than waiting to play through groups that are agonizingly slow in front of you.
Take away the wind and my score would have been much better Sunday. Also, most courses don't have sand traps nearly as difficult as Bandon Dunes. Not only do you have to find your way out - it took me two shots on a couple of them - but you also have to take time to rake them.
I probably would fare much better in speedgolf late in the summer, after I have had numerous rounds under my belt to work out the kinks in my swing for the season.
But I would play it again next week, if I got the chance.
And I'd be relying on my footspeed for a better score.
IN SPEEDGOLF, THE PACE OF PLAY FIGURES INTO SCORING
By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard, March 13, 2003
BANDON - With a 30 mph wind gusting at his back, Tim Scott walloped a drive about 300 yards down the first fairway at Bandon Dunes Golf Course.
Scott didn't waste time admiring his Bunyanesque drive. He grabbed his special lightweight golf bag and took off running after the ball before it even landed.
Less than three minutes later, Scott could be seen loping over to the second tee, having already posted his first par of the day.
Welcome to the opening moments of the second annual Bandon Dunes Speedgolf Classic, which saw two dozen other golfers follow Scott to the first tee on Sunday, one every four minutes.
Many of them wore running shorts and shoes, even though the tournament was held in weather conditions so blustery that there were far more comments about wind speed than about the competitors' foot speed.
"It was brutal out there," Scott said as he stepped to the side of the 18th green, just moments after holing out to complete his round - a scant 55 minutes, 15 seconds after his opening drive.
"On 16, out on the point, it is just howling - I could hardly stand up. Running into the wind, it felt like you were going about a half-mile an hour. ... You finish this course today and you know you've played speedgolf as hard as it gets."
Normally, of course, one doesn't see the terms "speed" and "golf" in the same sentence. It can take five hours or more to complete an 18-hole round of regulation golf. Some players spend as much time anguishing over a single putt as Scott took to play the first hole Sunday.
In speedgolf, however, the pace of play figures heavily in the scoring. A speedgolf score is the number of strokes combined with the time the player took making those strokes.
Scott, for example, posted a speedgolf score of 134 - 79 strokes plus the 55 minutes he spent on the course.
Obviously, the goal is to shoot the lowest score in the shortest amount of time. So speedgolfers run between shots and waste little time pondering putts.
A links-style oceanside course, Bandon Dunes plays 6,221 yards from the green tees used in Sunday's tournament. However, the distance from one green to the next tee is often several hundred yards, pushing the measured "straight line" distance to 6.1 miles.
Scott figures that he ran about 6.5 miles, given the inevitable zigging and zagging of golf shots. That works out to an average pace of about 8 minutes, 45 seconds per mile - while playing golf just seven strokes over par.
Amazingly, jogging through a round doesn't add as many strokes to a typical speedgolfer's scorecard as most people imagine, says Scott.
Tim Scott runs into a stiff wind on the 16th hole at Bandon Dunes while carrying his lightweight bag during a round of speedgolf. Scott shot a 79 in just 55 minutes during his round, the best of the day at the second annual Bandon Dunes Speedgolf Classic.
"People are afraid they're going to shoot a million," he said. "On a day like today that's a possibility. But normally, most speedgolfers shoot within about five strokes of what they do when playing 'regular' golf."
SPEEDGOLF'S EUGENE LINKS
The recreational running boom began in Eugene when the late Bill Bowerman published his book on "jogging."
So it's only appropriate that former Eugeneans are the primary torch-carriers for this sport of jog-golfing.
Scott and Jim Kosciolek are co-founders of Speedgolf International, a company they formed in 1998 to promote the sport.
Scott now lives in Sunriver, where he teaches fourth grade. Kosciolek is a lawyer in Chicago. Both played on the 1981 Sheldon High School golf team with current PGA Tour pro Brian Henninger.
Until two years ago, Scott was a golf teaching pro, an occupation he fell into after it became obvious he wasn't going to be able to make a living playing in golf tournaments.
"I never wanted to be a golf pro," Scott says. "I wanted to be a pro golfer."
Now, as one of a handful of people competing in the "pro" division at speedgolf events, he is. Sort of.
Christopher Smith is another golf pro with Eugene roots who is a speedgolf supporter. Smith played golf for South Eugene while Scott and Kosciolek were at Sheldon, and he now teaches golf at Pumpkin Ridge near Portland.
