Feature Interview with Bill Yates,
The acknowledged expert on pace of play, Bill has worked with managers to improve their operations for more than twenty years. His integrated systems approach has streamlined operations and increased profits on courses in the U.S., Canada, Asia and the U.K.
Among these are Pebble Beach Golf Links, Mission Hills Country Club, Hong Kong Golf Club, Bandon Dunes Golf Course, Cog Hill Country Club, Harbour Town Golf Links, Doonbeg Golf Club, Ireland, Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland and many others.
Bill has consulted with the courses at St Andrews in Scotland, the cradle of golf, and with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club for British Open and British Amateur Championships. Author of the “Pace of Play Manual” for the National Golf Course Owners Association and co-author of the USGAÃ‚® Pace Rating Systems Manual, he has been the first to recognize the value of this objective measurement tool to improve customer value and revenue.
Bill has been featured regularly in premiere golf publications around the world and is in demand at national and international conferences.
How did you become interested in golf?
When I was about twelve, my older sister started taking golf lessons at the YWCA so she could eventually meet boys playing golf. As a result of her interest, my father got interested in playing again and with Arnold Palmer (a local Western Pennsylvania boy) coming on the scene, and the growing TV coverage of tournaments getting us even more excited, my dad and I started hitting balls at the local range and playing at the local 9-hole course. I got clubs the next Christmas (two woods, four irons and a putter) and I have been playing ever since.
The one thing I really remember was that at first, I didn’t fall in love with the game, I fell in love with the golf course.
I clearly remember the first hole I ever played. It was on a hilly 9-hole course near Pittsburgh called Coraopolis Heights Golf Course. The green fees were probably $1.50 and I believe it had rubber mat tees. The first hole played from the top of a hill, down and across a small stream and back up another steep hill to a green perched on top. I don’t recall that the fairway was cut any shorter than the rough or that there were any bunkers, but I do remember walking on to a real green for the first time. I could not believe that grass could be grown like that and mowed so close. Standing on that first green, I gazed across to other holes that begged to be played. I was thrilled, mesmerized and hooked forever.
When did you make “pace of play” your career?
In 1993 I read an article in GOLF Magazine that announced the USGA had created a measurement system for determining how long it should take to play any course. The thinking was that each course has its own Slope Rating, so why not its own Pace Rating? This was supposed to cure the age-old problem of slow play.
Working full-time as an industrial engineer experienced in developing and using time standards as a way of measuring, monitoring and improving performance and productivity, I knew that the proper use of the new Pace Ratings could help improve the pace of play, because I had spent a professional lifetime and was very successful in using similar tools to improve operations and product quality over a wide range of industries.
I called the USGA and volunteered to help. They agreed and I began testing and using their formulae to see what really was the cause of what we call “slow play.” After many hours of on-course observations and study and working closely with Dean Knuth, the author of the Slope Rating and the Pace Rating Systems for the USGA, I was convinced that I knew how I could use the Pace Ratings as an effective analysis and diagnostic tool to uncover the root causes of slow play.
It is my personal belief that the USGA assumed that by calculating a Pace Rating and therefore knowing how long it “should take” to play, courses would be able to reduce their actual round times. The truth, however, is that while very accurate, the Pace Ratings themselves did not change management practices or the individual player’s behaviour, for these are two of the main areas where the root causes for “slow play” emanate. By themselves, the Pace Ratings could only tell us that the course had a fever and how high it was, but they offered no diagnosis as to the cause of the fever and therefore no prescription for the cure. How could they?
I have had considerable experience creating and using objective measurement systems as an analysis and diagnostic tool. And most importantly, I had worked with and trained operations management personnel on how to use these tools to diagnose the root causes of their manufacturing process problems, how to find solutions, and how to implement those solutions. In other words, I knew how to teach others the art of process analysis and improvement. That is precisely what the golf industry needs in order to cure the slow play disease.
In effect, the USGA created a marvellous diagnostic tool, but did not teach anyone how to use it as such. And like a thermometer, the Pace Ratings only uncover and measure the symptoms; they don’t diagnose the underlying disease that causes the symptoms. That’s how I recognized the need to create Pace Manager Systems, which is a formal staff training and consulting approach to attacking the problem of “slow play” by training and working with golf operations management teams to uncover and correct the unique causes of slow play on their individual courses.
Why did you focus on Pace of Play as the centrepiece of your business?
