A Bicyclist Teaches Golfers How to Beat Slow Play

David Brailsford, a former competitive cyclist, became the performance director of the British national team in 2003. British Cycling had stunk for most of a century, but Brailsford believed he could turn the team around by applying an idea he’d begun to formulate while earning an MBA—an idea he later described to the Harvard Business Review as “a philosophy of continuous improvement through the aggregation of marginal gains.” He was convinced that, if he and his cyclists broke down everything they did into small components and then improved each of them by just 1 percent, the cumulative impact would be a significant enhancement of their overall performance. Brailsford’s ideas helped his team win the Tour de France in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. They also point the way to a painless approach to beating slow play, as I wrote in an article in the September issue of Golf Digest—which you can read here.

3 thoughts on “A Bicyclist Teaches Golfers How to Beat Slow Play

  1. This may be one of my favorite pieces you have written. Here are a couple of other things my usual Sunday morning group has discovered in our quest to play sub 2 hours as a foursome. 1. Stay in motion. We save time by finishing the swing, looking up to see where it is heading, dropping our club in the bag, scooping the bag up and starting our walk to where the ball lands all before the ball actually lands. This is most important when you are hitting approach shots and/or you are the last to tee off. 2. Putt with the flag in. While it is technically against the rules for now, think of it as practice for next year. 3. Most of us don’t use range finders because it slows us down. The one person who does keeps it on a tether attached his bag rather than putting it in a case or bag pocket. He has developed an interesting method of putting down his stand bag between his feet and straddling it, grabbing his range finder as part of the motion as he stands back up from putting the legs of the bag down, shooting his distance, then dropping the range finder as he scoops up his club. It is almost all in one fluid motion. 4. Keeping the scores/bets orally rather than taking the time to write them down. We have a bizarre dialect that has developed that only we can understand but the transition from tee to green is generally something like… “3,3,4,5. Threes pushed so Good Guys are up $35 with $4 on the tee. E is plus 2, Sweaty is plus 3, Swampy is even and Idiot is plus 2. We good?” It also helps that we all have essentially the same handicap (plus or minus 1 stroke) so we don’t have to keep track of stroke holes. 5. We all started to carry our bags because it means you can walk across greens (and repair your ball marks if you double strap) while you have your bag on instead of walking around the green. 6. Carry snacks. Stopping at the turn is a surefire way to add 15 minutes to your round no matter what you order.

    • These ideas are all awesome. Here’s one more: hooker tees ball on left side of tee while fader hits drive from right. You are so right about staying in motion. If you play with the same people often enough, you develop a sort of sixth sense about how long it takes slowpokes to hit a shot, so you don’t even have to turn around (as you stride toward the green) until you know they’re about to hit. Also, a tip for people who play in carts: tee off in the order the carts arrive at the tee, since that’s also the order they’ll depart in.

  2. This “continuing improvement” is also used in various businesses where workers are prompted to submit ideas to improve or eliminate waste that do not bring value. Playing with no glove or glove on all the time is surely a great idea to eliminate “waste”. No head cover as well and so on. Great piece of writing David !

Leave a Reply