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GOLF; Here's one way to speed up play

One of the most frequently heard "knocks" on golf is that the game is too slow. Many people either don't have the time or can't justify spending it to play a round that requires several hours to complete. Nontraditionalists, therefore, may welcome the idea advanced by some course architects to enlarge the diameter of the putting cup (currently 4 1/4 inches wide) by two inches.

Even this relatively moderate adjustment, one proponent feels, could decrease playing time by as much as 20 percent. A larger cup would not only swallow more off-line putts, it would lessen the need to control the putts, speed. The result would be more one-putt greens and an increase in the number of long putts and chips that go kerplunk.

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Don Herfort, a Minneapolis golf course architect, believes the larger cup would have the added advantage of creating more equity between shots. "A golfer covers 400 yards with his first two shots," he explains, "then takes three more shots to cover the last 20 yards."

Architect William Mitchell of West Palm Beach goes a step further in this debate on faster play by suggesting that all but one central putting green be eliminated. "Putting could be done on a clubhouse green," he says. "Putting is in no way related to the golf swing, and is really a distinct game in itself." This change, he feels, would cut course maintenance costs and slice 90 minutes off a four-some's playing time.

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