Like any business, individual golf courses must focus on consistently delivering a high quality product in order to survive and thrive. And for the most part, the golf industry does do that, the courses are exquisitely designed and impeccably maintained, and the management teams focus on delivering very special experiences. That being the case, why are there still players at courses all around the world feeling frustrated, dissatisfied and even angry after playing a great course?
The answer is that while the course design might be dramatic and the turf in perfect condition, the quality of the playing experience â€œ the actual product of every course â€œ was wildly inconsistent. Players having early morning starting times were receiving a higher quality experience â€œ a smooth uninterrupted pace of play â€œ while those playing later in the morning and paying the same green fees, were waiting to play on every shot. Following such an experience, most players would simply throw their clubs in the car and quickly leave the property, but those who registered a complaint in the pro shop typically said, “The course was great but the pace of play was slow, it was awful. Will I come back? I’m not sure.”
The reason my company Grey Town Golf, LLC has Pace Manager SystemsÃ‚® and Pace Designer SystemsÃ‚® as its centerpiece products is because the golf industry has a quality problem and I can help courses fix it.
Please explain the “Pace Ratings” and the USGA Pace Rating Manual.
Pace Ratings are objective measures of how long it “should take” average “bogey” golfers to play eighteen holes on a course that is full of foursomes. The USGA did extensive research and data gathering and created formulae used to calculate the time to play each hole, the hole’s “Time Par.”
Every hole’s Time Par is uniquely created and includes discrete time values to account for each of the following elements:
- Length Time: This is the base time for the hole and is calculated by using the hole’s playing length from the most frequently used tees. Length Time accounts for all of the time to play the game from the tee to flag-in. Note: there are separate Length Time formulae for walking and/or riding and for when carts are restricted to cart paths.
- Obstacle Time: additional time is allowed for overcoming significant obstacles on each hole. Note: Using the 10 obstacle categories that are rated for each hole when determining the course Slope Rating, additional time is allowed for any obstacle rated as being more difficult than average, except for the obstacle water, which always gets additional time.
- Green to Tee Distance Time: additional time is also allowed to account for travelling from the center of the green to the center of the tee of the next hole.
- Halfway House Time: The USGA allows four minutes to be added to the Time Par of a hole that has a Halfway House stop between it and the next tee.
By adding the time for each element of each hole we get the Time Par for the hole. So, a Time Par represents the total time it “should take” to go from the tee on one hole to the tee of the next hole – a very convenient unit for tracking and monitoring play. And by adding all of the Time Pars, we get the course Pace Rating. Details of the above, as well as additional information are provided in the “USGA Pace Rating System Manual.”
Now if we look back at the elements that determine the Pace Rating time, it can be easily seen that the course architect actually determines all these elements except for whether carts are restricted to paths. Therefore, the architect sets the bar for how long it should take to play a particular course. However, how long it actually does take to play on a day-to-day basis â€œ the quality of the product – is the course management team’s primary responsibility.
A critical concept to fully understand is that course designs with higher Pace Ratings don’t mean they play more slowly, it simply means that it just takes longer to play them. There is a huge difference in the two words “slow” and “longer.” Through excellent management and player cooperation we can play a great course that because of its routing and/or design takes a longer time to get around, but not feel as though we “played slowly.” And this is precisely the goal of what I do when consulting with a course. I show their management team how to provide consistently excellent high-quality, smooth flowing playing experiences for every starting time of the day no matter what the Pace Rating.
What are the keys to increasing the pace in the short term on existing courses?
Over these past ten-plus years observing play and working with courses all around the world, I have determined that all of the thousands of individual factors that can cause slow play are covered by what I call the “Five Major Factors” that impact the pace of play. Those five factors are:
- Management Practices and Policies
- Player Behaviour
- Player Ability
- Course Maintenance and Set-up
- Course Design
Formally understanding and addressing each of these Five Factors under the unique circumstances for each course, makes up the core of my Pace Manager Systems program. What I’ve discovered is, the key to increasing the pace of play on any existing course is to; One, determine how long the course “should take” to play; Two, educate the management team in understanding how the Five Factors are actually effecting the pace of play on their course, and; three. Train and work with the management team out on the course to gather data, diagnose the root problems, make improvement recommendations and implement those recommendations.
What successes have you had?