"The number of benefits it can offer the golfer are amazing," said Smith, who wrote a lengthy essay on "The Benefits of Speedgolf" for www.speedgolfinternational.com. "You don't have a lot of time to think, so you must play the game instinctively, by feel," he said. Too many regular golf players suffer "paralysis by analysis," he said.
Combining golf and running seemed like a natural to John Hamilton, who coaches cross country and golf at Portland's Catlin Gabel High School. The four members of the golf team he brought to Bandon Dunes were like most golfers - "a little intimidated" by the thought of playing fast.
"Even these guys were a little afraid of it," Hamilton said. "Then, once the were done, they go, `Hey, that was fun!' "
Neither Scott nor Kosciolek provided the stroke of genius that led to the creation of their sport. That honor apparently goes to world-class American miler Steve Scott. In 1979, carrying just a 3-iron, he dashed around a California golf course in 29 minutes, 30 seconds, striking the ball 95 times in the process.
The famous miler combined "two pursuits favored by middle-age obsessives - distance running and golf - and improved both by making running more interesting and golf more like real exercise," wrote Chicago Tribune sportswriter Eric Zorn after participating in a Speedgolf International tournament last fall.
A group based in San Diego promoted three speedgolf tournaments in the 1990s before it ran out of money. That's what prompted the Eugene runner/golfers to get involved.
"We just thought there should definitely be an umbrella organization promoting the sport," Kosciolek said.
Speedgolf hasn't caught fire like jogging did, however.
For one thing, it's difficult to find a place to play. Unless you get the first tee time of the day, you'll keep running into golfers ahead of you. And most golf course operators aren't wild about the idea of sending off one golfer at a time. That's only 15 players an hour, compared to 24 or 28 per hour for golfers playing in foursomes.
"I think speedgolf is the world's slowest-growing sport," said Roscoe Shaw, who loves the game enough to have flown here from Charlottesville, Va., to compete in his first official speedgolf tournament.
"At home, they all think I'm crazy," Shaw said. "No one will join me."
Shaw said he normally shoots "78 or so" when running and golfing on his home course. Fighting the wind here, he had to par the last two holes to break 90, finishing with an 89 in 63 minutes for a 152.
That was enough to beat David Harding of Portland for first place in the 40-49 age group. Harding's time was the day's fastest - 55 minutes, 7 seconds. Alas, it took him 109 strokes, including the penalties for seven lost balls.
"I felt good running," Harding said. "The golf bogged me down."
Harding lightened his load some over the last five holes. After discovering he'd left his driver behind on the 13th tee, he decided to ditch his bag and wedge as well. He finished with just a 5-iron and a putter.
Scott and Kosciolek hope to promote at least three other speedgolf tournaments this year - including one next month at Eagle Crest near Redmond. The second annual Chicago Speedgolf Classic will be this fall. And talks are under way for a tournament in Montreal.
In addition to helping the sport grow at the amateur level, Speedgolf International eventually hopes to put together a four- or five-tournament professional circuit and "try to make it a television event," Kosciolek said.
"Guys like Tim, I think people would enjoy watching. You know, people who can run around the course in 40 minutes and shoot like a 70."
A QUICK LOOK AT SPEEDGOLF:
The goal of speedgolf is to shoot the lowest score on a standard 18-hole course in the shortest time. Players run between shots and their score is the total of their stroke count plus the time in minutes it took them to complete the course. USGA Rules of Golf apply with the following modifications:
TOURNAMENT ELIMINATES SLOW PLAY
By John Gunther, Sports Editor
The World Link, March 11, 2003
BANDON - You can say this much about the Bandon Dunes Speedgolf Classic. It was a breeze.
A total of 24 golfers braved winds up to 30 knotts as they raced around the resort course as quickly as possible Sunday morning, trying for the best score in the least amount of time.
Given the conditions, just finishing was an accomplishment, said event producer Tim Scott.
"If you finished, or were volunteering out there for two hours, you did a great job," Scott told the group of golfers after they finished their rounds at the resort. "This was not a typical speedgolf day."
Scott said he has played in about 15 speedgolf tournaments over the last five years, and nearly every other one has been on a calm day.
He described last year's inaugural Bandon Dunes Speedgolf Classic as a "chamber of commerce" day.
That wasn't the case Sunday. The strong winds were a plus on holes that played downwind, but were nasty for those holes that played directly into the teeth of the breeze, altering shots and slowing the golfers as they ran up the fairways.
