I believe it’s important to explain what pace of play is, and how it is determined. Pace of play is the reasonable amount of time that a round of golf should be played within, and it is determined by the Committee that creates local rules and procedures that govern play.
Having said that, this is often a topic that when addressed on the course can lead to contentious arguments. I will provide an example that I encountered recently while caddying for one of my Students. We were preparing to tee off on the second hole when a Gentleman from the Proshop pulled up and from the cart path, opposed to addressing us from a friendly distance, was politely but loudly telling us we needed to pick up the pace.
Being a Professional of our game and having the eyes of a young man watching, I told the well intentioned Gentleman that the green was not clear when we arrived at the tee box. This was my way of communicating to him that the pace of play was being interrupted by a group that was in fact four groups ahead of us. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be polite and professional in these exchanges.
As a golfer, or in advice to a group of golfers, I would give the following guidelines: if you begin play at 9:00, you can be sure that you are keeping an appreciated pace of play if you are on the 4’th tee at 9:40, the 7’th tee at 10:10, and are on the 10’th tee at 10:50. Completing three holes in any amount of time under 40 minutes will result in all eighteen holes being completed in under 4 hours.
If you arrive at the tee and must wait, stay composed. If you are playing in a group and there is an unoccupied hole in front of you, check your time. Understand that Golf is a game that requires patience in many ways. Be willing to ask the person that takes your green fee if there is anything in particular that they would recommend about pace of play. Ask the Starter or Marshal on the first tee the same question, and be friendly with those that you encounter. Often times I have had success by offering Golfers new to my facility some local knowledge.
Often it is the case that the people who are running the day to day operations have more opportunity to promote pace of play and offer advice on how to enjoy a full round of golf in under four hours.
If you want to be proactive as a Golfer, I highly recommend walking a course once. I can write about how much time you will save if you bring two clubs and your putter when you are near the green with an unknown lie, or how dropping off your partner and proceeding to your ball will save a minute or two on every hole, but my best recommendation is to walk a course one time and notice what you do differently. If walking is not within your physical capacity, try to remember the fourth tee, 40 minute guideline. Ask the people that work at the golf course- we are generally delighted to help.