I’ve worked with well over one hundred courses representing all sectors of the golf industry including, municipal courses, public courses, high-end public courses, resort courses, private clubs and championship tournaments at the amateur and professional level, and have done so with great success.
At a major international resort we made an astounding fifty-five minute reduction of their average round times. At a high-end Los Angeles private club, individual members who were very sceptical about changing the weekend starting times they’ve had for years, personally thanked me when they discovered â€œ through experience – that they could now start play one hour and ten minutes later and complete play only ten minutes later than before. What used to be a trying five-hour round on Saturday morning has now become a leisurely four-hour-ten-minute country club experience. The members loved it!
We also introduced two new starting polices (still in use today) that helped reduce round times for the 1997 U.S. Women’s Open Championship and for the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield. David Pepper, Championship Committee Chairman of the R&A noted that this was, “The fastest Open played in many years.” That also prompted the R&A to sponsor a two-day “Pace of Play Symposium” in St Andrews with my “Pace Manager Systems” and “Five Factors” approach as the format for myself and key international speakers to use to address the worldwide “slow play” issue.
Do golf carts help or hurt the pace of play?
When all playing groups throughout the day are using carts and the course is properly loaded and monitored, they help the round times to be shorter.
When riding and walking players are mixed, the players using the carts might feel as though play is slow simply because they will arrive at their ball too quickly (in relation to other players), and they might have to wait to play. “Waiting to play” is how players define “slow play.” Therefore, some players riding in carts will feel that play was slow.
When carts are restricted to cart paths, play will take longer than at other times, as players not only have to travel forward (using the carts) they also have to travel sideways (walking).
As both an aside and a bit of trivia, when carts and walkers are mixed in a foursome, the walkers will usually beat the cart riders to the next tee when the green to tee distance is 100 yards or less. And, the cart riders will beat the walkers to the next tee when the green to tee distance is over 100 yards. Check it out the next time you play.
In looking at the pace of play among professional golfers, how different is it from the amateur game and why?
Professional and competing top amateur golfers play faster from tee to green than do amateur golfers who are not at the championship play level, but the pros and top amateurs take more time around the green. On the other hand, the average amateur players will take more time playing from tee to green. No wonder Pro Am tournaments are such a nightmare, they combine the worst of both worlds.
What golf architecture factors have you identified with making play faster?
Design to produce a lower Pace Rating â€œ To design a course with a lower Pace Rating the architect needs to look seriously at creating a “walking” type of course. That is, one with minimal green to tee distances on terrain without severe elevation changes. Course playing length is also a critical variable in this equation, however, with the reality of today’s technology, architects need to accommodate the greater distance the ball is travelling with longer playing length. So with that consideration in mind, the architect needs to fully understand who the target audience for the new course will be, and how the ownership wants to position the course in their market. Once understood, I would simply recommend that a course should then be designed that best fits the land and the customer’s desires. In other words, designing a course to play in a shorter time should not be a critical factor in the architect’s decision making process unless the major purpose of the course is to attract a particular audience or serve a specific purpose like providing access to the game i.e. building a course for more family, introductory, learning and shorter time alternative playing loop options for the owners and customers.
Design to encourage a smooth flow of play â€œ No matter what the desired purpose, audience for the course, or final Pace Rating, the architect should always consider a design that delivers a balanced and smooth flow of play. This is primarily accomplished by the sequencing of holes â€œ by their par values â€œ and secondarily, by each hole’s playing length, which is another way to fine-tune the flow of playing groups on the course.
Interestingly, when it comes to obstacles, bunkers are fine and water is as well. When negotiating both of these hazards, play is fairly quick and predictable. What architects should avoid however, is long, deep rough in blind landing areas and on the inside of doglegs. Looking for balls in areas where the players don’t even know where to start looking is a huge contributor to “slow play.”
How would you counter an architect who believed they had found an ideal course that started par five-three, which you believe is the worst opening configuration?
If they believe that opening sequence will produce the ideal course and routing I will support them 100%. Then, I will provide the recommended management and monitoring practices and tools for them to give to the incoming management team to use to ensure that this difficult to manage opening sequence does not catch them flatfooted by creating a backup on the second hole on opening day and every day thereafter.
The par five â€œ par three start is not the worst in terms of design decisions, it is the worst in terms of the amount of management attention needed to prevent the erosion of the player’s perception of quality and value after only 18 minutes on the course. A backup on the second tee is nobody’s idea of quality golf.