"That was brutal," said Scott, the only professional in the field, as he finished his round.
Still, the players said they had a great time.
"It was a blast," said Dougal Williams of Portland, who was competing in his first speedgolf tournament.
Williams won the 25-39 age group with a total score (running time plus total strokes) of 157:29, shooting a 93 while completing the course in 64 minutes and 29 seconds. But he said it wasn't easy."
"It was very, very difficult in the wind," Williams said. "Having to manufacture a shot in the wind - it was a real test."
Katy Becker, one of two women in the field, finished second in the age group to Williams, shooting a 98 in 73:01.
"I had a great time," said Becker. "It was a great workout."
Becker said the strength of her day was long shots, but putting killed her, including three-putts on several greens.
"I had more putts than long shots," she said.
Both Williams and Becker are avid runners. Some other players in the field were better on the golf side.
"I'm more a golfer than a runner," said Peter Lucier, who had the best score among amateurs with an 88. Lucier finished third in the 40-49 age group because his time wasn't as fast. But he did hold the honor of traveling the farthest for the tournament, making a cross-country trip from New Hampshire.
"Some friends told me about it last year," said Lucier, who figured he would make the trip if he could come up with a business excuse. He sells performance fabrics, and was able to make a business trip to Portland out of his swing to the West Coast.
He plans to do the same next year.
"I will come back," he said. "I had fun. The fact that I can walk away from this, I'm thrilled."
The competitive 40-49 age group - it included 10 of the 24 total golfers - was won by Roscoe Shaw, who lives in Charlottesville, Va., but formerly lived in Portland.
"It's a good excuse to see our friends in Portland," Shaw said, adding that it was also a chance to play competitive speedgolf for the first time.
"I'm addicted to it," he said. "And I'm a lousy runner."
Shaw actually turned in one of the fastest times of the day, 63:22, while shooting an impressive 89. Only seven of the amateurs broke 100.
"The weather was brutal," Shaw said.
A variety of people took part in Sunday's competition, most playing speedgolf for the first time.
Four golfers from Catlin Gabel High School made the round, with Alec MacColl winning the 24-and-under age group by shooting 103 in 68:01.
Catlin Gabel coach John Hamilton won the 50-and-over age group by shooting 100 in 70:59.
The event was put together by Scott and Jim Kosciolek, his partner in Speedgolf International.
The two graduated from Sheldon High School in 1981 and were joined by fellow classmate Mark Doman, who was in his second speedgolf tournament.
The first, in 1999, was at the relatively tame Quail Valley Golf Course near Portland.
Doman named off the challenges Sunday: "The wind, intimidating gulleys and canyons, monstrous sand traps," and then said that was just fine.
"I don't like my score, but I really had fun out there," he said.
Hank Hickox, the general manager at Bandon Dunes, said resort officials would like the event to continue.
"This year was really exciting because of the wind condition," said Hickox, noting that such wind is expected on a Scottish links-style course.
"Anybody who finished today with a reasonable score and time earned their stripes," Hickox said.
Scott was the only player who handled the wind relatively well, shooting a 79 while playing the course in 55:15.
With speedgolf events rare - there will be one in the Redmond area later this spring and one in Chicago in the fall - Scott looks forward to bringing the Bandon Dunes Classic back for a third year.
"Bandon Dunes has been just awesome for two years now," he said.
STROKE OF GENIUS MAKES GOLF MORE LIKE REAL EXERCISE
By Eric Zorn
October 8, 2002
To what do I owe my second-place finish in the 40-49 age bracket in Sunday's Chicago Speed Golf Classic in Jackson Park?
My training regimen of running 10 miles a week and playing several rounds of golf a month? My conservative approach that left almost every shot short? My ability to conquer fatigue with concentration?
Not exactly. But efore I answer, some background.
In 1979, famed American miler Steve Scott decided to see how fast he could play an 18-hole round of golf and, carrying only a three-iron, dashed around a California course in 29 minutes, 30 seconds, whacking the ball 95 times.
This is widely credited as the hey-you-got-peanut-butter-on-my-chocolate moment of the hybrid sport of speed golf, also called "xtreme golf." The game combines two pursuits favored by middle-age obsessives--distance running and golf--and improves both by making running more interesting and golf more like real exercise.
