Slow play is a perennial hot topic at golf clubs and on tour, returning to the forefront whenever there is a flashpoint. That latest trigger was the recent controversy surrounding Bryson DeChambeau during the first FedEx Cup Playoff event, who was targeted after footage went viral on social media of him taking way beyond the recommended time over a putt.
That led to a public debate that included the likes of Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Eddie Pepperell and Luke Donald, who all waded in with their thoughts on the subject of how long it takes the world's best players to complete 18 holes.
Many have long condemned the PGA Tour's apparent laxity when it comes to applying slow play penalties and addressing the issue, but now the European Tour has jumped ahead of the game and revealed a new 'four point plan' that will be fully introduced for next season.
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This was approved by the Tour's Tournament Committee in early July and has now been made available for outside scrutiny, with Chief Executive Keith Pelley stating: “We are already at the forefront of pace of play management in the professional game, but after being mandated by our Tournament Committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps.
“I believe the plan we are implementing for the 2020 season will bring about meaningful change that will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans, whether they are at the course in person or watching on television.”
More stringent penalties and fines will be administered to players deemed to not comply with the regulations, but additionally, golfers will be required to pass an interactive rules test as part of their membership on the circuit, with new members being allocated a referee to educate them on the pace of play rules.
Technology is also part of the solution, seeing a new timing system to be trialled at the BMW PGA Championship in September. This will provide referees with times for each group through every hole to meet, with displays on the tees designed to ensure that players are instantly aware of where they stand in relation to others on the golf course.
For those who have been demanding some level of concrete action by the professional circuits, this will be a welcome development. As was illustrated through the Shot Clock Masters
, the European Tour is not afraid to push the boat out when it comes to tackling slow play.
Four Point Plan Explained - From European Tour Statement
When players are out of position and either being monitored or timed, a one-shot penalty will be incurred after two bad times – currently a player would be ‘monitored’ and if he breaches the time allowance (50 seconds for first to play, 40 seconds for second or third to play) he will then be ‘officially timed’ and would then have to breach twice more before being given a one shot penalty. Players will, however, have the option to request one time extension per round, giving an additional 40 seconds to hit a shot on this request.
In Position timing, introduced at the same time as Monitoring, has been strengthened. The time allowed to play a shot when being monitored in position (currently double the out of position times above), will be reduced by 15%, from 100 and 80 seconds down to 85 and 70 seconds respectively for first and second/ third to play. Referees are now mandated to be proactive in targeting known slow players for in position timing.
Fines for consistently slow players who are regularly officially timed during the season will increase significantly. For example, a player who is timed 15 times in the 2020 season will have to pay £26,000 in fines as opposed to £9,000 this season.
All new members will be assigned a dedicated referee to help educate them on pace of play at the start of their European Tour career
As part of retaining their membership, every member will be required to pass an interactive online rules test with this being implemented for existing members towards the end of the 2019 season and all new members early in the 2020 season. This will be repeated every three years for existing members.
Regular educational videos will be produced by the European Tour’s social media team on key rules and pace of play policies and shared with the players throughout the season in an effort to avoid unnecessary rulings and ensure they better understand the Pace of Play policy.
A trial Pace-of-Play system will be conducted at the BMW PGA Championship from September 19-22, 2019. This will provide referees with the times for every group through every hole to make sure that no gaps are missed.
As part of this system, and in a ground-breaking development, on-tee displays on a minimum of three holes will provide groups with their position in relation to the group in front.
Field sizes at fully sanctioned events will be reduced from 156 to a minimum of 144 so long as all entered players in Category 18 (the final 111-125 on the previous season’s Race to Dubai) and above make it into the event. This will create space for referees to push groups over the Thursday and Friday rounds.
Larger starting intervals will be built into play on Saturday and Sunday to create a better flow between groups.
Do you welcome this new plan, does it go far enough, or do you believe that slow play is an overblown issue? Let us know!
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