If the architect has an alternate routing of an equivalent ideal nature, I would always recommend that option over a par five â€œ par three start. It must be remembered that the course will be played for generations to come and under the five – three starting configuration; every day has the potential of generating a large number of “slow play” complaints. To get management off to the right start and to leave a legacy of insight for future management teams, I strongly recommend the creation and documentation of the ideal operational practices to be documented in a “Course Owner’s Manual” along with the architect’s hole-by-hole insights of the design strategies employed, so both the management team and the maintenance team can maintain the course as it was originally designed.
You have been quoted as saying the Old Course has the ideal configuration of par – 4-4-4-4-5-4-4-3-4-4-3-4-4-5-4-4-4-4. Please explain.
It is all about the design for a smooth flow of play. Since I believe the Old Course was “designed” by people playing the game, those people most likely adjusted the location of the holes to accommodate their movement through the course. Originally, the Old Course had 12 holes, 10 of which were played both out and in, making a total of 22 holes. As play increased, the first four holes (all of which were played twice) were combined in 1764 to make two holes (in other words they originally were four short holes that interrupted the flow of play on an increasingly busy course), leaving a total of 18 holes.
Therefore, I believe the basic human dislike of waiting caused The Old Course to have eighteen holes and the sequence of pars that it has. The reason I feel this is the ideal configuration of par is because it was a natural and comfortable result of playing the game smoothly. Here’s why. Every golf hole has a finite capacity for accommodating playing groups (not groups waiting to play). For example, a par four hole can hold two playing groups, one on the green and one approaching their second shot or on the tee. A par three hole can only accommodate one playing group, any other group on the hole is waiting. And, a par five hole can accommodate three playing groups, one on the green, one playing their second shot or moving to their third, and one on the tee. NOTE: With today’s technology most par five holes now accommodate only two playing groups, as more real estate is being required for each group. This is a subject for another discussion and a possible GCA thread.
With that background, it is easily seen that the sequence of pars for each course, establishes the ebb and flow of play on the course. The reason I feel that The Old Course has an ideal routing is because when you study the pattern of pars you can see that the flow on the course will be smooth and uninterrupted with long sequences of par four holes and only two par three holes. So once the management team gets the proper flow established each day on the first tee, the “design” of the course makes it possible to more easily maintain that flow. Can groups play slowly? Of course they can, but on such a course they will be easily spotted and corrective steps can be quickly taken.
You have worked with architects in the planning process to find routings that will allow for faster play, including David McLay Kidd at St. Andrews. How much of a difference can your process make on new builds vs. existing layouts?
I had the honour to be asked by the St Andrews Links Trust to consult with them on the selection of one of two routing plans presented to them by David McLay Kidd for their new Course #7 â€œ the Castle Course. Using our Pace Designer SystemsÃ‚® analysis techniques and proprietary golf simulation software, I was able to recommend the routing â€œ ultimately selected â€œ because of its potentially smoother flow of play. Interestingly, it was the routing with the slightly higher Pace Rating of the two.
By simulating play on a course that is yet to be built, we are able to give the architect and the management team insights that previously would only be known once the course was open for business and only with trial and error.
Knowing how play will flow by carefully analyzing a routing plan, gives the architect an opportunity to look more critically at hole sequencing options and playing lengths. This is engineering assistance that was not previously available to the architect.
Now, the designer can not only produce the most compelling and optimum design for each site, he can also include in his deliverables, specific recommendations for managing the day-to-day operations that reflect the impact of the design and routing. This will then have a direct and positive impact on the long-term financial future of the course, and on the perception of the tens of thousands of players who will walk away from his course with a vivid and wonderful memory of the spectacular design they just played. These will be memories that were not marred by the distraction and frustration of slow play.
Golf course owners and managers are in the business of selling memories. This new deliverable from the architect quite simply translates into their ability to consistently deliver a high-quality product and give the customer the perception of receiving exceptional value for time and money spent. As a result, playing experiences delivered over spectacular and challenging courses with consistent quality and value, will lead to increased playing loyalty and optimum revenue generation, and will do so beginning with the opening day of play.
Please give an example of a routing of a great course that is ill-suited for fast play and explain its shortcomings.
You know, I can’t think of one or find one. Perhaps that is one reason we consider them great courses.