Players whack the ball, run after it and whack it again, with none of the egregious fussiness and dithering that can turn a walking round into a five-hour test of patience. A player's score is the total of time plus strokes--for example, 124:30 in Steve Scott's case.
A big reason that speed golf has not caught on--Sunday's Speed Golf Classic was said to be the first such tournament in this area--is that speed golfers cannot share a course with conventional golfers, who vastly outnumber them.
And the variation is less profitable for courses: Since speed golfers tee off one-by-one at three- to four-minute intervals, only 15 to 20 can begin play in one hour, compared with 24 to 28 conventional golfers going off in foursomes.
"About the only way to speed golf regularly is to be the first one on the course in the morning," said Christopher Smith, a teaching pro from Portland, Ore., who frequently wins speed golf tournaments and flew in for Sunday's event. "You get in your workout and play 18 holes in about an hour."
Be still my type-A heart.
Smith, like most speed golfers, wears running shoes, carries an ultralight bag with just six clubs (conventional golfers carry 14) and spends about three seconds getting set over the ball before striking it (conventional golfers can spend a minute or more on practice swings and other rituals). Smith said most players find that they add only two or three strokes to their usual score and often play better because they don't have time to suffer "paralysis from analysis," that distracting cacophony of instructional voices that chatters in every golfer's head when he stands over the ball.
Smith teed off first, crushed his drive close to 300 yards and loped after it with long, easy strides. Forty-four minutes and 35 seconds later he holed out on the 18th green, barely winded and two strokes under par. Just behind him, at even par 70, was his friend Tim Scott, a schoolteacher from Bend, Ore., whose last putt dropped at 42:07 on his race clock, giving him the victory by 28 seconds.
As a high seed, I teed off 15 minutes after they were done. My only real mistake aside from my everyday golfing blunders was to run faster than my usual jog on the opening holes. This left me sweaty and a bit unsteady by the 15th, where I violated wildlife protection regulations by bouncing my tee shot into the belly of a very irritated goose, my only birdie of the day.
Otherwise my drives were good--the best all year--and my putts were awful--heaving stabs along wild-guess lines. My score of 99 strokes--just a bit worse than average--plus 68 minutes put me at 167, 15th out of 22 competitors.
Indeed, I owe my second-place finish in my division to the fact that there was only one other player in it, Bob Graves of Winnetka, who passed me on the 16th hole and shot 89 in 63 minutes for a score of 152.
Turnout was low for the inaugural Chicago Speed Golf Classic, but that was likely due more to skimpy publicity than a lack hereabouts of golfing runners and running golfers. Look for tournament organizer Jim Kosciolek (go to www.ericzorn.com) to tap into that pool, start a league and run more and much bigger events.
So don't look for me ever again on the leader board.
GOLF ON THE GO
Feature story from In Palm Springs, a product of The Desert Sun; originally published February 28, 1999
By Karla Dial Desert Sun features writer
LA QUINTA -- Some guys on the golf course are always playing through.
And few guys play through more often than Christopher Smith, an assistant teaching professional at the Jim McLean Golf School at PGA West. Only a year after being introduced to the sport, Smith is the second-ranked speed golfer in the world.
It sounds like an oxymoron -- "speed" and "golf" -- but it actually is a growing sport. Founded by an American named Steve Scott in 1979, it's been organized for the last two years, and even gotten some sponsorship nibbles within the last 12 months. Smith is ranked behind Jay Larson of San Diego, a former Iron Man triathlete and the founder of the year-old International Speed Golf Association.
"When I'm practicing, I do get some funny looks," Smith, 35, said. Since a speed golf round takes him approximately 45 minutes, he tries to confine his practice sessions to the early morning or late afternoon to avoid interfering with other golfers.
"But once people understand what you're doing, even the purists don't have anything bad to say about it. Slow play has sickened this sport for years and years, and it doesn't need to." Still, the sight of Smith and his caddy tearing around a golf course -- he in distance running shoes and shorts racing between holes, the caddy putting the pedal to the metal in a golf cart -- can take some getting used to. It flies in the face of what golf has come to symbolize -- leisure time, relaxation, a verdant place where business deals and social relationships are often forged.
Playing against the clock forces a person to remember that golf is a sport -- and that, Smith says, is an excellent thing.
"The number of benefits it can offer the golfer are amazing," Smith said. You don't have a lot of time to think, so you must play the game instinctively, by feel. The irony is that the best PGA players in the world play that way.
