He may not be Barry Allen from the DC Comics series The Flash but to the outside world, he is not an ordinary Physical Education teacher from New Plymouth either.
He’s not secretly using his speed to fight crime and find others like him but he is the fastest man alive, on a golf course anyway.
His name is Jamie Reid, he’s a Kiwi and he is the World’s Number One Speed Golfer.
For this 29-year-old who plays off scratch, Jamie Reid didn’t take his golf too seriously. He started when he was 10 or 11, jumping over the Fitzroy Golf Club fence in New Plymouth after school and getting around with his Dad and older brother. It was handy having this coastal golf course across the road from home.
He dabbled in some of New Zealand’s top events following his High School years and has played in some Charles Tour events when they coincided with school holidays, but it wasn’t until the NZ Speedgolf tournament popped up into his view that his love of golf completely changed.
“I think it was 2017 was the first time I played, I keep relatively fit just by playing different sports so I thought I’ll give it a go because I play lots of golf,” Reid explained his first entry into the speed golf world.
“The first time I played speed golf was in the New Zealand champs in 2017 and I came third, with no training really so I thought I would do some more training and the following year I won it.”
Yeah, that’s right, the first time he competed was in the national event and he came third and the next year he won it.
He must’ve been an incredible runner.
“To be honest when I started playing speed golf I’d never run,” Reid laughed. “I just keep fit by playing different sports.”
After the 2017 event Reid put in three months of solid training before the 2018 championships, which he won, and then since then running has been his focus.
“Nowadays I’m running 5 or 6 times a week. And everyone that sees I play speed golf expects I’ve come from a running background, but it’s actually completely the opposite I come from a golf background and just picked up running.
“I’m lucky I’ve got long legs so the running does become a bit easier with longer legs.”
After winning in 2018, Reid decided to cross the Tasman where he proceeded to come third in the Australian Championships before heading off to New York for the US, World and World Team Championships.
“No one knew who I was and then I came second at the U S. Champs and then second at the world’s and second at the world teams as well.
“In 2019 I went back to Australia and won the NSW champs and once the world rankings came out at the end of the year I went from not being ranked to world number one.”
Speedgolf is really no different to the round of golf you play on the weekend, only you’re running between holes and both the time it takes you to complete the round and your score are added together to give you your final total.
You can only use a maximum of seven clubs, less the better and if you lose a ball or it goes out of bounds you only get a one-stroke penalty and it gets placed in the line of sight of your previous shot.
Reid said the fitness aspect of speed golf is a lure for lots of people.
“Keeping physically fit these days is very important and it’s an easy way to get your golf fix in if you’re short on time.
“You can go out and play nine holes and you’d be surprised how many people play under 30 minutes. So you only really need half an hour to play a little bit of speed golf.
“You get your golf fix and your fitness fix and you will be very surprised how good your golf is.”
Reid used to teach at a large school on the North Shore of Auckland so he found training for speed golf tough, either having to tee off first thing in the morning or very late in the afternoon, to avoid the crowds.
But recently he has made the move back to Taranaki and he is loving the relaxation and the chance to train at better times of the day.
“These days I spend quite a lot of time running Fitzroy [Golf Club], it’s quite nice around here because there’s not always tons of people out on the golf course every day.
“Sometimes I go out at lunchtime and squeeze in 18 holes and we might only run through four groups. The course is quite good because holes back on each other.”
Although the physical exertion means Reid walks off the golf course completely spent, his game doesn’t seem to have suffered at all.
“No you don’t walk off the golf course thinking how easy is this after you’ve just run around the golf course,” Reid said.”I mean, you’re surprised what you shoot when you play with three golf clubs and actually how close you are to the score when you play with 14 clubs over four hours.
“It’s interesting because you spend so much time thinking about the shot and preparing yourself and then getting yourself prepared and then hitting them all and then watching it on, then walking back to your bag and going, oh, well, that was a shit shot or that was a fantastic shot. All that time could be taken up by running.
“I mean, just the running takes away all the thinking because it’s just all-natural. You get over the ball and you hit it because you’re not thinking about your setup or what the path on your swing should be or anything like that and you’re just getting over the ball and all-natural instinct takes over, you just hit it and then you start running and all you’re thinking about is your running and your breathing and therefore you don’t think about the shit putt you had beforehand or the out of bounds or anything stupid like that, all the negativity goes away.
In competitions, players are allowed to have a spotter that runs with them along the course, usually ahead of them, spotting the ball so the golfer doesn’t waste time looking for balls when they could be running. The spotter can’t be a pacesetter though.
Also, because of the weight of clubs, players like Reid have learnt to putt with other clubs, saving them having to take a putter on the journey.