To come to that conclusion, I referred to one of my favourite books, The World Atlas of Golf, First American Edition, 1976. What I found was quite interesting. I looked at fifty of the great courses highlighted in the book, twenty-five from Europe and twenty-five from the U.S. Here is what I found:
Of all 50 great courses:
- Four courses (8%) open with par five holes
- One course (2%) opens with a par three hole
- Forty-five courses (90%) open with a par four hole
Next I noted the sequence of pars for the first five holes on each of thirty of these courses. I was particularly interested in determining the frequency of par four holes in the critical opening sequence of holes.
Out of the first five holes on these thirty great courses:
- On two courses (7%), all five holes are par four holes
- On ten courses (33%), four of the first five holes are par four holes
- On fourteen courses (47%), three of the first five holes are par four holes
- On four courses (13%), two of the first five holes are par four holes
- None of the courses (0%) have only one par four hole in the opening sequence of holes
What I take from this brief study is that part of a great course’s greatness might come in part because of a higher frequency of smooth playing par four holes at the start of a round. The frequency of having a high number of par four holes early helps greatly to establish a comfortable flow of play that can be easily maintained throughout the entire round. I find it interesting that 90% of these great courses open with a par four hole, and 87% have at least three par fours in the first five holes.
As an aside, only in the Gazetteer section of the book was I able to find any courses that started with a five â€œ three sequence. The courses listed were Wentworth Golf Club designed by H.S. Colt, Berkshire Golf Club, and Royal Worlington Golf Club in England and the Nasu International Golf Club in Japan. That amounts to only four% of one hundred additional excellent courses listed by the authors.
What keys can be drawn from a maintenance standpoint to increase play?
Course Maintenance and setup is one of the “Five Major Factors” I have identified as being critical areas on which to focus to improve the pace and flow of play. And, as can be imagined, there are many critical variables to be considered within this one category. I will say, however, that the GCSAA has done a great job in gathering the best practices in this area and making them known and available to their members. So as not to repeat their efforts, let me briefly list the four areas that I believe are critical.
Mowing in Blind Landing Areas â€œ Long delays can occur when players start looking for lost balls. This is especially a problem when shots are played to landing areas that are blind to the players. Under these conditions, players do not even know where to start looking. I recommend that in such areas, long, deep rough be avoided. Extend the first or second cut to cover these landing areas and when it is time for an important event, let the grass grow and use forecaddies to keep play moving.
Long grasses protecting the inside of a dogleg should also be avoided, as players will gamble on cutting the corner and most will lose the bet, and their ball.
Tee Locations for the Average Player â€œ This is an interesting topic and the recommendations should really come from the superintendent and golf director only after a few hours of observation. In many cases, in the honourable attempt to speed up play, the tees are moved forward to make it a bit easier for the players. This may be fine when forced carries are concerned, however, in most cases, moving the tees forward brings unintended consequences. When the tees were moved forward, I’ve seen situations where the average players were consistently driving through doglegs and into heavy underbrush or boundary streams, actually making play slower. And on the flip side, moving the tees up can also make the hole play too fast. When that happens, players will end up waiting on the next tee complaining about the “slow group” ahead of them.
Water Edge Treatment and Marking – Again, high grasses can cause problems if they are on the playing side of a body of water. They indicate that the water is shallow and players will invariably hunt for their ball and “fish” for others. Make it clear to the player that the ball is lost or it is still in play.
Tee Mowing and Marker Alignment â€œ Tee markers need to be placed perpendicular to the line of play, with a little care it can save time and frustration for the players. Also, for courses with rectangular shaped tee boxes, make an attempt to have the edges of the tee parallel the line of play, unless of course, a “misaligned” tee box is a subtle element of the course design.
You have worked with St. Andrews on their pace. What issues do you face given that it is such a special experience for people, with many wanting to savour every moment?
On The Old Course they do a spectacular job given the once-in-a-lifetime nature of playing The Old Course for a large portion of their clientele. They get people off at their appointed time, they have a group of top-notch Rangers – who are the key – and the result is that their average round time is about 4:07. The Pace Rating I provided for them is 3:57, and as a reminder to their players, they have that target time printed on all of their range balls. It is a difficult balancing act trying to satisfy R&A and other local club members using the course, townspeople who play and the hordes of pilgrims who come to experience golf at the home of the game. All in all, they do a marvellous job, day-in and day-out.
It is my feeling that they do, however, have a bit of room to improve the pace and the experience of playing their other marvellous courses, the New, the Jubilee and the Eden.