"Most of what hurts amateur golfers is they play with mechanical thoughts, no rhythm and no feeling. This game forces you to play with pictures and images, the way the best golfers in the world do."
Since taking up speed golf, Smith has seen his own scoring average in regular rounds of what he now calls "slow golf" drop from 74 or 75 to below 72.
Speed golf uses caddies and all the same rules as regular golf -- as opposed to another new hybrid, extreme golf, where players wear helmets, carry their own clubs andrun between holes. In speed golf, the player's total time is combined with his total score.
But it's definitely physically demanding, even with a caddy to meet you at the hole with the correct club. Smith estimates that he runs about five miles during a complete round -- going up and down hills and around lakes.
"Some people initially play two or three holes and then build up," said Smith. A life-long recreational runner who was raised in the heart of the track and field world in Eugene, Ore., he currently logs between 20 and 40 training miles each week, with lots of sprints.
"Do some interval work, run some miles. One of the problems right now is you can't just go out on any course and play it.
"The skill set is pretty unique. You need to be a very accomplished golfer and a pretty good runner. I'd say golfing accounts for 2/3 and golf 1/3. We're all wondering how fast we can run and still hit a golf shot. That's a very detailed skill. This most resembles the biathlon -- you're exerting a lot of energy and then doing something very specific."
It isn't just strenuous for the golfer, though -- the caddy gets a pretty decent workout as well, parking the cart and racing out to the fairway with the right club.
"It takes a fast cart and the ability to find the ball. I can never find the ball," joked Janine Moffa, one of Smith's coworkers, who has caddied for him several times.
"Basically, I have to know what his club selection is, how far he hits with each club.
"The first time I tried it, it was like, 'Oh, my God, I don't know how to run!' The adrenaline you get from it is incredible."
Last year, four speed golf tournaments were held around the country, with both CNN and ABC appearing at one to produce segments. According to Smith, ESPN has also expressed interest in covering future tournaments.
"I think it's right on the edge of taking off," Smith said. "I'd think that the population that watches ESPN2 is pretty small. But when you think of all the people that play golf and all the people who run -- it's a huge number."
The International Speed Golf Association has a goal of setting up 10 tournaments in the near future, eventually holding pro-ams once the all-important title sponsors sign on.
But until then, Smith isn't giving up his day job. He's content to keep practicing, raising awareness of the sport, for the time being.
"We've had interest from a number of Tour players who want to play -- Len Mattiece and Billy Andrade among them," he said. "Our hopes are that as this becomes a little more exposed, we'll be able to take off.
"I think it would be a great spectator sport."
THE BENEFITS OF SPEED GOLF
By Christopher Smith
Speed Golf is a sport that is scored by adding one's total score for 18 holes, to the total time it takes to complete the course. For example, if a player shoots 81 in 50 minutes and 20 seconds, the speed golf score is 131.20. Although not all of us can actually run 18 holes of golf, the intrinsic nature of speed golf forces participants to play the game in a certain fashion and to follow distinctive guidelines - a fashion that has innumerable golfing benefits, and guidelines by which all great "traditional" golfers abide. Therefore, we may all benefit from what speed golf has to offer, even if we have a hard time running from the car to the first tee! Besides, who really enjoys a five and a half-hour round of golf?
SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF SPEED GOLF:
REACT TO THE TARGET - Speed golfers have little time to spend over each shot (5-15 seconds) and hence must rely more on the eyes and instincts, since there is practically no time to "think." A picture is formed in the mind's eye - and the player simply reacts to that picture. Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Tom Watson and John Daly are players who epitomize this playing sequence. Most "slow" golfers develop an image or picture of the shot to be played at some point before swinging, only to destroy that image through excessive thinking. The proper sequence must be "See Do", rather than "See Think Do." Speed golf transforms the game into more of a "reactionary" sport, such as tennis, basketball or skiing. All great players simply REACT to the target; lesser-skilled players paralyze their ability to react by analysis and over-thinking.
