Slow play, go away: USGA introduces flagstick-based pace monitoring tool
By Stephanie Wei under Equipment
Flagstick monitoring tool

Prototype of the device

If you follow me on any of my social media outlets, Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook (and if you don’t, you should shameless self-promotion), then you know I attended the USGA’s Pace of Play Symposium today, where I’ve gleaned a bunch of interesting information — some of which I’ve shared with you in snippets already.

We all hate slow play and have our ideas and opinions on its causes and solutions to try to eradicate it. However, one of the main things that stood out at the Symposium was the prototype device the USGA introduced, the Flagstick Monitoring Tool (pictured above), which is intended to help address slow play at the recreational level at some point in the near future. 

What in the world is this exactly and how will it attack slow play problems? Well, first of all, it’s a device the USGA has developed in conjunction with Spectrum Technologies that attaches to a flagstick and allows individuals to track the time between groups of golfers on the course.

Here’s a quick explanation of how it works: The device records when a group puts a flagstick back in the hole after taking it out. Then, the next group pulls out the flagstick and putts. Meanwhile, the device records when that group replaces the flagstick after finishing the hole. The device sends the gap between the groups, called “cycle time,” to a central source on a computer, tablet and/or smartphone.

The USGA believes one of the best ways to avoid delays on the course is for facility operators (i.e. marshals and/or rangers) to identify and clear backups before they decrease golfer enjoyment and add unnecessary time to rounds. So, if there’s a group that encounters trouble on a hole or is slower than average, it will receive a longer-than-expected cycle time. As a result, the marshal/ranger/slow-play police can get those golfers back on pace and prevent delays/waits/playing times that would normally create a domino effect to every subsequent group on the golf course.

WAIT! What happens if Player A pulls the flagstick for Player B to putt and then replaces it for Player C to chip? The system identifies it as a false reading or an anomaly, so it can be ignored.

In short, this new device is a fact-based method to determine whether there’s a larger gap than normal between groups and delivers the information back to facility operators in real time, which makes it more time efficient for the people monitoring. It’s also an inexpensive yet practical means to measure pace of play on golf courses.

The key operational points of the Flagstick Monitoring Device:
*Play is unaffected
*Long Battery life (approximately 28 days)
*Simple, wireless charging rack
*GPS (any flag in any hole)
*Simple dashboard, any device

Here’s an infographic that explains what I summarized above:

USGA flagstick monitoring pace tool


Hey, slowpokes, watch out for a Flagstick Monitoring Tool coming soon to a golf course near you! YOU WILL NO LONGER BE ABLE TO HIDE — there will be hard data to show that you’re taking too much time to play a hole. This could actually work quite well if facility operators implement it properly.

Your thoughts?