“Obviously the more clubs you take, the harder it is to run because the more weight you’ve got to carry. So from nowadays, I think about while I play a practice round for starters and work out the distances and yardages.
“If the course is quite tight and quite short I just take a 4 iron and a 7 iron and gap wedge. But then if a course is a little bit long I take a driver as well.
“I don’t take a putter anymore because I find that my putting is not very good in speed golf anyway. So I’m just wasting time taking the putter with me so I just putt with my gap wedge.”
“You can putt with whatever you want. I think it was two years ago for six months I just putted with my gap wedge to get used to it as I knew it would save me taking extra club because in speed golf it’s all really about two putts on every green. After all, you don’t have time to line it up.
“Holing a putt was quite hard, sort of outside 6 feet so as long as you take your two putts and you get out of there.”
Until Reid played and won the 2021 NZ Speedgolf Championships in April, he hadn’t competed for over a year due to Covid-19 which has forced most international competitions to be cancelled. It has allowed him and others across Aotearoa to start building a domestic tour to grow interest in the game.
“There are more events popping up around New Zealand. We had the Wellington champs at the start of the year, I won that. And then we just had the NZ Champs and I won that and I think there’s going to be another one in Taupo.
“I run the speed golf in Taranaki and I’m trying to get up a Taranaki open which will be at some point later this year.
“So leading up to the NZ champs we are trying to get four lead-up tournaments for three months leading up, which would give us a mini-tour, similar to the US, Finland and Japan.
“I think it was just before covid hit it was actually kicking on quite well just because of all the media from different events and stuff but once covid hit that sort of stuff stopped because there weren’t any events on so I feel like we’ve had to start again almost.
“If you look at numbers around like even different regions, we had just myself really playing in Taranaki and now on a Wednesday night, we sometimes get, like, 15 people come to play. Other events are popping up, but overseas it’s a lot bigger than what it is here.
“It’s crazy over in Japan. They get big numbers to their national events and the United States who just love it they’ve got a tour over there and they play at least once every month.”
For someone like Reid, when he goes overseas to compete he goes as an amateur and yet the professional status of the game still lacks financial support to see it encourage any of the top rungs of golfers to take up the sport.
“I think they’re trying to get a main sponsor or get someone like a celebrity, like one of the top golfers in the world to jump on it and then it will just spread like wildfire.
“That should get more money into it, but at the moment it’s still quite new.
“If they can get money into it and exposure you think about the filming that they could do in terms of how exciting it would be to watch drones following people around and something like that. Could be done very well if it’s put in the right hands.
“I think it’s gotta come from more than one person you need a big crew behind it. Even if we were to get someone to challenge me on the PGA Tour to play speed golf and we get it broadcast around the world and then they’ll start to understand.
“We laugh sometimes on the PGA Tour you know, Kevin Na went out and shot even par in an hour thirty and they take it as he’s the fastest runner in the world and its like man they’re doing an hour thirty that’s 36 holes at least for me and we’re shooting a round in even par as well and we are only playing with three or four clubs and they’ve got a caddy carrying all the 14 clubs with them.”
Reid said his most exciting moment to date was coming down onto the 18th green on the final day of the NZ Championships this year at Whitford Park and seeing the crowd and having buggies following him and getting a buzz.
His most challenging moment was earlier in the year when he participated in the Taranaki Charity Challenge and strained his Achilles towards the end of the first of three days.
“At the start of this year myself and three others did a fundraiser for charity for kidney kids and we played all 18 courses in Taranaki over 2.5 days.
“Seven courses on the first day, six on the second day and five on the last and at the end of the first day I strained my Achilles and I had to bike the last two days. That was probably the most frustrating thing because I’d done lots of training, I’d just go out and play golf for 42 kilometres and was doing fine. That’s probably the most frustrating.
“I think it was the breaks in between because we would play one course and then get in the van and drive to the next course. It was a lot colder than what it had been as well, so I think going from our fifth course to our sixth course, there were the roadworks and we had to detour, and the break between was a little bit longer, and I think probably things started to tighten up a little bit, and then we just got straight into it.
“By the time we got to the last course it was 7 pm, it was a lot colder and obviously hadn’t kept it warm for long enough. It went really tight right. I thought I’ll just walk in the last few holes.
“I had a little bit of work done by the physio that night and then tried to run on it the next morning. Got through about three holes and it was still pretty uncomfortable. And I said to myself, I’m not going to get through another six rounds. If we Just got one round I probably would’ve got away with it, but when you’re thinking about six rounds you think there’s no way.
“Lucky we had a bike around with us so I just used that but I feel like I’ve got some unfinished business in coming years.”