RHYTHM & MOTION WITHOUT TENSION - Tension is the cancer of the golf swing; good rhythm is a critical factor in all sporting endeavors - golf without exception. Proper rhythm cannot be established without constant motion. Picture Lee Trevino or Annika Sorenstam over the golf ball - eyes eager, club and arms active, feet and legs lively. In speed golf, the player is in continual motion, from the 1st tee to the 18th green. The golfer's body is not allowed to become static or immobile, therefore proper rhythm can be established and excessive tension avoided. In addressing he golf ball, "slow" golfers often become "ball-bound" (physically stuck, staring at the ball), frozen in place - inviting tension to invade the muscles and ruining any chances for good rhythm - or for a good result. The cardiovascular aspect of speed golf forces the golfer to breathe- an often neglected, yet crucial element in reducing tension.
STAY IN THE PRESENT - Top players have the ability to stay "in the present" on the golf course, i.e. not worry about was has happened and not be concerned about what may happen. The great Walter Hagen advised us all: "Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers along the way". Perhaps it was his way of telling us to stay in touch with our present surroundings, by use of one of the senses, so as not to let our minds drift neither back nor forward. We all strive to stay in the present, but it's not always an easy task, particularly if the round is progressing at a snail's pace. Forgetting those back-to-back triple bogeys earlier in the round, or not thinking about the fact that if we make par on the last two holes we'll shoot our best round ever, are great concepts, but not always easily accomplished. In speed golf, due to the accelerated pace of play, players MUST stay in the present. Once a shot is struck, the next shot is literally only seconds away and the previous one long out of sight and mind The ability to focus on the task at hand (the next shot) is enhanced in speed golf, thanks to the rapid playing characteristics of the game. So although the speed golfer may not have time to smell The Haig's flowers, neither does he have time to let the mind wander to the past or future.
CONSERVATIVE (MORE INTELLIGENT) CHOICES - Due to the nature of the sport and the fatigue factor, speed golfers often find themselves making more conservative club and shot selections - which often lead to lower scores. Most "slow" golfers' scores would improve greatly if only limits and capabilities were better recognized and accepted. Swinging with less effort and more under control off the tee, taking more (or enough) club to approach greens, aiming for the middle of greens, focusing on lagging (rather than making) longer putts and taking care - but not added time - for shortish putts, are characteristics shared by speed golfers - and top players. Players become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses during a round of speed golf, quickly learning to capitalize on their strengths, while avoiding situations where weaknesses may be exposed. Obviously there are times to be aggressive on the golf course. However, taking fewer risks in general help speed golfers to avoid "beating themselves." Jack Nicklaus and Kathy Whitworth won more than a few tournaments adopting this philosophy.
TRUST FIRST IMPRESSIONS - Since there is little time to analyze or study distance or slope, speed golfers must rely on their initial impressions - particularly on and around the greens. Again, the importance of using and trusting the eyes, rather than the cognitive processes, becomes paramount. Speed golfers tend to select the club with which they are most confident to complete the task, relying on instinct and vision, traits shared by great players. Ben Hogan carried no yardage guide, relying solely on his eyes and knowledge of the course in determining what club to hit. "Slow" golfers often overanalyze situations, which in turn leads to doubt. If there is doubt in the mind of a golfer, the swing or stroke is inevitably doomed. Watch Brad Faxon or Davis Love III during their preparations for putting: once the line and speed have been determined, little time is wasted in stroking the putt - eliminating the possibility of doubt entering the mind.
ENJOY THE GAME & ACCEPT THE OUTCOME - Speed golf helps to remind us of why we play golf in the first place - for the pleasure and challenge of the sport. Unfortunately for some, golf becomes a travail, an "unfair" endeavor that leads to frustration and misery. The less we enjoy the game, the worse we play. Often golfers falsely believe that in order to enjoy a round of golf, they must play well. In reality, the opposite is true: the goal in playing golf must be to enjoy the game - to have fun; if that goal is accomplished, good play tends to follow. Let us not forget that golf is a GAME, not a science, and games are meant to be PLAYED. As kids, we love to play games - because they're fun and the outcome is unknown. We must all remember why we originally decided to play golf - because it was fun. The act of running while playing golf invigorates, amuses and presents a new set of hurdles that are not encountered in a normal round of golf. In its own way, speed golf can make the game fun. But one need not necessarily run to enjoy golf. Understanding that uncertainty abounds in all games (that's part of the fun) and learning to accept results, good and bad, will help to enjoy the game more - and therefore improve performance.
*Note about the author: Christopher is currently one of the top speed golfers in the world, a Master Instructor with the Jim McLean Golf Schools and a Class “A” PGA Teaching Professional at Pumpkin Ridge GC in North Plains, Oregon.
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