The Fastest Round Of Golf Ever

For those of you who enjoy a game of golf, but sometimes get frustrated when foursomes stack up during rounds at the Ala Wai, Olomana, Turtle Bay or other Hawaii golf courses, you’re not alone. Pace of play has been the topic of the sport since its origins in Scotland years and years ago. I’ve always wished a round of 18 could go by much quicker than the four, five, or six hours it often takes to finish.

Consider, then, the story of former Olympian Steve Scott and the fastest round of golf ever played. On my recent travels, I ran into the man partially responsible for the record. His name is Dennis Caldwell, and he grew up with Scott in Upland, Calif., near Los Angeles, where they ran track together in the 1970s. Caldwell was a miler at Azusa Pacific while Scott became a NCAA champion at UC Irvine.

After college, Caldwell, who now lives and works in beautiful Sedona, Ariz., continued to run, and also became a race promoter.

“I was running a race-management company, and we were trying to get some publicity for what we believed would be a world class event,” he recalls. “Steve and I played golf together, so I looked up the world record for the speed golf. I think it was around 45 minutes or so.”

Caldwell thought it would be a great publicity stunt, so he invited the speed golf record holder to compete against Scott and him, but, “he turned us down,” he recalls. Undaunted, Caldwell looked up the rules and set up a try at the record Dec. 2, 1982, at a regulation course in Anaheim, Calif. “The only compensation to regular golf was that we had a ball teed up already at every hole, but that was allowed by the rules.”

Scott was the fastest miler in the U.S. A three-time Olympian and a member of the USTF Hall of Fame, he has run more sub-4-minute miles than anyone in history.

Scott remembers it vividly. “Dennis and I played golf and ran together; he got to take off first,” he says. “I wasn’t really that good of a golfer; I was just mental. Usually, the more I thought about the game, the worse I got, so this actually helped me.”

Playing with only a 3-iron for every shot – including driving, chipping, and putting – Scott, who actually did play regularly with scores in the 80s, blazed through the 6,500-yard course.

“I think I caught up with Dennis around the 15th hole,” he says. “I hit it about 170, 180 yards down the middle most of the time, and luckily didn’t run into any sand. (But) on the 16th hole, I hit my first shot under a tree, and trying to hit it out, I broke my club. We had two carts following us, so I yelled ‘give me a club,’ and they throw me a 9-iron. ‘I can’t use this,’ I say, and they throw me a 5-iron. I finished the round with that.”

Amazingly, Scott finished the 18 holes in a time of 29 minutes 33.05 seconds – shattering the existing record. Caldwell was about five minutes behind. “I can claim I have the second-fastest round ever,” Caldwell jokes now.

Perhaps even more astounding, Scott shot a respectable 95.

“Funny thing is, I didn’t even know the rules. We found out later that the score really didn’t matter, so I may have been able to go faster,” he muses.

Three decades later, his world record still stands.

Ironically, the round was completed so rapidly that no news media was on hand to witness.

“They came later and asked if we could do it again,” Caldwell says, laughing. “We had to stage something for them.”

“To this day, I get comments about that speed golf record,” says Scott, who is now the head track and field coach at Cal State San Marcos. “I did a high school camp last month and somebody asked me about it. Here I was running sub-3:50 miles at one time and yet they still love to talk about the fastest round of golf.”