16. How much do you think that golf being thought of as a science (rather than playing it as a craft) has increased the length of time necessary for a game?
Golf is now a science at the professional level and sadly for all of us who try to imitate the professionals. And that is a “Player Behaviour” problem.
Professionals have an entourage of coaches, fitness gurus, and equipment technicians at their call. Purses are in the stratosphere and the competition is deep and fierce. One small mental error or physical mistake and hundreds of thousands of dollars are lost. Add the absolutely immaculate playing surfaces to the equation, and now, playing perfection seems to be achievable. Golf is now played methodically and scientifically.
I believe that to the pros, it is no longer a game. They need to have the perfect yardage to the hole from everywhere on the course, and when putting, the line and speed must be absolutely perfect for with green speeds consistently over 10 feet, nothing less than perfect will do. Bumps and other imperfections have been virtually eliminated and therefore, so have the elements of luck and what used to be called the rub-of-the-green. What then is left? – The need for a perfect performance. And perfect performances are not left to chance. Carefully planned â€œ scientific â€œ performances are what are demanded, what are delivered, and what we copy.
Frank Renne, the long time Head Professional at Prestwick Golf Club asked me, “Why do Americans play golf against the course and the scorecard, why don’t they just play against each other? It’s a game!” My answer is that our handicap system demands that we post every score, while they, on the other hand, play match play most of the time and play in one monthly Medal event at stroke play for handicap purposes. The Brits and the Scots treat golf as an opportunity for friendly match play competitions while we emulate the stroke play PGA events and their players, with the incentive to do so driven by our ubiquitous, scientific and decimal point handicap reporting system.
Does today’s technology have an affect on the speed of play?
Absolutely! If players hit the ball farther, or even think they will hit the ball farther, they will wait longer to hit. If the course is even a little overcrowded, this causes more delays and longer delays to occur out on the course. The result is longer round times.
“Reachable” par fives and “driveable” par fours are beginning to cause delays on tees and on fairways where such delays did not exist on the course a few years ago. Taken to its extreme, unbridled technology will either cause round times to be longer with more frequent waiting, or management teams will have to increase the length of starting intervals to provide a semblance of flow. The second option will limit access to the game and force courses to increase fees in order to maintain their current revenue. I predict that this will be an unintended consequence of technology that has, up until now, not been discussed.
Why are rounds of three hours the norm in the United Kingdom, yet four and a half hours is considered “good” in the United States?
Three reasons: One, Links courses take less time to play, two. U. S. courses are generally more crowded than courses in the UK and Ireland, and three. They play a different game than we do.
I wrote an article for GOLF Magazine that appeared in the July 2001 issue, titled “A Wee Bit Quicker.” I was asked to go to the UK to answer the question, “Do the Brits play faster than we do? My answer was, “No, they just finish sooner.”
As human beings playing the game, I did not see an appreciable difference in them playing any faster than we do. But, because of the three factors listed above, their round times are lower than ours; they simply finish sooner.
While the average playing length of a course in the UK was 6,344 yards and the average playing length of a U.S. course was 6,316 yards (measurements from the most frequently played tees), the total green to tee distances of a UK course were 788 yards while the average green to tee distances for a U.S. course totalled 3,061 yards. In the U.S. we travel almost four times farther going from greens to tees than they do. As a result, the average UK Pace Rating I calculated was 3:58 and the average Pace Rating for the U.S. courses I measured was 4:12, or 4:30 on courses where carts are restricted to cart paths.
What about overcrowding? The European Golf Association says there are 465 players for every course in the UK and Ireland. The National Golf Foundation calculates that in the U.S. the number of players for every course is 1,577 â€œ more than three times as many as in the UK. Many courses in the UK don’t even bother with tee times, and with their long summer days, they can hole their last putt 10:00 pm. Under these conditions they can play as singles, two-balls and finish a round in 3:30 or less at almost any time they want.
And, as discussed above, theirs is typically a match play game. When a player or team is out of a hole, they will even pick up from the fairway and move on to the next tee after conceding the hole. I saw it happen with my own eyes at Prestwick.
Finally, they walk. Of the eleven courses I visited in the UK, the largest number of riding carts that I could find at any course was three. At Prestwick I was told that when they replaced the bridge over the Pow Burn, they decided not to widen it for carts, after all according to Frank Renne, “Golf is a walking game.”