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I feel the need for speed...golf

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Tuesday 12th September 2017
Tags  speed golf   |   Pip Haylett
By Pip Haylett

If you like running, and you like golf, combining the two to make ‘Speed Golf’ could be the thing for you.  As an emerging sport, it has a lot of attractions, combining both disciplines to give you a good run over a couple of miles, and a quick 9 or 18 holes.
The format is very similar to proper golf, but there are a few differences.  Limited to a maximum of 7 clubs, participants go around the course individually.  Running around the course, it’s a balancing act between getting around the course quickly, and still being able to get your heart rate under control to hit decent shot.  This is particularly interesting when trying to putt, as adrenaline and a pumping heart are not ideal for controlled and accurate putting.  The scoring in speed golf is made up of the sum of your shots and the time in minutes to get around the course, the number of shots is still the main element.  Taking a bit of time and composing yourself is going to give you a much better score overall.  One concession here, you are allowed to putt with the flag in the hole, which might save you a couple of second taking it out and replacing it. 
We were invited to take part in a speed golf event hosted by the Trent Park golf course in North London.  Those of you familiar with the standard format of golf can probably spot the obvious potential problem with speed golf, namely the other players on the course.  In this case, the club had reserved the back 9 of their course for us to get out for an early morning speed session.  However, unless you are first out on the course, you may have problems if trying to do a speed round at your local club.  
We were lucky enough to be playing with George Boxall who finished 3rd in last year’s British Speed golf championships and is an excellent speed golfer.  Setting the mark for the day, he had gone around the back 9 of the course in a speed golf score of 57:55, comprising of 38 shots (just 3 over par) on the course, in a time of 19:55 minutes.  
Despite not coming anywhere close to George’s score, I had an absolute ball out there.  One of my main issues with golf, apart from not being very good at it, is the amount of time it takes to play a round.  Being able to leg it around the course, and have an excuse for wayward shots fits my style perfectly.  It also makes it much more accessible for me, and easier on the family and other commitments as it can take an hour, rather than 4 to play 18 holes.  
Coming from a runners perspective, I found it gave me a lot of freedom and ‘fun’ on the course, rather than the usual meandering social walk.  I enjoyed the the run, the quicker round, and a chance to hit some balls at the same time.  I found it really exhilarating to just run up and hit the ball.  Not quite Happy Gilmour style, but with a lot less pressure than normal golf.
From a golfers point of view, after the round I spoke to Camilla Tait, the Digital Editor of Todays Golfer and Golf World magazine who found it “…possibly the toughest 9 holes of golf I’ve ever played.  Fun, but really tough.  “I went off too quickly.  Just because it’s called speed golf, it doesn’t mean you need to go as fast as you can, and actually, it’s just being quicker than you would do normally.  I was surprised at how good my golf was, I wasn’t particularly lining up, or taking time over shots, and I didn’t take a practice swing the whole way around, but still shot 1 over par. “The mental side of speed golf is different, and something I will take back into my proper game.  One of the worst things golfers do is ‘over think’.  Because you have so much time between shots, you become worried about making par or hitting the ball 100 yards.  But here, you are running around thinking about getting to the next tee, and you don’t have time to worry too much.  There is a lot less pressure to play well than in a normal competition.  So if you are into your fitness, this is such a brilliant to make time go past quickly, and to practice your golf at the same time.”
George got into Speed golf at the 2015 championships.  Having both a running and a golf background, he turned up on the day, played well and thoroughly enjoyed it.  “For me, it’s the pace, and speeding up the rate of play.  I do enjoy the social side of golf, but as soon as someone sees the word ‘competition’ it seems to slow right down and can turn into the Masters.  By speeding it up, playing a round and including a nice Sunday morning run, I can go out at 7, and be home by 8:30.”
If you can hit a ball, and like running, then I think this is a brilliant development in the sport.  I’m interested to see if and how clubs can facilitate Speed Golf into the schedule, but there is a growing body of participants, and it might be something that gains momentum.
The speed golf open championships are held at Piltdown Golf Club, East Sussex on 17th September this year, and is open to all comers.  There is a ‘pro’ category, for elite runners and low handicappers, a women’s category, and novice category for all others.

American Golf is a proud sponsor of British Speedgolf

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