All of us should be intrigued by Hinako Shibuno, the 20-year-old champion of the AIG Women’s British Open.
Why? Because Shibuno may be the fastest professional golfer on earth. Furthermore she has the temperament and star power to influence golfers around the world.
Golf the game is too slow. Shibuno the Speed Demon is the antidote for what ails us. She is a sprinter in golf clothing. Say goodbye to all those counterproductive swing thoughts on the golf course. Pull the trigger and off she goes.
Shibuno, who earlier this month in England was playing in (and winning) her first major championship, also has a captivating, world-class smile. Thus her Japanese nickname of “Smiling Cinderella.” This is not an act.
With her bubbly personality, Shibuno captured the attention of thousands of golf fans at Woburn Golf Club in Little Brickhill, about 50 miles northeast of London. Not only did she smile and high-five fans for four days in a row, she set an example for how the game should be played, hitting shots within seconds of it being her turn. Several times when she was leading the championship, she hit her shots before the television camera people could get into position. That’s why many of her spectacular approaches were filmed from odd angles. In every respect, Shibuno was a refreshing change.
Despite the gathering furor about slow play on the PGA Tour, golf can brag of a speed movement starting to take hold in the United States as well as Europe. Sure, there are plenty of slow-motion players out there in Golfland, but the number of faster, nimble-bodied golfers appears to be increasing steadily.
Every epicenter of fast golf requires a leader, and there is nobody in the sport who preaches and practices snappy golf as much as Dick Hyland. Crown him the Speed King of Arizona.
Hyland, director of golf at the Country Club at DC Ranch in Scottsdale, Ariz., is a member of the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame, has won the Arizona Golf Association’s Dr. Ed Updegraff Award for exemplifying the spirit of golf in the state, and has been named Golf Professional of the Year by the Southwest Section of the PGA of America.
In the world according to Hyland, fast golf is more than a topic of conversation. It is a way of life. Hyland likes to play an 18-hole round each week with a different member. As a twosome, they ride. No, they fly.
“We are the first group out,” Hyland said, “and we finish anywhere between one hour and 40 minutes and two hours. We never take more than two hours.”
Hyland has invented a fast-play technique that does not require talking and does not bother the golfers.
As he drives his cart on the course, Hyland flashes colored ping pong paddles at the different groups. A green paddle is the best, meaning the group is achieving “time par” or better. A yellow paddle signifies 10 minutes behind time par. A red paddle is the worst – 20 minutes or more behind time par.
One of Hyland’s most agonizing decisions: Stop competing in tournaments. “I think it’s terribly hypocritical,” he said, “that we address amateurs and insist they play in four hours but then we have pros who play in twosomes or threesomes and can’t finish in under five hours.”
His crusade has been widely noticed. He is to golf what the Road Runner is to animation. And, although the subculture of “speed golf,” where competitors carry a few clubs and sprint between shots, would disagree, Hyland is sometimes labeled the fastest golfer in the world.
“I remember the first time I played with Dick,” said Callaway Golf executive Sean Toulon. “I hit my drive and almost immediately I heard this ‘whack’ from the other side of the tee. We had two balls in the air at the same time.”
This is no frivolous pursuit for Hyland. Fast play is his passion and his conviction.
“I don’t know of anyone in the golf business who has positively affected more golf professionals,” said noted clubmaker and fitter Mark Timms, founder of Cool Clubs in Scottsdale. “He is a natural leader, and he makes golf a better game.”
Reflecting on the Updegraff Award, Ed Gowan, longtime executive director of the Arizona Golf Association, said emotionally, “Dick Hyland has such a love of golf that integrity, adherence to the rules, and the pursuit of excellence are embodied in his everyday approach to his life and the game alike.”
Hyland started his golf career as a caddie at famed Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. “As caddies, we got to play the West Course,” Hyland recalled, citing the companion to Merion’s more renowned East Course, “but we usually didn’t start until 6 o’clock in the evening. You learn to play very fast when you’re running out of daylight.”
An argument can be made that if golf is to be saved from itself – too serious, too analytical – it needs a large dose of Dick Hyland.
“When a ball is in the air, I often will hit within 10 seconds. As long as it’s safe, what’s the big deal?” asked Hyland. “It’s the game of a lifetime, but it shouldn’t take a lifetime to finish a round.
“You’ve done this thousands of times in your life. You don’t have to be good to be fast. Some players are so deliberate they get in their own way, and thus they get in everybody else’s way.”
Up in the air, it’s a bird, it’s a plane … no, it’s just Dick Hyland, without a cape, without a pilot’s license, doing his best to fly from one golf shot to the next.
Give golf professionals the authority to approach and advise plodding groups; Hyland’s first words to any slow group: “What can I do to help you?”
It helps if the pro or ranger drives a different-colored golf cart that is easily identified
Forget honors entirely; play ready golf at all times
Concentrate on determining your yardage before it is your turn to hit
Try this guideline: From the time you pick up your ball marker, you have 15 seconds in which to hit a putt
In the age of plastic spikes, experiment with rounds in which continuous putting is mandatory
The first golfer to hole out must hold the flagstick and replace it
Never park a golf cart on the front side of the green; park it as close as possible to the point of exit from the green
After hitting a shot, keep your club in your hand; replace it in the bag only after the cart has stopped at its next position
In the age of distance-measuring devices, courses should try this on par-3 holes: Spray paint the exact yardage to the flagstick from various tee positions
Courses might keep and even post a timesheet, noting start time, turn time and finish time for all groups.“I’ve done this myself to let golfers know we’re serious about it,” said director of golf J.D. Ebersberger at the Palms Golf Club in La Quinta, Calif. “We’re not trying to embarrass anybody. We’re just trying to make everybody aware of the time involved.”
Concluded Hyland: ‘If you can save 30 seconds per hole, that’s nine minutes for a round of golf. That’s enough to add another starting time.”
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